Ah, men.

by Alexandra Sokoloff

Maybe it’s that sudden tingle of fall, but I’m just not in the mood to write about craft today. I want something fun.

Here at Murderati we have a Wine of the Week, a Word of the Week, a Song of the Week, each hosted by experts in those fields. And that got me musing about what I might be a connoisseur of, and, well…

Let me say up front that I am happily mated, as are most of us on this here blog. But we can look, can’t we? In fact, isn’t it our JOB to know about these things?

So today I want to talk about men. And you men are perfectly welcome to talk about women, and women are perfectly welcome to talk about women, and men are perfectly welcome to talk about men, and every variation therein. Mix and match, go wild – we only live once.

I like men. I’m pretty generally in favor of them, except of course for the ones who deserve the death penalty, even though I don’t really believe in it.

And as a writer, it’s one of my duties to study men, because, of course, I have to write them and sound like I know what I’m doing.

I study women, too, but not exactly in the same way. Because women are not much of a mystery to me. I enjoy all the varieties of women, I study them, I catalogue them, I collect them, I even obsess over them (I’ve blogged here about my crush on Shane on THE L WORD). But pretty much I know where they’re coming from, because, well, they’re me.

Men are a different story.

I am very often disappointed in the portrayal of men in books. Truly, disappointed.

Because there are so many variations. There are so many factors that go into the character of a man. I can’t possibly begin to cover them all in one post, but let’s just take an obvious thing that I feel authors simply do not take enough time to explore and illuminate.

Men vary WILDLY by state, region, country. They’re like different species. But I very, very rarely see an author accurately portray the unique regional qualities of men – or women, and the differences in how men and women interact with each other in a particular city. So the game for today is delineating traits of regional subsets of men, or women. I will give my own examples to encourage participation.

This is research, people – research.

In the book I just turned in I was writing about a California woman transplanted to the South, because the story as it was HAD to be set in North Carolina, as it’s based on real events, but I knew there was no way in hell as a California native I was going to pull off a book from the POV of a Southern character, so I had to make her a transplant, a fish-out-of-water.

Now, one of the things Southerners will say to a Californian right away is – “Aren’t the people so much FRIENDLIER here?”

And my bitten-back and never vocalized response is – “Well, the women are friendly, yes, definitely.”

But I’ll let my character say what I – I mean she – thinks of the men:

They look and look and never crack a smile. At least in California men smile at you when they look you over.

As a woman and a total fish out of water in the South, I have to say, this is my experience. It may be just me… but so far pretty much except for Dusty, who is a total Ted (Ted, like teddy bear – smiles, hugs, lavishes attention) – it’s true.

Of white men.

African-American Southern men, as in California, will beam at me as if I’m the most gorgeous thing they’ve ever seen at this moment in their direct line of vision. Very charming and gratifying.

(Disclaimer re: Southern men – This is all of course exempting my own 2XL Southern alpha male, who I met on a rafting trip on the Colorado River and who not only smiled but proceeded to charm the… well… whatever I was wearing, he got it off me pretty fast.)

Maybe Southern men are different with Southern women, and if so I’d love to hear about it, but as a Californian I am not used to this cool and unrevealing style.

I’ve lived most of my life in Northern California and Southern California and I’m used to a certain thing from California men. Berkeley men and women are sluts. Charming, egalitarian, sluts. Sex is like having a cup of coffee – warm, friendly, casual… and political/artistic chat with expresso or alcohol afterward.

San Francisco men, oh, lovely. A lot of gay men, proportionately, but you don’t have to concern yourself about hooking up with a man who will turn out to be in the closet, because anyone who decides to live in SF is going to be unmistakably OUT. And the straight men are just dolls – you get these beatific smiles, full-body-glow smiles, on the street – think Treat Williams in HAIR – and everyone has great asses and thighs because of all the walking on all those hills. I have often thought that there is some chemical equivalent to Ecstasy in the water or air of San Francisco because the vibe you get from people there is all love.

If I ever feel not so attractive, a quick trip to San Francisco will remind me of the goddess I obviously am.

