Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Perfect Face

Hey, I think I found it: the perfect face.

I spotted this guy on a Calvin Klein TV commercial and decided to test my googling skills and try to find out who he is. I was successful, but while this gave me occasion to gloat about my ability to google, I was a little chagrinned concerning my Celebrity IQ...apparently Gabriel Aubry has been around awhile and is well known for dating Female Perfect Face Halle Berry.

So, for my PC wallpaper I replaced my homemade Commander Adama collage (if having spent time on such a thing isn't a mark of geekdom, I don't know what is) with Gabriel Aubry. It was a bit of an experiment, really. I want to try to discern if a pretty face is enough to serve as, if you will, erotic inspiration, so I'm going to give this guy some "face time" on my computer.

[Let me digress a moment. One thing I've found quite interesting already is the whole concept of a "perfect face." Obviously there isn't one. I found that out last year when I read about scientists trying to create the universally appealing perfect male face, computer generated of course. I couldn't believe how not attractive I found the result. I mean, he was okay...but did nothing for me. Gabriel Aubry, on the other hand, has perfect hair, flawless features--if he showed up on my doorstep claiming to be a god, I'd believe him. Interestingly, however, I queried every other female in the room (my mother-in-law and my two 20-something daughters) and they all said, "he's good looking, but not my type." I personally find this hard to fathom, but it just goes to show you, nothing is so perfect as to transcend taste.]

So, how's the experiment faring? Well, I can't say that looking at Gabriel isn't nice. It's an experience rather like eating chocolate...I can see how apt the expression "eye candy" really is. However, I find it impossible to fantasize about him at all. There's nothing there, know what I mean? He's a male model, so he makes his living looking good, but apart from that I have no material to work with. Consequently, I really can't work up any passion about the guy. He only moves me in a very slight, shallow way.

Whereas you can take any of my celebrity obsessions of the past year and it's completely different. James McAvoy in the role of Mr. Tumnus is sweet, charming, cozy. As Leto Atreides from "Children of Dune" he is powerful, mysterious, and tragic. M. Night Shyamalan (at least in my view) is brilliant and inspiring, a multi-talented artist. Survivorman Les Stroud is funny, courageous, resourceful in the extreme, and beautiful in soul. And Admiral Adama, with his marvelous gravelly voice, is the quintessential leader and father figure, stern but tenderhearted. Each one of these men/characters move me emotionally and spiritually, and consequently any physical appeal they possess is enhanced.

Enhanced to the point where each one has a face that strikes me as perfect.

So, I have a feeling it won't be long before the 60-year-old, worn face of Admiral Adama is back on my wallpaper. Now that's a handsome man....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hypnosis and Seduction

I’m currently reading a fascinating book about hypnosis, a topic that has interested me since I was a child. I’m finding I had a lot of misconceptions about the subject, rooted in the way hypnosis has been treated in the media over the years.

In the 60s when I was little, movies, TV, and comic books consistently portrayed hypnotists as sinister fellows with somewhat magical powers. They were forever bringing the heroine of a story under their control for nefarious purposes. A good example is one of my favorite films, “The 500 Fingers of Dr. T,” written by Dr. Seuss. In this movie the little boy’s widowed mother is hypnotized into marrying the evil Dr. Terwilliger, until a heroic plumber manages to free her from his spell.

Even as a little girl I found this hypnotist archetype strangely compelling. I liked to make up stories about falling under the control of a hypnotist. There was definitely something sexual about it all, even though I was too young to comprehend that. As I got older, I discovered a similar archetype appealed to me: the vampire. The irresistibly seductive power of the vampire has to me always simply been another example of hypnosis, albeit with a supernatural element. And there’s no denying that vampires are sexy.

I think very early on, my psyche associated hypnotism with the emotional and physical sensations of surrender, submission, relaxation and pleasure, all of which are key elements of sexual experience for women. Hypnotism was, in effect, seduction, and the hypnotist therefore a master of the art of seduction.

