Verrucas and lopsided breasts, please

03 April 2008

By Lisa Glass

I'm presently rereading a brilliant teen novel called Split by a Kiss, in which the heroine, Josephine, happens to like her large nose and never considers its size to be a 'flaw' until some cheeky whippersnapper points it out as such. But Josephine, bless her heart, remains convinced that her nose is fine. Ludicrously, I found myself wanting to punch the air and hiss 'Yes!'

Heroines with Supermodel Bone Structure are evidently getting to me.

I don't have a problem with the button-nosed or pouty-of-lip per se, but it would be nice to have a little bit more diversity in the facial features (not to mention the body mass index) of our heroines. Isn't fiction supposed to be at least a little bit representative?

I'd like to know the whereabouts of the warty, acne-ridden heroines with the fungal nail infections. Or the ones with the striking buck teeth. The lopsided breasts. The blue-veined buttocks. The wibbly thighs that swing gloriously with every step. Must our heroines always be neat of hip and luminous of skin? Must they always emerge fragrantly from their beds? Where are those cool heroines who start each day with gut rot, halitosis and B.O?

Then there are bodily ailments. I'm currently host to a Bazuka-resistant verruca, which has lived on my left foot for some years. On the occasions that I've tried to oust it, it just digs in its heels (or rather it digs in to my heel). At one point my foot was home to a colony of these pesky inverted warts - there were a baker's dozen, at least. And yet I've been reading novels for twenty years and never have I come across a heroine's verruca. Never.

Similarly, I'd quite like a heroine to go off on a dirty weekend and come back with an acute case of scabies (perennially unwashed duvets can harbour scabies, I happen to know) - I think the scene where she lotioned every millimetre of her insanely itchy body with a gross cream would be quite interesting.

Something I touched on in my review of The Almost Moon was that I was fed up with everything being about aspiration. Likewise, my Vulpes Libris colleague, Rosy, was looking for a fictional role model who would 'be totally eccentric, keep goats, grow a beard and smell' - I'd quite like those traits to be there too, but without the author preaching about them. I'd like them there just as they are. Without the bearded, smelly eccentric having to undergo a makeover or having to 'accept herself'.

Is it just me? Am I wrong to be fed up of perky heroines with button noses and wart-free feet? Would it be so bad to read about 'plainer,' 'stranger' heroines who enjoy equally exciting lives, equally erotic encounters? Because I'm pretty sure that all manner of (possibly verruca-ridden) women are out there having interesting lives and head-bending sex, so can we please read about them now?

Lisa's novel Prince Rupert's Teardrop is out now in paperback here. Lisa Glass's website is here and she blogs at Vulpes Libris here.