Men in LA are less beatific – there’s that sweet, spacy distance of surfers. There’s a lot of friendly cruising on the street – you never feel ignored. They’re sort of your instant buddy while they’re getting into your pants, cute without being necessarily overtly sexy. Think BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE.

Another great town for men is Chicago. I think all that snow and wind and winter bulks them up in a way I find – uh… warming. Bottom line, they are bears. They’re quick to fight with other men and you really don’t want to cross them, but they’re very protective of their women and cuddly one-on-one.

I LOVE Boston men. They are incorrigible flirts – I have been hit on by boys as young as 10 and men as old as – well, the hills. I think it’s the overwhelmingly Irish influence in that city, crossed with some hot Italian blood. In Ireland Irish men will look at you with oh, such longing and then not act on it unless you initiate, and maybe not even then (and you really don’t want to get me started on Catholic men…) – Boston men have that American can-do initiative and will look at you longingly for just that split second, long enough to trap you, and then close in for the kill. They slay me. I would say the biggest flirts in the US, really.

New York men are so very multicultural that it’s hard to say exactly WHAT they are, but certainly, they’re not shy. They’re not the romantic flirts that Boston men are, but there’s that great intimacy in New York – walking those streets you have dozens of encounters and possibilities per day – it’s a human smorgasboard. Another city to go to instantly if you need to be reminded of how gorgeous you really are.

Outside the US – British men are about the bane of my existence. Dry, cheeky, witty – and that accent, and they KNOW it. They are crazy, and savagely funny, and every one of them knows how to use words in a way that will make a writer’s toes curl, and…

Well, never mind that. Moving on …

– Russian accents do me in every single time, but since I’m Russian myself, I’m on guard, because I know what to be on guard from.

– Frenchmen are great dancers, and I love the language, but they don’t turn me inside out the way British men do.

– Aussie men – nuts and criminals, so naturally I adore them. And again, the accent…

You get the idea. So tell me – what are the men and women from your city/state like? What cities have the best window shopping (or shopping shopping) for you?

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Speaking of great men, writer/director Brad Anderson’s film TRANSSIBERIAN is out this weekend. Run run RUN to see this… Brad (SESSION 9, THE MACHINIST, NEXT STOP WONDERLAND, multiple episodes of THE WIRE) is one of the best suspense filmmakers out there – scary smart, and will scare the pants off you, too, in the best possible way. Just in time for the Halloween season. Can’t wait!!!

33 thoughts on “Ah, men.

  1. Joanie

    I’ve got a smile plastered across my face,X. I agree with you about Southern men. New Yorkers and Italians are the most, er…vocally appreciative… of a woman’s charms. I’ve got my own list (in the name of research of course!) We should compare notes.

    Reply
  2. R.J. Mangahas

    Great topic here Alex. I’ve observed a lot of men and women (all in the name of research of course 😉 ). I have found that on Cape Cod, since there is a huge mix of natives (their family has been there for generations) and washashores (or transplants) that it’s hard to give an accurate representation. Obviously this subject requires MUCH MORE research, if you know what I mean. I may have to write a whole lab report or something. I’ll be sure to let you know what the results are.

    And bless you for loving Boston men.

    Reply
  3. Kaye Barley

    Oh, Alex – this IS fun!I would expect this from you, I must say. (I meant that in a good way – no hidden “bless your heart” there, I promise).O.K. – I’m not a writer, so have no excuse for this whole research thing you think you’re getting away with, and therefore maybe shouldn’t confess to being a life-long studier of men. But oh my – aren’t they yummy? Except, of course, for those who need killing, as you mentioned.So, let’s stick with the one man I’m allowed to study to my heart’s content and we’ll use him as the typical southern man – IF there is such a thing. Have to be very careful about generalizing these things, you know.Southern Man, Husband Donald.LOVES women. Respects women. Probably a little frightened of women he just meets, which comes from being raised by a strong matriarchal mama. You’re right – probably doesn’t greet you with a big boisterous appreciative, smile, but if you pay attention, you’ll see, along with that tentative smile, a whole lot of the devil in his eyes. And in private? Not the least bit shy about showing you his fun side and his grand appreciation of the goddess you are.Whew.Honeys?I gotta go.Wonder where that husband of mine is right now . . . .

