Saturday, December 29, 2007

How to Look Good Naked


So, a couple days ago I received this email that said, "Being that you are a trusted voice in the female blog community I would like to invite you to a special online advanced screening of 'How to Look Good Naked'..."

In marketing-speak, that simply means, "Your blog has enough readers that we want to include you in our viral marketing campaign," so don't worry, it didn't go to my head! But I was curious about the show, Lifetime's new adaptation of the UK show of the same name, which features host Carson Kressly of "Queer Eye." So I checked out the preview of the first episode (airs on Jan. 4), and was impressed.

My regular readers know I'm a big proponent of self-esteem for real women. I've been known to go off on frequent rants (causing my husband to recoil in alarm and even hide) against the unrealistically thin women that prevail in the media. I love the Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty." And therefore, "How to Look Good Naked" is right up my alley.

In the preview episode, a somewhat Reubenesque but nevertheless nice-looking woman is taken under Carson's wing to change her body image. After a grueling and tearful self-analysis, countered by Carson's encouragement, she undergoes a series of experiences to teach her she truly is beautiful just as she is. The woman learns that beauty stems from a lot more than body shape, and she also learns that her body, just as it is, is perfectly attractive.

Other shows teach self-esteem. Other shows do makeovers--and this one also includes the clothes, the haircut, the makeup. But what sets HTLGN apart is that in the end it does get down to the issue of one's unadorned, naked self. Carson persuades his protege to do a nude photo shoot, with absolutely amazing results. From this experience she learns undeniably that she is attractive and sexy--without losing 40 pounds or having plastic surgery.

I've been noticing lately on some of the makeover shows we watch, just how much "ordinary" individuals look like celebrities if they simply have access to the same designers, stylists, hairdressers and makeup artists. It's quite enlightening. On the flip side, you know those hideous candid shots of celebrities you see on the covers of the tabloids? I used to think they were doctored in reverse, but now I truly believe these gorgeous stars are just that plain, or even homely, without help.

It all boils down to an interesting truth. We have been duped...or duped ourselves...into believing there is a whole huge segment of the human population that is beautiful, and we don't belong in that segment. We can see why they feel sexy and are sexy...and therefore conclude we ourselves ought not hope for the same.

But the truth of the matter is, the truly perfect natural beauties of the world are extremely rare. 99+ percent of us are flawed, celebrities included; the human race abounds with pot bellies, bad complexions, boring hair color, teeth that need straightening, big noses and small breasts. Women have to work a bit at looking good, be that by a good haircut, proper clothes, or eye makeup.

And far more importantly, women need to realize that beauty and sexiness spring from the mind, not the body. Helen Mirren at 61 still echoes her sexiness when she starred in "Caligula" almost 30 years ago. Is "Sex in the City"'s Sarah Jessica Parker conventionally beautiful by anyone's standards, even with benefit of stylists? The sex appeal of Mae West (weight), Barbra Streisand (nose), and Bette Midler (lots of things!) have very little to do with natural beauty and everything to do with talent and attitude.

But I'm like the umpteen-millionth person to say this. You hear it all the time. The problem is, you always forget to apply it to yourself. And that to me is the great success of "How to Look Good Naked." Watching a woman who really has nothing on you being told by strangers and passers-by that she is sexy and pretty...that's powerful stuff. You really do walk away from this show, find a mirror, and take off your clothes, and think, "I can be beautiful too, without the diet and facelift."

You'll believe it. Try out the show and see if it doesn't make you feel it too. And that's my honest, uncompensated endorsement.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Why DO I feel romantic toward my husband?


Earlier this month I posted an essay called “Why don’t I feel romantic toward my husband?” My daughters have subsequently referred to that post as “when you wrote about Davie.” While I did, in a sense, write about their stepfather in that piece, I was actually addressing a question emailed to me privately from a reader. And while I was writing about truths I think are fairly universal, I know feel rather compelled to write about the flip side of the issue.

So Davie, this one IS for you! Just a few reasons that pop to mind why I do still feel romantic toward my husband after 15 years....

1. That runner’s physique and fabulously tiny ass that first attracted me are still amazing. Davie would deny it, but at 46 he’s still a lean, mean and toned machine. I take it for granted now, but I shouldn’t; in Wisconsin trim men are not that easy to find! And as we recently determined, he is exactly five times stronger than me.

2. He’s really smart. Smart enough to build a computer, and to store in his brain approximately 5.3 billion facts about politics, history, and sports. Also smart enough to always know which direction to turn when coming out of a store in the mall, whereas I never have a clue.

3. He’s gallant and chivalrous. These are also vanishing traits. He’s always happy to drive me around. He’s always delighted to rescue my daughters from their latest crisis. Whenever I ask if I can help shovel snow, he says no. Cheerfully even.