So maybe it’s just me, but there’s always been something very alluring about hypnotists and their ilk, from their mystical aspect to their self-assurance to their irresistible power over others. They are great fodder for sexual fantasy, and for erotic writing as well. In my opinion, if you’re going to do a sexy villain, you can enhance the character by giving him hypnotic powers. In my novel Souls’ Embrace the psychically powerful Master Xiturias uses his mind-control abilities to seduce the heroine Mauren, and hopefully win her away from her true love. (Sounds a lot like “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T,” doesn’t it?) The “hypnosis” scenes in this book are extremely erotic. (And they were very fun to write!)

But now I find myself reading about hypnosis not as a character or plot device, but rather as a therapeutic tool. Nevertheless, it’s hard for me to shake my old impressions. Even if I revise my rational opinion about hypnotists to think of them as medical practitioners, I can’t seem to alter my emotional reaction.

I can imagine a licensed hypnotist practicing his science for the purpose of, for example, helping a person lose weight, but as I picture it, I find it hard to distance such an act from seduction. I certainly can’t think of myself undergoing hypnosis without there being some erotic aspect to the experience. If indeed I ever sought the help of a male hypnotist, it would be very hard to keep the infatuation at bay.

Considering the number of people who turn to this science for health benefits, I must be a little unusual in this respect! These people can’t all be struggling with sexual attraction to their hypnotists.

So, anyone else out there harbor a fascination for this archetype?

I might have to undergo hypnotherapy to get over my “thing” for hypnotists…

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Real Men and Imaginary Lovers

I imagine at one time or another you’ve developed a crush on some TV character (as I recently have done for the umpteenth time), one of those intense infatuations that sets you off madly googling the actor who plays this person. You feel like a stalker, in spite of the fact that you’re pretty sure you’re not a psychopath of any kind. The feeling worsens when you see your idol photographed with his wife or girlfriend, most likely someone gorgeous, and you find yourself jealous. You know you will never meet this guy, so what difference does it make that he’s in love with someone other than you? Be that as it may, it still tweaks your heartstrings.

I’ve had a number of women over the years correspond with me over this problem. The first thing I do is tell them they aren’t crazy or sick. The feeling is really quite natural, and it doesn’t really mean you resent the fact that your idol has a life apart from you. The problem is that you feel desire for him of one sort or another, and the reminder of his real life just makes him seem less attainable than ever.

The cure for this problem isn’t always easy to manage. With some infatuations I’ve found it a snap; with others, nearly impossible. However, I’ve found it gets easier with practice.

The whole key is distinguishing between the Real Man and the Imaginary Lover, and believing confidently that each one exists quite apart from the other. I’m venturing into some good old Jungian psychology here, but you don’t need a doctorate to get the gist. I’ll do my best to explain, and use my current situation as an illustration.

In watching “Battlestar Galactica,” I fell for the character of Admiral Adama. This guy doesn’t exist in “reality,” of course. He is a concoction created by the writers of the show and the actor, Edward James Olmos, with help from directors, costume designers, hair and makeup people, and so on. Adama also has origins in some timeless archetypes that have inspired artists and authors for millennia: the soldier, the father, the paternal god.

There’s one more person involved in creating William Adama: me. Because he is “fictional,” he depends upon the imagination of viewers of the show to give him “reality.” Each individual will view this character a little differently, and because of what he or she brings to the situation, will react to him in a unique way. This archetype has always been powerful to me, so my psyche imbues Adama with more importance than the actor or writers could manage on their own.

So, what about the actor himself? Well, I can certainly say this: he looks exactly like the guy I’m in love with. And intellectually I recognize the part he plays in bringing this character to my senses. So it’s hard not to give him credit, as well as to sort of confuse him with my Adama.

I admit I have googled Edward James Olmos. Why? Because, well, it’s exciting to do. He reminds me of the Admiral, what can I say? In his particular case, matters are somewhat complicated by the fact that the Real Man is quite remarkable. Not only is he a brilliant actor, director and filmmaker, but a tremendous humanitarian. I watched a video of him doing some motivational speaking about the unity of the human race and it brought me to tears, without seeming much at all like it was Commander Adama saying the words.

You may have had a similar experience reading about the actor who portrays your idol. If the Real Man also inspires you in some way, the entire affair may become even more confusing to you.

