Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Guy-Next-Cubicle: On NBC’s “The Office”

I’ve watched enough of “The Office” to determine that the chemistry going on between office mates Jim and Pam is really something special. I have a feeling this show has hit upon a uniquely powerful formula, romance-wise, and I’ll do my best in this entry to put my finger on what it is.

My two daughters and myself are all nuts about Jim Halpert, Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company’s inside sales rep, played by John Krasinski. His character fascinates me because (not to be insulting or anything) John Krasinski is no matinee idol. He does not have a Hollywood face. On the other hand, though, if you worked in an office with him, after being around him awhile you would conclude he was very cute. In fact, it is probably largely due to Jim’s non-glamorous looks that the female viewer finds it so easy to identify with receptionist Pam and get sucked into the show’s plot and the relationship between the two characters.

The situation is perfect for all kinds of excitement, angst, and sexual tension. Jim is single and clearly crushing on Pam. Pam is engaged to a jerk and in denial about her feelings for Jim. So the two are “just friends,” but the kind of friends who engage in all but the most overt expressions of affection. Their favorite activity is conspiring to cause grief to the more annoying members of the staff. Therefore the two are cohorts in crime, sharers of secrets, allies in the war on office frustration.

This affords plenty of opportunities for activities that, in a slightly different context, would be fraught with romance and eroticism. You have meaningful glances, furtive giggling, the passing of notes and emails, whispering in each other’s ears, etc. Every little victory they achieve is another private bonding experience.

Meanwhile, however, they cannot actually “be together.” There can only be secret longing in Jim’s case and self-deception in Pam’s. Nevertheless, beneath all the ambiguous office hijinx and conflicted emotions, these two are undeniably very drawn to each other. So whether intentionally or not, they must express that desire within the bounds of the office and their activities there.

And here’s where the viewer connects: Most of us have been in this position, attracted to a person who certainly behaves as if it’s mutual, yet is prevented by circumstances from expressing it. There’s a cute guy in the next cubicle. He’s funny, nice, physically attractive, and best of all, seems equally interested in you. But he’s married, or you are, or both, and therefore the furthest it will go is mild flirtation. It’s frustrating in a way, but on the other hand, it’s kind of a nice little game. It will never become as serious and complex and troubling as a real relationship.

Meanwhile however, on a fantasy level, you always wish it could. And that’s why Jim seems so attractive, and you pull so hard for him and Pam to actually become a couple somehow. The story is about you, about the little experiences of unfulfilled sexual yearning that happen all the time. When Jim leaves a bag of chips on the counter for Pam, you remember the time that cute guy at work bought you a surprise coffee, and you think, “Yeah, he probably did do that because he kinda likes me.” And you wonder what might have become of it, if circumstances had been different. It’s almost like watching Jim and Pam will give you a chance to find out.

Jim is so attractive because he’s all those real life, regular, cute guys we’ve known, rolled into one. When he’s funny, or attentive, or shyly affectionate, it just seems like he’s right there in the room being that way to you. It’s not a sit com, it’s suddenly very nearly real life, and that’s potent stuff.

John Krasinski was recently chosen one of the world’s sexiest men by People magazine. Apparently when someone else on set told him this, he thought he was being punk’d. I’ll bet people who haven’t seen “The Office,” who merely looked at a photo of John, might be likewise perplexed. Nevertheless he deserves this status, and I admire him all the more because he has achieved sexiness by the same ordinary means as men we encounter in real life.

And that’s what makes it that much more thrilling. If there were a real Dunder-Mifflin in Scranton, PA, there’d be a lot of women applying to share an office with Jim Halpert.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Drawn to the Underaged: On Daniel Radcliffe

On July 23, 2007, Daniel Radcliffe will be legal.

But who’s counting?

Well, my daughter and I, for two. She is 22, so her age differs from Daniel’s about as much as my does from my husband’s, and she feels strange enough about being attracted to the Harry Potter star. So you can imagine how I feel...although it’s a little better than back when he was only 11--at least the lad has passed puberty now.