4. He yells while watching football games like any red-blooded American guy, but also cries at movies. This man is a 10 on the straight-to-gay spectrum (meaning that when he’s really attracted to another man, it only means he’d love to buy him a beer), but he loves romantic comedies, enjoys cooking and decorating shows, and is a total sentimental slob about Christmas.

5. He hasn’t the slightest problem with my endless parade of celebrity and non-celebrity crushes, and even facilitates them at times. Who else would accompany his wife to Ottawa, Canada in February just so she could see her idol coach a hockey game? (Well, he does like hockey, but still.) Meanwhile, he also indulges my platonic but no doubt slightly annoying crush on our cat Cody.

6. He is cute and funny and has a fantastic vocabulary. Consequently he is entertaining every day. Davie still doesn’t quite believe that being funny is the sexiest thing a guy can do, but I keep reminding him. I’m right, right ladies?

7. He is 100% honest, loyal, faithful and true. In fantasy these are not necessarily romantic traits--we all like our bad boys--but in reality they are probably the most important erotic/romantic traits of all. Davie has never lied, cheated, deceived or been less than totally candid and open about anything in all the time I’ve known him. I’m not sure he could even if he tried and he has no interest in trying! Being able to completely trust someone is an indescribably wonderful thing.

I could go on (and I’ll bet Davie would kind of like me too, LOL), but you get the idea. It all boils down to the fact that he is a wonderful husband, especially for me in particular. That doesn’t necessarily inspire romantic feelings every hour or every day (especially when your wife is menopausal--the only thing wrong with being 51), but sometimes it just has to.

And every hour and every day it does make me very, very happy. Merry Christmas, Davie! I love you.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Want an Angel: On Josh Groban


I heard the other day that Josh Groban’s new Christmas CD “Noel” has been at the top of the charts since its release...it’s gone double platinum. First of all, let me say I think it’s extremely cool that a Christmas CD is a #1 seller. And it’s really sweet and wonderful that the particular album is Josh’s.

The young man truly seems to me like a Christmas angel incarnate.

I first encountered Josh when he was 20 and played a high school kid on “Ally McBeal.” He was adorable even before he opened his mouth to sing...and the voice completely blew me away, partly for personal reasons. You see, I went to high school with a guy whose voice was incredibly similar, and he was cute too. I think the only reason I never had a crush on Glenn Siebert is that I knew it was too hopeless to bother with. (He grew up to become a professional music professor and opera singer, and still sounds sublime.) So here was this young reincarnation of Glenn Siebert, Josh Groban, with those tousled curls and dark brown eyes...and such a sweet and gentle persona. I don’t care if I’m old enough to be his mother--I’m only flesh and blood.

And besides, I’ve never actually lusted for this boy. It’s too delightful to adore him chastely, to simply bask in his gifts. You can close your eyes and forget all the ambiguity and imperfection of real life, and let this voice fill your soul, this voice that is so absolutely flawless.

Angels, they say, are perfect.

You could certainly do worse than Josh Groban if looking for a Christmas angel. He is a Christian, and very supportive of all manner of great charities, both with his singing and his pocketbook. In a world of celebrity scandals, you won’t be seeing him in some compromising photo in the tabloids soon.

I appreciate that. I really do. I know no human is perfect, but a man with such a lovely face and such a heavenly voice--well, one really does want to pretend he is perfect. It’s very kind of Josh to keep that in mind in his daily lifestyle.

Now, while I don’t purport to make Josh an object of lust, neither do I deny that beauty and perfection are erotic, in a certain way. In fact, when the mind and soul long for perfect beauty, they bring the body along; that is, the pleasure and satisfaction of beholding such loveliness are physical sensations as much as emotional ones. This kind of passion may be more akin to religious fervor than sexual desire, but it is still an intense form of love.

Angels, they say, are pure spirit.

And as such, they of course do not traffic in the physical, including intercourse. Sex is irrelevant to angels, and yet I would suppose they experience passion as profound as any we sexual beings feel. I wonder then if in their discourse with each other and God, their experience is perhaps a little bit like what I feel when I listen to Josh Groban.

And if that’s true, it’s no wonder so many of us have bought the CD. It’s Christmastime, and we want an angel.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Why don’t I feel romantic toward my husband?


I remember when I was a young newlywed of 21, and found myself attracted to a co-worker. Up till then I thought that when you really loved someone, you only had eyes for him. Wasn’t that how it was in the love songs, movies, and books? Stricken, I confessed to my husband. He just smiled and assured me I was perfectly normal, probably mostly because he’d had the same experience for a lot longer.