Occasionally too, we become attached to celebrities who “play themselves.” My recent affection for Survivorman Les Stroud, and my longtime admiration of NHL player (now coach) Guy Carbonneau are good examples.

Still, I recognize that even for these guys, I create my own concept of their personalities and characters, distinct from the reality. I don’t know either of them personally, nor will I ever. If I did, I’m sure their human flaws or individual characteristics would rob them of the magic imparted by my imagination.

So, there are a number of things to keep in mind to help separate the Real Man from the Imaginary Lover, and I’ll set down a few here:

1. Don’t feel that the Imaginary Lover is “just pretend,” “not real,” or “a figure of your imagination,” and therefore doesn’t exist in a valid way. It would take a lot of words to cover this topic, but suffice it to say, the Lover is an independent extension of your psyche, uniquely yours and very real. Most importantly, although “imaginary,” he can fulfill your psychological needs better than you think.

2. Don’t suppose that the Real Man is who you really need or want. He may share some traits in common with the Imaginary Lover (most especially, physical appearance), but he is probably very different in many key ways, or at least not so perfect.

3. If the Real Man has many qualities you genuinely admire, to the point that you covet him in a painful way, work on separating him from the Imaginary Lover. It truly is possible to admire and like the Real Man while recognizing that it is the Imaginary Lover that truly inspires and excites you.

4. Focus on the fact that the Imaginary Lover is truly, completely, and uniquely your own, utterly devoted and faithful to you. You will never compete for him with another woman, or his work, or any other distractions. Whoever it is who is with the Real Man will not be quite so lucky with him, since he isn’t perfect!

5. When the day comes that you find the shine of the Imaginary Lover tarnishing, don’t feel sadness or regret. The nice thing about him is that he will seek out a new form to touch and inspire you, one that addresses another facet of you, or a newly developed need.

I wish I could impart to you everything I’ve read and experienced on this subject—this is a ridiculously brief treatment of the matter. If you want further explanation, I recommend my book Living Beyond Reality. I say this not to turn this column into an infomercial, but honestly in the interest of sharing with you what the good doctor Carl Jung had to say that applies so aptly to the subject of celebrity crushes.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the man. Thanks to him, when I spend three hours googling some actor, I am able to feel perfectly sane. Even when I see the photos of him kissing some other woman.

(He kisses much better when he’s with me, if you catch my meaning.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

One Little Fantasy Scene: Galactica

Sometimes a person’s imagination fixates on one simple, powerful fantasy. You know what I mean, a little scene that you replay over and over in your head, which for whatever reason evokes powerful emotions in you that you savor again and again. It’s like a sexual fetish in a way: this fantasy mini-drama grips you, almost takes you over, for awhile.

I’ve had this experience from time to time, and my most recent one draws upon the superb sci-fi show “Battlestar Galactica.” I’ve been watching the previous two seasons on DVD with my husband, in a mad rush to catch up to the current episodes. We’re really quite addicted to it. And we’re both great admirers of Commander William Adama, senior officer of the Galactica, portrayed masterfully by Edward James Olmos. Adama is a fascinating character, a mature hero with a bit of a fatherly quality, who is complexly human. Interestingly, I had no sexual feelings for the character until the scene that follows suddenly invaded my mind.

How strange is the imagination. Was I subconsciously attracted to Commander Adama before I envisioned this, or did it inspire me to fall for him? Your guess is as good as mine.

At any rate, I set down this tiny piece of classic fan fiction. The narrator is the invented character Lieutenant Sara Linderman, an officer on Galactica, in a scene with the Commander. The archetypes are so timeless, you hardly need to have ever seen the show to appreciate what is going on. Or so I suppose, on.


“Come in, Lieutenant,” said Commander Adama, looking up at the doorway from his desk.

The room was dimly lit by his desk lamp, and the book-lined walls bathed in amber light gave a cozy feel. I took a couple of steps, then said, “May I close the door?”

“Of course,” he said, removing his glasses and setting them on the desk. “From the look of you, this seems like a serious matter. Please, have a seat.”

