You don’t choose who you love. You also don’t choose who makes you feel some special sort of way after you read about their various fictional capers. This is a safe space, right? Free of judgment and ridicule? I like to think so. I like to think we’ve created an oasis in this ruined world of ours where a girl can develop dubious one-sided love affairs with imaginary people, even if those people were not actually supposed to be heartthrobs.
For me, these were those not-heartthrobs:
Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird Boo Radley is a lot of things, but I don’t think “attractive” is supposed to be one of them. He’s a recluse. He’s described as being sickly pale. His eyes are gaunt and gray. But even before I got to the part where he saves Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell, my fifteen-year-old self was dying to catch a glimpse of this man of mystery. Was I expecting him to be Darcy levels of studly? Not exactly. He just has a certain something,and I want to know everything about him.
Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter Think of the most attractive person you know in real life. Is that person Zac Efron? Well, Minerva McGonagall is my literary Zac Efron. She is everything I wish I could be and more. She’s intelligent, assertive, and she sticks to her guns. She is the sun and stars, and I am but a lowly asteroid burning up in her atmosphere, unworthy of her presence.
Dorian Gray from The Picture of Dorian Gray Yes, Dorian Gray is canonically hot. But we’re not supposed to agree with this. By the end of the novel, we’re supposed to recognize Dorian’s moral corrosion and see him for what he truly is, which is ugly. That’s the lesson. I did not learn the lesson. It doesn’t help that I watched the 2009 film starring Ben Barnes, because now I can never sever that connection in my mind. Incidentally, if Dorian and I were to date, I would of course try to fix him and his fatal foibles. It wouldn’t work, and he would die anyway. Then I could be his elegantly troubled widow, and what a life I would lead!
Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice Is she staggeringly beautiful like the rest of her sisters? No. But perhaps this is why I’m so attracted to her. There’s something mysterious and compelling about being the forgotten sister. What is she doing while Jane is in London and Elizabeth is galavanting about at Pemberley? I feel like Mary would have a good sense of humor. I feel like she wouldn’t be put off by the fact that I’m consumed by bitterness. She prefers books to parties, she craves attention, and she’s terrible at playing the piano. She never marries in Pride and Prejudice. Maybe she’s waiting for me.
Iago from Othello What can I say? I like a man who worships chaos. Sure, he might be the villain (he’s definitely the villain), but I feel like he would destroy my enemies if I asked him to. Maybe even if I didn’t ask him to. He would set fire to my enemies and exploit their weaknesses in death without my having to ask. He’s got the self-possessed confidence of a guy who’s going places, and I gotta say, for a girl whose moral compass has no needle, that’s kind of sexy.