Seriously though, I’m writing this entry to comfort other women all over the world who might Google “Daniel Radcliffe pedophilia” and find these words. I honestly don’t think most of us need to feel we are pedophiles at all; in fact, being affected by the charms of this young man is probably more a symptom of incurable innocence than incurable corruption.

Hidden down deep within our aging bodies are the little girls we once were, little girls who, naturally, were interested in little boys. Not in any sexual way (and of course I haven’t actually thought about Daniel Radcliffe that way), but in a magical way we simply didn’t understand at the time. Among the heterosexual there is a magnetism between the genders that transcends the mating urge and therefore kicks in before it is present.

Think back on that first childhood crush. Mine was on a boy named Jeff whom I fell for in the fourth grade. I was so ingenuous back then that I never gave any thought to the fact that boys were anatomically different than girls. The-birds-and-the-bees conversation was still a year or two off. Nevertheless, being around Jeff made me happier than just about anything. He had huge blue eyes and long lashes, and a vivid imagination just like mine. Looking at him made me feel giddy, and if I made him laugh or smile it would be the high point of my day.

Looking at Daniel Radcliffe reminds me of those bygone feelings. I’m certain that had the nine-year-old me traveled forward in time to 2001 and seen “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone,” she would have fallen violently for Harry. He is the essence of everything I found wonderful about “boyness”: the sense of adventure, the budding bravery, the loyalty to friends, the yearning to be heroic. His looks are all boy, and yet promise a future handsomeness just around the corner. Of course, the British accent doesn’t hurt either--what American female of any age can resist a little Briton?

My attraction to Harry takes me back to the most basic feelings of adoration for the opposite sex: the essential awe that simply holds that maleness, at any age, is wonderful.

And if my daughter and I rub our hands together in glee to see Daniel maturing toward manhood, to hear his voice deepen, and to see his baby fat turn to lean muscle, that’s no perversion either. It’s just the joy a female naturally experiences seeing a boy come into adulthood. We wonder to see his shoulders broaden, for ours never will, and to see his hips stay narrow, while ours have not. We delight as his height passes ours and his strength becomes superior. And we smile in tender amusement as he struggles with his own complex attitudes about females.

It’s like hearing an old fashioned love song that reminds you of simpler days. Wasn’t it nice when you found yourself wishing you could just once hold hands with that cute boy who sat in front of you in class? You had no idea why you even wanted to, and that just made it all the more magical.

So take heart, Daniel aficionados over the age of 16. You are not “dirty old women” at all, just women who still have young hearts. And hopefully always will.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Dream Kiss

Okay, I’ll admit my libido hasn’t exactly been raging recently. You know how it is. Just yesterday I was lamenting this to myself and I think my subconscious heard me, for last night I had one of those really vivid, erotic dreams that just wake up your entire psyche.

The dream involved a guy I know, who, like me, is happily married. I like this guy and I think he’s cute, even kinda sexy in a wholesome way, but I’ve never had any particular designs on him.

Now onto the dream, if I were to turn it into a work of prose:

We’d been working on our project together quite successfully for awhile. Then suddenly without warning, he stepped closer to me. I found I didn’t mind it. The distance closed, and he leaned to me, and his proximity became not only unusual but obviously significant.

Was he going to touch me?

All at once I realized how much I hoped he would. His face was pleasant, and in his eyes was a look that seemed to be acute affection. My body quickened with like feelings in response, but I wondered how far I should let my emotions go. Then I felt his warmth on my skin and he seemed to have crossed a borderline of nearness that activated all my awareness.

What happened next was amazing. He tipped his head until his nose touched my right temple. Then he traced it over my cheek and down along my jaw line, around and up, and then over my left cheek. Then he turned his face and held stock still, leaving his mouth perhaps an inch from mine.

This gesture changed everything. My universe collapsed to our two close faces, my existence to the memory of that touch lingering softly on my skin, and the all-encompassing temptation of his lips. Two voices chanted in my head. One repeated, “you mustn’t, you mustn’t, you mustn’t.” The other, more confident, urged, “but you will, you will, you will.” Both voices were equally arousing.

