Lately, I've noticed that I've been using the word "beautiful" a hell of a lot more, particularly when describing people for whom I have extreme and undying affection.
I know this might seem a little hypocritical from someone who just declared that she was over trying to be "hot," but hear me out. "Hot," no matter what form it takes, seems to almost always carry with it a sexual connotation.
When I say someone's hot, I don't necessarily mean "I want to fuck him," but I definitely mean "I could see why someone else would want to get naked around that business." Hot may occur on a spectrum, but it's a "variations on pleasure center-and/or-genital appreciation" kind of sliding scale.
"Beautiful," on the other hand, seems to encompass a hell of a lot more than just wanting to touch someone's parts with your parts. When I say people are beautiful, I'm trying to convey how impressive I find them. I've also always thought there was something a little inaccessible about "beautiful," like by calling someone that, I'm putting them on a pedestal above their peers and above myself.
It means that I think they're funny, or charming, or smart, or articulate, or interesting, and usually that I've caught them at a moment where they seem like they're feeling comfortable in their own skin.
Anyway, because of this (admittedly kind of weird) way I think about "beautiful," lists like the "People's 50 Most Beautiful" throw me off a bit. It's not that I don't think Gwyneth Paltrow or Kerry Washington aren't gorgeous human beings, it's that the justifications used for their selection always dwell disconcertingly on their clear skin or arresting stares.
This year's commentary seems to focus a bit more on body image and being comfortable with one's own self-perception, but still. This sounds incredibly cheesy, but I want my reasons for being beautiful to come from verbs, not adjectives.
I mean, People's an entertainment magazine, so this isn't surprising or anything; I'm just never going to be convinced that big baby-blue eyes are qualifiers for beauty instead of, you know, evidence of recessive genetics. Like, they included Kelly Rowland but no mention of her musical career? How does that even happen?
Naturally, we decided that xoJane deserved its own list of "Most Beautiful People" with standards of beauty that we felt were slightly more accurate. Here are some of the xoEditors' picks, in no particular order -- who'd we miss? Can you guess who picked whom?
1. Michelle Obama -- First Lady of the United States. Your favorite mom, probably.
2. Kate Bush -- One of the UK's most successful solo female performers of the last four decades. Composed the soundtrack to every illicit lesbian hookup I ever had.
3. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson -- Wrestler, actor, director, philanthropist. "HE'S BEAUTIFUL." -- Marianne
4. Tilda Swinton -- Remember when Tilda Swinton slept in a glass case at random intervals at MoMA? Or when she cosplayed David Bowie? Or when she led a 1,500-person Barry White dance party in tribute to the late Roger Ebert? Of course you do, because she did all that shit in like the last three weeks. If I ever met Tilda Swinton, I would probably throw up on her hand as I shook it. Tilda has a deadpan to kill for, stunning academic ability, and dead-on comedic timing. She's also inspired the world's best parody account, which I can't really credit to her but I will anyway because who knows.
5. P.K. Subban -- Defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens, excellent smiler, most guaranteed to make you cry about the importance of family.
6. Sandra Fluke -- "Attorney. Activist. She got called a "slut" for the rest of us to defend our rights to birth control." -- Mandy (who also wrote the descriptions for #7 - #15, because as a beautiful person herself Mandy also thinks lots of other people are beautiful)
7. Gabby Giffords -- The true definition of a survivor and a fighter. She won't give up on gun control legislation, so neither will we.
8. Christine Quinn -- The first openly gay speaker of the house for New York, she loves our city and fights for it, including running for mayor.
9. Rachel Haot -- Helping to bring the first .nyc domain name to the city, she's helping New York to be a rival to San Francisco as a badass tech hub.
10. Brandi Carlile -- Her songs make me cry and smile, and she's one of the most emotive singer-songwriters working today.
11. Margaret Cho -- Does not. Give. A. Fuck. Outspoken feminist. Tireless.
12. Roseanne -- Her work with Anonymous supports those whose voices have been silenced. And, as hilarious as ever, especially on "The Office" of late.
13. Jessica Williams -- The Daily Show's first black female correspondent, she's emerged as the comedic voice to beat on the show.
14. Dani McClain -- She's a reporter who covers reproductive rights and sexuality with a fearless bent.
15. Mandy Carter -- She calls herself an "out, southern, black, lesbian, social justice activist." She's been working in multi-racial grassroots organizing for over 40 years, and we're stronger for it.
16. Neil Degrasse Tyson -- Astrophysicist, planetarium director, Colbert-challenger, meme-inspirer, and apparently the dude who tells everybody (including James Cameron) when they've fucked up their science.
17. Judy Blume -- The chocolate-covered-ant-eating scene in "Blubber" scarred me for years, but I've still always thought of author Judy Blume as the cool aunt I aspire to be. I've never met the lady, but she taught me more about periods, masturbation, bullying, queer impulses, and the complexities of female friendships than anyone I've ever known in person. Plus, reading "Summer Sisters" multiple times as an 8-year-old showed me the astronomical combined value of possessing one's own library card, a dictionary, and a lock on the bedroom door.
18. Tegan and Sara Quin -- Lesbian Canadian twin rock band. Music for your feelings.
19. Miranda July -- Writer, actress, artist, director, coiner of the phrase "Pooping back and forth forever."
20. Allison Janney -- Admittedly, I may have conflated the actress Allison Janney with every character she's played, basically all of whom I have loved. But if she is not at least a little like C.J. Cregg and/or the erotica-writing school secretary from "10 Things I Hate About You," I hope I never find out.
21. Miranda Hart -- Comedian, writer, actress. "She is hilarious. And intelligent. And also I will one day marry her." -- Rebecca
22. Joaquin Phoenix -- "That is my only and final response. Good day." -- Hannah
23. Margaret Atwood -- Poet, novelist, literary critic, environmental activist. A few years ago I saw her read in front of an auditorium of formerly cynical college students, and I am sure if she'd asked we would have all torn our own throats out for her. Her writing manages to be funny, sexy, lovely, and terrifying all at once. She also occasionally writes erotic poetry, so, you're welcome.
24. Neil Patrick Harris -- Actor, singer, producer, magician, dad to the two most theme-party savvy children in Hollywood.
25. Sharon Rooney -- Star of "My Mad Fat Diary" and therefore of my heart. Funny, compelling, and heartbreaking on camera, and whip-smart and brash as hell off of it. "We're already best friends in my head and I don't care how creepy that sounds." -- Lesley
26. Gabby Douglas -- Everyone was a giant jerkwad to Gabby Douglas and she still managed to own the 2012 Summer Olympics beyond belief as the first African-American individual all-around gymnastics champion. The Associated Press also named her Female Athlete of the Year. Man, Gabby Douglas is the best.
27. Amy Poehler -- Actress, comedian, producer, writer, advocate everywhere for girls not giving a fuck what boys think of them.
28. Charlie Jane Anders -- Author, co-editor of io9. Founder and host of "Writers With Drinks," the best goddamned literary variety show the world has ever seen.
29. Beyonce -- Okay, she made every other "most beautiful people" list. But we're only human, for Christ's sake.
30. EVERY XOJANE.COM READER, I MEAN IT.
Seriously, you guys are the best, to the degree that I frequently talk about how much I like you to people who don't know what the Internet is (i.e., my grandma).
Now tell us who we missed, I know you're dying to do it!
Kate is on Twitter: @katchatters.