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?
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!!!