The obvious wrongness of a kiss held both of us immobilized, but I could feel his yearning as desperately as my own in the lingering sensation on my cheeks. The offering of his mouth, the anticipation of its softness and warmth, was quickly overwhelming me. I tried to breathe and the breath caught, shuddering. And he heard this, knew its meaning at once, and smiled with joy at the knowledge of my desire for him.

We both knew then that it was only a matter of moments. Furious craving to feel his flesh darted just beneath the skin of my cheeks. I perceived his body as a happy, warm, fragrant presence that must be seized, surrendered to, devoured. My desire overpowered my consciousness: my brain went blind with it, my heart rushed, I couldn’t breathe, I trembled.

I kissed him. He met me with wild hunger, his mouth as eager as it was soft. My trembling increased, then seemed to break like a wave. His kiss carried me like the surf, and I drowned in it, lost myself in it. It was surcease of yearning, so sweet, so lovely. And in that moment I felt like I must love him.

Thanks, subconscious.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Orlando Bloom: Hot is Not Enough

First of all, this entry is not meant to distress the many fans of Orlando Bloom, nor to in any way disparage his talents. Personally, I think he’s one of the most physically attractive actors to come along in the last five years. I can’t imagine anyone better suited to play the role of Legolas the elfin archer in “Lord of the Rings.” However, I can’t help but feel that some of his films have served to illustrate the principle that for women--if I may be so bold as to speak for them--looking hot is not really enough. Even as hot as Orlando Bloom.

First case in point is “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Recognizing the need to utilize an up-and-coming heartthrob for the role of romantic lead Will Turner, the filmmakers cast Orlando. And going in, it worked for me: one of the reasons I wanted to see the movie was to enjoy that beautiful face on the screen. However, it turned out it was Johnny Depp’s performance as the drunken ne’er-do-well Jack Sparrow that stole the show. Not only that, but Johnny suddenly became the hot-guy-du-jour. I’ll bet more than a few men found this puzzling. Me, I found Jack Sparrow so sexy I not only put him up on my computer wallpaper for awhile, but I dressed as a pirate that Halloween. Yeah, I’m weird that way.

Sometimes the things women find sexy even they can’t explain. I loved Jack’s eyeliner and quirky manner of dress. And of course he was damn funny. I suppose part of it was that he was clever and resourceful with a little ironic bungling thrown in for fun. And of course he was dashing and dangerous in a really bizarre sort of way. Anyway there was a whole lot more there to get excited about than you found in the blandly heroic Will, no matter how hot he looked when swashbuckling.

Things went even more awry in “Troy.” Again, Orlando looked great in his ancient Trojan togs, but the appeal stopped there when his character Paris turned out to be so self-centered and whiny. Movie fans know all about this sad turn in Orlando’s career so I won’t dwell on it any further.

My most recent foray into attempting to enjoy Orlando Bloom was this past weekend when we rented “Kingdom of Heaven.” Orlando’s physical appearance in this film was superb: the dark hair and short beard is a very flattering look for him. I don’t want to put any spoilers in here, so suffice it to say that unfortunately his character was ultimately undone by an unfortunate plot development. He makes a choice that to me made him seem selfish, unmoved by his own responsibility for tragedy, and eager to take glory when he actually incurred disaster. I was no longer attracted to him; in fact, I thought him quite off-putting.

Orlando’s performance cannot be blamed--he had to say the lines written for him. But this was the third time I watched a man with staggeringly good looks give a performance that pretty much drained him of sex appeal. That’s probably a bit extreme, but die-hard fans of the man have to be a little disappointed too.

What a waste of a pretty face, huh? Now if this guy could ever get to play a role that was strong, interesting, funny, dangerous, or truly heroic, it would be really something. It would be like, well, Legolas, only a bigger part. Maybe he has had such a role in some film I missed seeing, and I hope so. But I’m actually at the point when he doesn’t even look that hot to me anymore, and that’s unfortunate. Because whereas guys will pay to see Jessica Alba play any role, women don’t work quite that way. To get to us, the protagonist can’t simply be beautiful, he has to be able to shoot arrows with deadly accuracy while scaling a giant elephant.

Now that’s hot.