Philosophy of Life
do men really think like this?
I feel that that’s a provocative subject line, but it’s the root question being posed here, so…
I’m reading a book. It’s a decent book. Written by a guy, four or so main characters, one of whom is a woman, and she’s beautiful, which is fine. Viewpoint Bad Guy Character creeps on her, which is creepy but okay fine he’s the bad guy. He creeps on all the other (attractive) women he encounters too. It’s gross but certainly recognizeable.
Hero Viewpoint Character does not creep on her, which is good! What he does do, though, is constantly, *repeatedly*, every time he looks at her, thinks about her beauty, admires her beauty, says to himself, “Self, I would like to spend more time with this woman,” which okay fine whatever, I find it sort of nauseating, not quite as uncomfortable as the Viewpoint Bad Guy but still pretty much “ugh,” and so my question became:
Is this just bad writing (because it is bad writing, it makes me go “ugh” and I’d like to think if it was well done I wouldn’t go “ugh”) or is it actually decently representative of how men think?
Or I don’t know, maybe how *people* think, except, I mean, I know some very beautiful people, people I like to look at, but I do not actively think of their beauty every time I look at them. Literally the only time in my life I can remember thinking of someone’s beauty every time I saw them was Harry Cavill in The Man From UNCLE, because every time he came on screen I was just like “my GOD he’s beautiful, my GOD he is SO BEAUTIFUL,” and I thought it was *ridiculous* that I couldn’t think of anything except his beauty.
I mean like there’s the opening credits of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid where there’s this sepia shot of Paul Newman and even in sepia his eyes are just so freaking blue, so clear and so incredible, that it’s a *moment* of sort of falling over sweet jesus what beauty, and there’s like that gif of Marlon Brando rolling his eyes that I could stare and giggle helplessly at for like a week straight, and okay possibly the entirety of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Newman and Taylor is pretty nearly like that, but those, to me, are pretty extreme cases. I mean, Ted wandered in the other day to see a picture of George Clooney on the screen and said, correctly, “My God, he’s beautiful,” which is absolutely true, but that’s a passing observation; one swiftly becomes *accustomed* to that beauty, and moves on. That was why Cavill in The Man From UNCLE was so absurd: I could not stop noticing how utterly beautiful he was, and that was completely outside my experience.
But that kind of writing from a male POV isn’t all that *unusual*, and so it leads me to wonder if that really *is* decently representative of the male experience (or indeed, the female experience outside my own).
(If it is in fact representative of the male experience but not, broadly speaking, the female experience, I have a lot of Opinions about society and expectation and objectifying and things like that on the matter, but it’s late here and we’ll leave the unpacking of that for another time. :))
ETA: I should note the Hero Character does not seem badly socialized or at all an ass; I have the impression that if the Female Lead said “nah, not interested” he’d be all “okay, cool” about it, not manboy-crushed-self-esteem or anything, which is actually I think why I’m asking: this isn’t the boy who can’t take a hint or doesn’t know how to talk to girls or whatever, it’s an apparently pretty average decent human being, just with this weird-to-me constant *active* awareness of/fixation on How Lovely This Woman Is, and do men really just do that all the time or is it really just bad writing?
ETA2: I mean I get being aware you’re attracted to someone and even noticing “god damn they’re hot” unexpectedly, perhaps even often, and perhaps it’s just that it’s compressed into a book and therefore really noticeable and stuff in which case it’s emphatically bad writing, but…yeah, I’m going to bed now.
The worst they can say is no.
I have no idea when my mother first told me, “You can ask. The worst they can say is no,” but it was certainly long enough ago that it’s become an irrevocable part of my attitude toward life: Always let the other guy say no.
You would be *amazed* how much you can achieve by asking.
Which brings me immediately into Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk:
Watch it if you haven’t already, because it’s fairly inspiring, albeit in a “very few people are that brave” way. Amanda Palmer is a master at self-promotion and personal connections, and I’d love to have a tenth of her skill (debate: is it *possible* for a writer to build an audience the way Amanda’s done? Well, I guess so, I mean, giving it away worked for Scalzi and Cory Doctorow, though not quite in the get-out-and-meet-people way that AFP has done…), but for me one of the huge takeaways of her talk is a subtext of always let the other guy say no.
Amanda takes that to an art level (rather literally). She talks a lot about trust in her talk, and I think that’s part of letting the other guy say no. Maybe not even so much trusting *them*, but trusting yourself to ask, and to be able to deliver the goods if the answer is yes.
Because don’t get me wrong: asking is scary. It can be a real ego thing. If you ask and are denied, wow, does that mean they don’t love you? That they’re not interested? That you’re a FAILURE? That you will NEVER SUCCEED on the terms you hope to? Or if you ask and you don’t succeed BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS, does that mean you’re a failure, etc, etc etc?
Really, most of the time? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. Most of the time it means you’ve asked the wrong question of the wrong person or at the wrong time. Case in point: my own Kickstarter had about 500 backers. I have access to, say, 3000 or so distinct individual readers. I asked all those people to throw into the hat, and about a sixth of them responded. I just went and checked: Amanda Palmer’s got 800K followers on Twitter right now. 25K of them supported *her* Kickstarter. That’s a hell of a lot less than a sixth of them. For the rest, my takeaway is that it was the wrong time, the wrong project, the wrong request. One or many of those. (Know why I supported her Kickstarter? Because the video for it was worth five dollars to me. It was charming, delightful, sweet, and wonderful. I haven’t listened to the album. I probably won’t. But in the end, the manner of asking pleased me so greatly that I was happy to help out a little.)
Publishing works this way too. You query, you revise, you ask again and again. You get a lot of rejections. But if you don’t keep asking, you’ll never get to the one person who’s going to say yes, and so you just have to keep letting the other guy say no.
Life works this way. I really believe that. I don’t know if AFP thinks it in so many words, but I’m guessing it’s part of how she works, too. She is hoping–trusting–that if she asks, people will say yes. That they will find a way to respond positively.
An anecdote: when I was in high school, a friend and I wanted to cut class for some reason, and went to ask the teacher if we could do so. On the way, my friend remembered that we had a substitute that day, and said we were never going to be let out of class. “Oh,” I said airily, “that substitute likes me. She’ll let us out.”
My friend stopped dead and snarled, “Jesus, Catie, you think everybody likes you.”
Nigh unto a quarter century later and I’m still bemused by that. Well. Yes. As a rule, I do think everybody likes me, or that they *will* like me if they get to know me, because why wouldn’t they? *I* like me, after all, and I have to live with me all the time, so surely if you have a shorter window of exposure in which I can potentially annoy you, you’ll probably like me too. I mean, I’m aware there are people who *don’t* like me, and that’s all right too, but by and large? Yes. I assume people will and do like me. I expect the best of asking.
If you expect the world to be a positive place, it is far more likely to be a positive place. So go ahead and ask. The worst they can say is no.