I was reading some Japanese today in which a girl described her friend’s family. It was all really normal until I got to the line “your Dad is handsome”. I don’t think I have ever told a female friend that her Dad was handsome. At first I thought it was because the word seems old-fashioned but I had difficultly thinking of a more modern word. My teacher suggested “good-looking” or “attractive” but both these seemed to be a strange way to describe a friend’s Dad. I realised that the problem had to do with sexual connotations and how I think a female friend would react if she thought I found her father attractive.
As a teenager I would have avoided describing anyone’s family members in any way that would have made my friends think that I found either their brothers or Dads attractive. Children don’t like to think of members of their family as sexual and even some adults don’t cope well with the concept. And I certainly wouldn’t have wanted anyone to think I was only her friend because I thought her brother was hot.
In Japan the adjective handsome does not imply that the person is sexually attractive and refers only to the person having a pleasing or dignified appearance. My teacher assumed that the meanings would be identical because the Japanese word is a loan-word taken from English.
I wonder if I think the word means more than that because I associate it with the “handsome prince” in fairy tales who goes on to become the heroine’s lover or is at least someone who is desired?