29 June 2006

Beauty and A Really Old (-Fashioned) Love Story

I am not usually the type of person for love stories. Perhaps because I have little (read: no) experience in them myself, they've always seemed far more fantastic and unrealistic than the sci-fi and fantasy I prefer. Also, I usually don't empathize very well with the heroines: either charming or naive, but always beautiful, none of which I have pretensions to. I've always defined myself based on a fairly gender-neutral intelligence. Pretty much, I think Jane Austen is boring, and my favorite chic flicks are IQ and You've Got Mail, mostly for Einstein and the witty construction (respectively) rather than the love story, which gets in the way for me.

Leave it to Orson Scott Card to write a romance that I could really enjoy. I'm only half-way through Rebekah, the second in his Women of Genesis series, and if there was anyone who could improve on the beauty of that story in the Old Testament, then it's the OSC. As a friend of mine said (John, this means you) Card is so amazing at understanding people that he makes you feel like a genius just to be witness to his analysis. In Card's religious fiction (Women of Genesis + Stone Tables), I have been continually impressed with his ability to flesh out these iconic figures into realistic characters while still remaining faithful to their place in the religious cannon. Without ruining the story for anyone who hasn't read it, Rebekah has shed much light in my mind on the issue of beauty.

He made me remember that for some beauty can be as much a curse as a blessing when looking for a relationship. (As Tevia would say, may God smite me with it, and may I never recover.) I had sort of realized this in the character of Lina in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants--kitschy, I know, but true in feeling. Beauty--true beauty, and not just good grooming--is unlike almost any other trait in that it seems to happen almost as an accident, not being an essential part of a person's character. Rebekah's realization of her own beauty and subsequent panic were quite enlightening--I've never had the same worry that someone might want me not for myself but for some accident of birth.

Some will object that beauty is not so much looks as a way of behaving, and this is the other thing Card brings out. As Rebekah meets a particular woman for the first time, she is shocked to realize that though she is as beautiful as this woman, Rebekah has none of the grace, charm, and social skill necessary to really use this to full, feminine advantage. And so she sets out to learn and acquire the ability to make small-talk, flirt (such as it is in biblical times), etc. Until recently, I had mostly assumed that people were either just born with this grace or without: I had never really contemplated it as a skill to be acquired.

Now that I think about it, this is one skill that I could really use, considering my natural tendency is to be blunt or outspokenly passionate about everything. A little charm or grace could do a lot to mediate the bad effects of these two things. I've always avoided being too feminine, but maybe it's time to dabble in that area. I won't hesistate to say I feel quite silly though.

(Aside: I find it ironic that I finish this post while listening to "Astonishing," the song from the Little Women musical in which Jo's refuses Laurie's proposal. Pretty much the antithesis to the woman aspiring to marriage, and currently one of my favorite songs. Hmm.)


Marisa VanSkiver said...

But sometimes love stories are really true and they really do happen. I think they generally come in the place we least expect to find them and not with the person that first catches our eye.

Liz Muir said...

I don't want to hear that from you, Miss EFY Romance. You can't call yourself at all a typical example.

Marisa VanSkiver said...

Hey, I didn't say I was typical. I just said they can happen. :p