If online dating has taught me anything, it’s to grow a thicker skin, lower my expectations, and just get used to its superficial nature. After all, we’re allowing our romantic fates to be decided by one (likely Photoshopped) picture and the swipe of a finger. While I haven’t found true love there yet, I have happily found a few good books about love in the modern age. One of them is the unusual and sneakily funny novel THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY by Amanda Filipacchi.
It starts with Barb, a successful and critically acclaimed costume designer who is a member of an elite group of artists in New York City. Despite her impressive résumé and group of wonderful and intelligent friends, Barb has yet to find what she considers true love.
So, she has come up with a plan to find the man of her dreams—a man who truly loves her for who she is and what she believes. But her plan is not to show up at the right parties, or get set up by friends, or try online dating—her plan is to wear a disguise. You see, Barb’s problem has always been the unfortunate importance of beauty. More specifically, her problem is her astounding, “most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen” type of beauty.
For her whole life Barb has encountered men who date her only because of their superficial inclinations. To combat this distraction, she reaches for a fat suit, dull brown contact lenses, a mousy wig, and glasses. She plans to wear this disguise every single day of her life until she meets a man who loves her because of her personality, her intellect, and her artistic talent. Only then will she remove the disguise and let him see her physical beauty. It’s like a Disney story in reverse, where the beast is a woman.
Barb’s good friend Lily suffers from a different consequence of the unfortunate importance of beauty. Lily is, well… ugly. She’s been in love with the same man for many years, but he has never seen her as a romantic prospect because of her inherent ugliness, “the kind of ugliness that is inoperable.”
Equally as talented as Barb, Lily is a sought-after musician who composes music proven to make objects seem more beautiful if you view them while listening to it. Lily, too, devises a plan to make her love finally find her irresistible: she will always have her music playing while in his presence.
What transpires is a commentary about love in the age of Instagram and the reliance upon beauty as a measure of one’s worth. This humorous, sometimes cringe worthy novel is about women’s refusal to let the unfortunate importance of beauty determine their fate.