    Reply
  4. L.J. Sellers

    Being from the Northwest, I love the rugged types who in the summer work in boots and jeans, but leave their shirts off so we can see their muscular, tanned upper bodies.

    Thanks, Alex, that was a refreshingly fun post.

    Reply
  5. Louise Ure

    Living in San Francisco, I get to (vicariously) enjoy those men you describe everyday.

    But there’s still a place in my heart for the Arizona cowboy, too.

    Did I ever tell you my definition of the perfect man? He’s a toucher, a thinker, a shift-through-the-curves kind of man, with facial hair, a neck the size of my thigh and the ability to pun in three languages.

    Reply
  6. Kaye Barley

    oh man – boots, jeans, cowboys, no shirts, facial hair, cowboys, shifting through the curves, a toucher, a thinker, cowboys . . .

    Reply
  7. Elaine Sokoloff

    Alex, I’m laughing and laughing over here – and you really made me miss the South at the same time (love to your Alpha male from me) –

    One of the quirkiest observations I once made was that one of my best friends forever from Berkeley, when I first met him, notably smelled strongly of chalk when you were close to him. He was from near Philadelphia.

    One day at the UC theater a man was sitting next to me with just the same smell and before the movie started I could not help but ask:

    “Are you from Pennsylvania?”

    He turned delighted and confirmed this. “Do I know you?”

    “… um… no…”

    And there I was with little left to say until the movie started.

    (The odd sidenote to this was that I never noticed this quality again with anyone else from Pennsylvania.)

    Reply
  8. j.t. ellison

    It’s raining men… hallelujah! Alex, you always know when to make a statement, darlin’.

    I think it’s so much easier to observe when you have a yummy male of your own at home…

    No one has mentioned the boys from Texas, who are unfailingly polite gentlemen who will lavish you with attention, stand when you enter a room, open your doors, buy your drinks and never expect anything in return except a good bit of gentle, refined flirting.

    Colorado men are open and friendly, from the ski bums to the oil mavericks to the intellectuals who appreciate the company of smart women.

    Florida boys never did it for me (no offense, gents) They were always just too interested in the waves, but I love that sun kissed hair. No one looks healthier than a surfer right out of a shower after a long day on the water.

    Nashville men, on the other hand, vary wildly. Some are so reserved you don’t know what they’re thinking, while some are crazy, forward and inappropriate — all with a wicked grin on their faces. They charm you into a state of near nakedness without breaking a sweat.

    And don’t get me started on the accents. I’m definitely a UK girl, but prefer those wily Scots. Roll your Rs and I’m yours…

    But give me a smart, funny, prematurely gray guy in glasses any day of the week. ; )

    Reply
  9. Catherine

    You’ve nailed the Aussie man with the nuts and criminals comment Alex. There is a fairly wide assortment of nuts though.One type I knew growing up on the coast were the boy/men with white hot hair from the surf, all wispy and fine, with that great v ratio thing going on with their shoulders…always smelt of the sun and sea.In a group they could flirt for Australia, one on one usually quiet and sincere…sort of bewildered if they didn’t get a favourable response…but with good bounce back time to adjusting as friends.Raucous good humour.

    Now that I live in the hills behind where I grew up, the boys have evolved in ways which would make a really long post…and I have the last day of an art exhibition I want to catch…although must mention that I do agree with JT (although it’s a small sampling) every Texan I’ve ever met is uberpolite and charming..

    Reply
  10. Jake Nantz

    Alex, I hate you’ve gotten such a sour impression of us North Carolina boys (ahem, North Carolina STATE boys, that is).

    I think I do what you’re talking about, and it’s the conflicted nature of growing up in the bible belt. We look (even the married guys), because there is always SOMETHING beautiful to find about a woman. We always look.

    However, we’ve been conditioned down here that ‘all those forward Yankees are just shameful’ (by our churched up moms), so we know what we’re doing is bad/evil and if we smile at the woman, we’re half-expecting to get smacked for it.

    Then there are the ones that honestly think they’re being smooth and playing it cool, when they’re really missing out on a chance to talk to a girl they obviously like.

