Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Piers Anthony on Beauty

There is a blessing I remember from my youth: “May you have the love of a beautiful woman.” I presume that is mainly for men, while women would be blessed with the love of handsome men. I can see the appeal; good looking folk are a universal turn-on. We see them constantly on TV and in the movies, because average viewers pay more attention to attractive people than they do to homely people. Especially men of any age with respect to young women. I'm the same; a pretty and shapely young woman commands my immediate attention. We are hard-wired to notice. But as I go shopping at the grocery store I see real women, and they range from ordinary to gross, mostly because of obesity. As a general rule, the older she is, the heavier she is. Some have to ride around in the powered carts the store provides, being too fat to make the rounds afoot. And I wonder: do none of them have the discipline to restrain their appetite and keep their weight in a healthy range? Very few, it seems. Yes, men fatten too, but not as much, and in any event men generally don't make their marks by their appearance, but by their accomplishments, so it's less important for them.
This plays out in other ways. Yes, it would be nice to have the love of a beautiful woman, and many of my stories involve ordinary men who encounter lovely woman. I write that way because I want to sell copies, and pretty women sell more than homely ones. It's the same phenomenon as the TV ads and programs populated by lovely folk. Sometimes I will have an ordinary woman who encounters a handsome man. Somebody has to be attractive, if a writer wants many readers. Readers may claim that other story values count, and they do, but other things being equal, pretty people count more. There was a nice study done a few years back, wherein it was found that in second marriages, the wealthier the man was, the less his wife weighed. Obviously what counts for the man is her appearance; what counts for the woman is his money. Should you ask a portly elder man and his slender wife about that, I suspect they will angrily deny it, but statistically it is true.
But there's another aspect. Why is it such a blessing to possess a physically beautiful woman? Why not a smart woman, or a rich woman, or a really nice woman? Yes, one woman could be all these things together, and she would be a treasure. But the blessing doesn't specify anything but beauty, and I'm pretty sure it means appearance rather than character. I suppose the equivalent blessing for a woman would be to have the love of a rich man, as seen above. But isn't it a sad commentary on our culture, indeed on our species, that this one quality, out of the myriad qualities women possess, should be the one that defines her worth? I am disgusted, but I still look at beautiful women.


  1. Very nice. My husband says "a beautiful woman doesn't offend." But when she opens her mouth and the screeches start, he is more than happy to turn off the sound. I think that as I get older, I appreciate humor in a man. And, I am betting that there are other readers out there who feel the same. So I might take a chance and have two ordinary-looking people with health and humor.

    And yes, I think that obesity will not sell. It is too close to the reality that many women and some men want to escape. Plus I do see a flaw in your obesity argument (i.e. not being able to control the eating). That problem is only in a few of these people (mainly gross obesity). The rest have thyroid problems, or medication problems. Or something quite similar.

    Besides beauty doesn't last unless you have a really good surgeon.

  2. Of course, the very first book of yours I read was "A Spell For Chameleon"!

  3. I agree (in a way) with John. 'A Spell for Chameleon' is the very book attacking the beauty question. It has been so many years since I picked up and read the copy I have still sitting on my shelf, but This blog is the very reason I cherish it so.
    My wife read the first part of this blog and said, "typical men - they all think alike."
    I said your comments become clear soon if she finished reading. Even after reading the rest to her she holds to her opinion that men are pigs.
    I just thought I would share how your blog affected two different genders. I'm sure you would have known the outcome of discussion anyway.

  4. "And I wonder: do none of them have the discipline to restrain their appetite and keep their weight in a healthy range?"

    Have you read the studies about this issue? Basically, it is virtually impossible to lose weight and keep it off. You're blaming the obese older women for failing to restrain their appetite - which seems an unfair assumption.
    You've noticed a correlation with age and gender. Others have correlated weight gain and retention with environmental factors ranging from access to healthy food (financial as well as physical access) and dioxins and BPA in the water.

    Medications can promote fat-storage; a society which requires two or more jobs to maintain a modest household can inhibit healthy habits.

    Please wonder about bigger things than the individuals - rather, wonder about the systems we have built for ourselves.


  5. Grandma used to grow food, can it, and serve it for supper. So do I. The fat content of processed foods is out of control, not the people eating it all. Eat real food you have to make from scratch, take some time to eat it, enjoying the family between bites. Work to grow it, save it, fix it, and watch the weight drop. Grandma food. My onions are up, and I still have to turn another section of the garden. I want my plants in by the end of this week.

    WII is good, too. Move it! I like to move it, move it! And I'l be fifty this summer.