Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Biology is Not Destiny - At Least in MY Story

Everyone in the family except me is heavily involved this week with the high school choir's musical production, which means long evenings of dress rehearsals, which means I get a couple of evenings this week with no supper responsibilities. Last night was the first of those, and while I'd like to say I was able to spend the evening writing, no such luck - I still have speeches to grade. As I was working on the speeches, I turned on the TV (mainly to keep me from going to sleep as I was grading, ha ha). After perusing the various channels, I settled on the Science Channel, on a program called, "The Science of Sex Appeal."

As a communication teacher, I find the research into human attraction fascinating. One of the sections of the program discussed what I'm going to call the "match hypothesis," which says people tend to choose mates who are within one point, up or down, of their own attractiveness rating. Thus, Brad Pitt ends up with Angelina Jolie, and those of us who are more ordinary-looking end up with other ordinary-looking people.

Of course, it's not quite that simple. People are attracted to potential mates for a variety of reasons, with most women apparently more attracted to men who appear to have status and stability (traits that make him a good candidate as a long-term father and protector). The program went on to discuss a number of other factors, such as a person's unique scent, that play into attraction. All in all, it was a very interesting program. (And yes, I did manage to grade a respectable number of speeches while still learning all this about attraction!)

Just because I'm not writing doesn't mean my story has been sent to its room with the door closed. I think about it all the time, and this morning it occurred to me that part of the fantasy-entertainment value of the story is that it turns the "match hypothesis" on its head. In the story, a girl of low social status who has been labeled as "homely" all her life is matched with a handsome guy whose family is relatively well-off. Originally, the girl goes along with the "match hypothesis," not seeing the guy as a potential mate. However, circumstances force them together, and one thread that runs through the story is that biology is NOT destiny - even if the "match hypothesis" says two people of different levels of physical attractiveness shouldn't be together, it can happen.

I'm not claiming to have invented this literary theme; gosh, it's probably at the heart of any number of stories throughout time (I'm too lazy to think of any at the moment, and too hurried - got to get ready for work). One thing I like about my story, though, is that it doesn't stop at that simple fantasy. In the story, it would appear that the girl has found herself a very suitable mate. After all, not only is he more attractive than she is, but he also has status and relative wealth, which according to the program, would make him a perfect choice. As the story develops, however, the status and wealth are steadily stripped away (and even the attractiveness is lessened - the poor guy ends up with a couple of scars). At one point in the story, she gets a choice as to whether she wants to keep this mate who has turned out to not be what was originally promised, who now is actually a risk because there's no guarantee he can give her any kind of stability and protection, at least in terms of physical possessions.

Well, of course she does keep him - I mean, this is a "sappy" romance, as my husband put it. And that actually leads me into one of the major themes for the second book, which I'm working on now when I'm not grading speeches or some such. That story is told from his viewpoint, and a big part of his struggle is to provide a stable home for his wife and the children their union produces.

Wow. I'm glad I stumbled on to that program. Even if my story is a sappy little fantasy romance, I'd like for it to also have some depth to it. Looking at it from the lens of this program, maybe there's something there worth thinking about, something more than "sap"!


Ephemera said...

I read your comment "people tend to choose mates who are within one point, up or down, of their own attractiveness rating." And I thought boy, what was RAF thinking? He really missed the mark when he picked me! LOL

Anonymous said...

You've got a fiction novel? Sweet! You're one talented woman. Putting that aside, I think that you are actually half-correct. Attractive people wouldn't mind choosing others one point below their attractiveness level, but they wouldn't go too far downwards in their choice. Conversely, no matter how attractive or unattractive you may be, you will always go for the Universe's most Beautiful Princess or the Universe's most handsome Prince Charming in your heart, even if you are too ashamed to admit it for fear of others teasing you over it.
Oh, and by the way, in ancient China, they would not marry others of different social status. It wasn't quite like a caste system, though; You could change your social status by education and passing the government-held exams. However, that aside, you were pretty much restricted in your choice of who you wanted to marry if you were born there in those times. Your parents would even give your horoscope sign and time of birth to an astrologer for him to compare with your potential spouse's. If they were incompatible (Say snake and rat - The snake will devour the rat), then the deal's off, baby...