    Now certainly I can’t speak for ALL men from North Carolina, but that’s been my experience. Hell, it took three notes from my wife when she was student-teaching at my school for me to figure out she was interested. I didn’t want to be too forward, even though I thought she was gorgeous.

    Like I said, conflicted. Then again, it’s possible everything I just said is from da debbil….

    Reply
  11. pari

    New Mexico men –Cowboys — God, country, holding doors open for women, showing uncommon respect and courtesy, tight jeans and sharp jaws and those gorgeous boots

    Old Spain Hispanic — erudite, proud, many with long hair in pony tails, dark chocolate eyes and skin, poetry and a smooth way of walking into a room that just reminds you of strumming guitars

    Mexican Immigrants (newer Hispanic)– Lively, laughing and ready for anything, definitely chauvinistic in the sense of wanting/and assuming that women need protection.

    Pueblo/Zuni and Navajo men — I don’t know many, but I sure do like to look — especially at those with their thick braids, quiet eyes and astounding calm.

    Mountain men — tan, ready to run and hike and bike, these are the women-are-equal-so-don’t-treat-’em-special guys. They can be refreshing because there’s not an ounce of pretense there.

    And then there are the NM natives like my hubby — WASPy but tempered by too many years in the high desert and sun to take themselves too seriously. While a woman might not get poetry or romance out of one of these men — she’ll get the truth and a kind of loving respect that only loving partners know how to demonstrate.

    Reply
  12. Alexandra Sokoloff

    While I was gone (great booksigning today) you all got downright poetic. “The boy/men with white hot hair from the surf”, wow, Catherine!

    JT, thanks for being so specific, I love it! But you know at B’Con we’re all going to torment you with Scottish accents, now. You are so easy!

    Reply
  13. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Pari, I swear, the New Mexico tourist board should pay you for those descriptions. I’m booking a flight.

    But I think JT nailed it – you do get a lot more out of observing when you have your own feast at home.

    Reply
  14. JT Ellison

    Easy, maybe. But I don’t come cheap, X. That accent better be damn good. Get Craig Ferguson to come. Then we’d have trouble.

    Cath, I’ve not met an Aussie surfer yet. But you’re so right about the V. Mmmmmmmmm

    Reply
  15. jeanne Ketterer

    “… we look … bec there’s always something beautiful to find about a woman …”. Lovely, Mr. Nantz.

    I still come back to the southern guy — I think, among other things, they were taught better manners. I just don’t know … I have been known to swoon (I’ve used that word 2x today, hmmm), but, uh, not just over the manners.

    Reply
  16. spyscribbler

    Ohmigawd, the Boston Irish Catholics! Man, I still have a crush on a cute Boston Irish Catholic I knew years and years and years ago. What a cutie. And, GOD, that accent!!!!

    I love the way the British wield words. I’m not that quick on my feet, but it’s glorifying to listen to!

    Reply
  17. Becky Lejeune

    Haha! I’m late to this post, but it’s fantastic! I too adore men, men from everywhere! I love a great accent, but while for some reason Canadian hockey players are HOT, I could never take a South Dakota man seriously.

    English, Irish, Scottish… yum!

    I’m from the South, though, and could never, ever, ever imagine myself with anyone from anywhere else (unless it’s one of those Brits!). I’ve never experienced men in say, the Carolinas or Georgia, but my Louisiana men have always been it for me. The one thing you have to watch out for in a Southern man, though, is his mom! They’re all big mamma’s boys, every last one of them, no matter how hard they try to hide it.

    Reply
  18. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Spy, yeah, you know what I’m talking about! 😉

    Jeanne, hmm… manners or male dominance? Sometimes hard to tell the difference. But I agree, there are some men who just know how to do it, and when they do, it’s swoony.

    Reply
  19. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Becky, I love Louisiana men, too. I particularly love how everyone calls each other “baby”. It just makes my day.

    Luckily I get along well with my man’s mom. I know it would be hell if I didn’t.

    Dusty, LOL.

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  20. jeanne Ketterer

    X – wait a sec — there should have been a para break: good manners … pause, new subject, next para … swoon-worthy. Two different subjects. LOL. Still had that long-tall baseball player on my mind, LOL.

    Jeanne

    Reply

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