He indicated a chair at his side worktable. As I sat down, he slid his own chair out from behind the desk. When he had seated himself in it, I found his knee was nearly touching mine. Adama was a personable man who often parted with protocol to be affectionate, and we had worked together so long I had become used to his physical closeness. However, in this situation I was especially aware of it; I could practically feel the warmth of that knee. His eyes looked into mine, brows raised slightly with obvious curiosity.

I took a deep breath and released it. “Sir, rest assured I will file a formal request in this regard, but I wanted to discuss it with you personally first.”

The curiosity became concern. “A formal request? What request?”

I sat up very straight and looked him in the eye. “Commander, I request a transfer to Battlestar Pegasus.”

He visibly started. Then, after a pause, he said, “The Pegasus is not under my command.”

“That’s the point, sir,” I interjected at once.

Was that a look of hurt I saw? If so, it was fleeting. He resumed, in a professional tone, “And what might be the reason for this request?”

“With all due respect, Commander, I would prefer not to give a reason.”

His face went stern. “Your preference is not relevant, Lieutenant. I’m not about to transfer one of my best officers to the Admiral’s command without a reason. A very good one. So answer me.”

I looked away from him. I had never once defied him in all my years of service, and I knew I couldn’t do it now, either. What he asked, I answered, what he ordered, I did. But I knew once I spoke, there would be no turning back, ever. Regulations and common sense dictated only one course of action.

I felt a warm hand cover mine. I turned to find Adama looking at me with kindness in his eyes, stark contrast to his harsh tone of the moment before. “Sara, after all we’ve been through, how can there be anything you can’t tell me?”

For all our professionalism—and we were both very professional soldiers—there had been many times we’d been as close as two humans could be. I’d saved his life and he’d saved mine. We’d shared terror and triumph, grief and joy. It was not the first time he had touched my hand in kindness, and indeed, I had not so long ago lain in his arms wondering if I would die from my wounds. That, in fact, was the moment I had finally faced the truth.

“Sir, I request the transfer because…because I’m in love with you,” I said.

My entire fate hinged on how he would respond to this. I watched his face intently, looking for a reaction. For a moment his eyes went wide, and then he seemed to struggle to collect himself. His hand remained on mine, completely still. Finally, he blinked, and sat back a little, forcing a smile. “Lieutenant Linderman, believe me, you’re not the first soldier to develop an infatuation for a superior officer. That sort of thing has been going on since war was invented. I don’t mean to belittle your feelings, but it would be a very bad decision to make too much of them.”

He drew away his hand, but on impulse I snatched it back. I looked hard into his eyes. “Commander, you know I’m not making too much of them. You know.”

I clung tight to his fingers. His eyes searched my face. How I loved those eyes! I loved when they were angry and stern, I loved when they were gentle and compassionate. I couldn’t imagine my world without them…but that was what I was asking for.

He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. His free hand came up. I expected him to stroke my cheek; it was a fatherly gesture I’d seen him use several times in crisis to calm a female soldier, myself included. But his hand stopped to take hold of my chin. His grip was firm.

I opened my mouth to speak, although I hardly knew what to say. But the look in Adama’s eyes silenced me. He lowered his chin and leaned to me, cocking his head a little. Oh gods, did he mean to…?

In an instant I got my answer. He closed his eyes and I closed mine, and I felt his mouth upon my lips. I kissed him back, fervently. He took hold of my shoulders in his two strong hands and gripped them tight, and kissed me. I put my arms up his back. His hands slipped behind me, his arms pulled me in till I was pressed into his firm chest, enfolded in his warmth. His kisses were so kind, so gentle, so full of love and tenderness that I wanted to cry.

At last we drew apart. His hands took both of mine and held them very tightly. He closed his eyes, sighed, opened them again. A resolute look came over his face. “Your request is granted, Lieutenant,” he said. “I’ll send paperwork to the Admiral in the morning.”

My throat tightened. “Thank you, sir,” I told him, my voice nearly breaking and my eyes welling with tears.

“The reasons will remain confidential,” he added.

Reasons, plural. I managed a little smile. “Thank you, Commander. Thank you.”