June 1, 2010

Fighting as Foreplay

I just emailed one of my PW editors a review for an upcoming contemporary romance that's like Lost in that the rules governing time don't always seem to apply. It's almost as though the author, who's been published for a couple of decades, decided that what seemed new 20 years ago continues to be new and fresh. Hence, a whole boatload of clich├ęs, chief among them a hero who viewed verbal sparring as foreplay.

Heroes and heroines who fight their chemistry by arguing with each other is a time-honored literary tradition. Shakespeare put it to good use in The Taming of the Shrew, centuries later Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis perfected it on Moonlighting, and, in fact, the Atomic Shakespeare episode is one of my favorites from the series. Not long ago my husband and I watched Kiss Me, Kate, engendering our usual "they just don't make 'em like that anymore" refrain.

The Taming of the Shrew and Kiss Me, Kate were of different eras. Watching the latter is a very retro experience. The 50s in film were a time when "making love" was necking on a couch. Frank Sinatra may have hoped for more with Debbie Reynolds in Tender Trap, but he settled for the "necking."

Moonlighting wasn't retro, but David Addison worked for Maddie Hayes. Their opposite sides of the track conflict, like that on The Nanny, gave creators a second reason for having these couples hold out for so long. But if a grown man without a genuine attachment to somebody else is attracted, and work doesn't get in the way, I expect him to act like a man and not a boy. Teen-aged boys think about sex every couple of nanoseconds, and many are sexually active. But none behave like grown, adult men, and most don't know what to do with their feelings. I understand the mind-set of being 15 and taunting a girl if she drives you crazy. A man, on the other hand, especially one in his mid-30s, ought to have many years of sex and relationships under his belt. His behavior should be confident and self-assured, and not that of his 15-year-old, pimple-face former self.

Hey, I know there are lots of adult men out there more like The Forty Year Old Virgin than they are suave and debonair with women, but these are not the men of our dreams. Our fantasies, which include sex, depend upon confident men who know what they're doing. It's sexy when a confident man knows what he wants and goes for it. Boys will be boys but men should be men - and if they aren't, I don't want to read about them.


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