April 22, 2010One of the great developments in the way we perceive the opposite sex has been the evolution of the term “hot”.
Not as narrowly defined as “beautiful” or “handsome”, nor as lukewarm as “cute”, “hot” can be applied to men and women who don’t grace the covers of magazines or look like they live on egg white omelettes.
The hot can have tattoos and a pot belly, a muffin top or a broken nose but they all share a certain boiling point of sexiness that ignites the description in the beholder’s mind.
Haaawt. You know it when you see it and it’s different for all of us.
Big gums, frizzy hair, crooked teeth, scars, bald patches and hairy arms – these are all attributes that you’d shy away from terming conventionally beautiful but plenty of people find them hot on the right person …
While the modelling industry is criticised endlessly for the slender spectrum of body shapes it hails as attractive in women, as well as men, in the past 10 years or so we’ve seen an increasingly diverse range of faces being described as hot.
Some time ago I attended the David Jones season launch and one of the guys I was seated next to commented about the alien-like models on the catwalk, quipping that “ugly is the new beautiful”…
While I wouldn’t have labelled any of the men or women on stage as ugly, they were certainly unusual. Angular and awkward, many of them looked like the type of kids you’d cast as geeks in a Hollywood coming-of-age movie.
This is the great value of hot – it’s not as arbitrary as beauty and seems to have as much to do with how you carry yourself and dress as it does your bone structure or body fat.
Actress Sandra Bullock could have had her pick of cinema’s pretty boys but she instead chose Jesse James, whose rough charm and arms of ink she found hot (though she may be regretting her decision since he found someone other than Sandy quite hot behind her back).
Hot is wildly subjective: so, while claiming someone is beautiful or handsome can see you shouted down with aesthetic counter-arguments, by invoking hotness it’s tacitly understood they float your boat and that’s your business.
And while some might say who cares who’s hot or not, it appears many of us do or we wouldn’t spend so much money on gym memberships, beauty products, haircuts, clothes and Ferraris.
That’s because you can get hot, you can work towards it: it springs from attributes other than physical, virtues such as worldliness, expertise, a sense of humour, grace, athleticism and swagger – which may be why musicians are so often hot, but rarely gorgeous.
In his essay On Love, French writer Stendhal describes a young man, Alberic, who meets a woman whose beauty eclipses that of his girlfriend.
However, Alberic is far more attracted to his girlfriend because she promises happiness and so powerful is his love for her, he is turned on by a minor defect on her face, a pockmark.
Stendhal calls this “Beauty Dethroned by Love”.
“He has experienced so many emotions in the presence of that pockmark, emotions for the most part exquisite – they are renewed with incredible vividness at the sight of this sign, even observed on the face of another woman … in this case ugliness becomes beauty,” Stendhal writes.
This is what often happens with hot; it can be counter-intuitive and it’s all the more delicious when we’re the only one who can see it and appreciate it in a certain person.
It’s just something about them.
And maybe it is because they remind us of someone who once made us feel good but, whatever the reason, that overbite or those droopy eyes or that silly laugh or pockmark is just … hot.
Hopefully, they think the same about you.
Who do you think is hot? I nominate Gene Tierney.
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