Thirty years later, I have a lot clearer understanding of romantic, sexual love. Without doubt it is among the most exciting, inspiring, life-enhancing human experiences...but the part it plays in long-term relationships is much smaller than our culture would have us think. There are times I feel romantically/sexually towards my husband, but more often I feel different emotions that are not particularly romantic or erotic: comfortable, appreciative, secure, content, etc.

In fact, many of the emotions that spring from a healthy longstanding relationship are anathema to romance. In essence, romantic love is fascination with a being who seems both a perfect mate and somehow out of reach. That’s why all love stories tell the tale of the boy getting the girl (or vice versa), and end when he does. That’s why love songs are about yearning, pining, longing, missing, losing, and so on.

From a Jungian viewpoint (aka the one I have, LOL), this fact is easily explained. Romantic love is an animus phenomenon. What I mean by that is, it is always tied in to our conscious psyche yearning for its subconscious opposite self. Before I say something else unintelligible, let me illustrate. My own animus, my subconscious “dream lover,” is completely and uniquely mine (the perfect mate) and yet, being subconscious, is not accessible to me at will. Rather, he projects himself upon whatever person I’m infatuated with, attracted to, etc. Hence he seems elusive, out of reach. And there you have it, the formula: the perfect mate, who is somehow out of reach.

A husband, of course, is not out of reach, or at least not in a healthy marriage. Experience has proven him also not the perfect mate. Who is? Therefore, it’s very difficult to sustain feelings of romantic love, at least the classic “love song” type. You can love your husband, even adore him, you can most certainly be attracted to him and associate all sorts of pleasures with him, but those achy feelings of longing we think of as romantic love? Not so much.

Meanwhile, it is highly likely any given woman will periodically encounter male figures--be they “real people” or celebrities or characters in books, on TV, or in the movies--that provoke romantic feelings. These “animus bearers,” as Jung termed them, just happen to have the traits for which your particular soul yearns. In some women these animus feelings will be relatively mild, perhaps just a lively interest. In others, the emotions can be so powerful as to be confusing, unsettling...even make a woman question if she’s flipping out.

And most certainly make her feel guilty about having more passion for some actor than for her husband.

Such a woman is making two errors: One, she is underestimating the significance of her bond to her husband. The healthy marriage bond is based on a lot more significant things than intense emotion. Two, she is confusing her very real attachment to her animus (that subconscious part of herself) with feelings for an external person she probably doesn’t even know well. I don’t mean that to sound accusatory, we’ve all done it! And in fact, it’s so FUN to do it, I’d actually advise you to indulge, as long as you keep everything in perspective.

This all translates to the following simple answer to the question posed in our subject line:

You can think half the day about Matt Damon / Hugh Jackman / Christian Bale, or whomever, and still have a perfectly normal and healthy love for your husband. In fact, look for romance in your fantasies, and love in your relationships, and you will do pretty well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I’ve Found My Soulmate and Her Name is Meg!


...Meg Wood! I don’t often endorse other blogs and sites here, but I have to make a special recommendation for Meg’s Boyfriend of the Week.

Well, what I mean by “soulmate” is that Meg’s taste mirrors my own in uncanny ways. I’ll grant you, if you blog about a new celebrity you like every week or two, you will have a long, long list that most women will share at least in part. But there are definitely some guys in Meg’s pantheon that you wouldn’t necessarily expect every woman to drool over.

Naturally Meg could not be my soulmate if she didn’t appreciate Les Stroud. But she pleads to have his children ASAP, and for all the same reasons I adore the guy. She’s got a long list of my more “commonplace” faves: Naveen Andrews and Josh Holloway, David Duchovny, Sean Bean, Gregory Peck, Dominic Monaghan/Billy Boyd/Elijah Wood, Joaquin Phoenix, Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, Owen Wilson, Colin Firth, Hugh Jackman, Keanu Reeves, Tobey McGuire...none of those guys are overly surprising.

Now, however, for the “overly surprising” category, relatively less popular guys that I have adored and/or blogged about: the “So You Think You Can Dance” guys, Mike Rowe, Bill Nighy, Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the Serenity guys, Josh Whedon and Anthony Stewart Head, Sam Neill, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Anthony Hopkins, and Ray Walston.

Yes, Ray Walston! When I saw that name I knew Meg and I quite possibly share the same brain! Or at least libido! I couldn’t believe there was anyone else out there who had a crush on him in “My Favorite Martian” besides me. But Meg did! Will wonders never cease?

Really, there are very few guys on Meg’s boyfriend list (other than those I hadn’t heard of) that I don’t find attractive. Eric Stoltz? Adorable. Chow Yun-Fat? To die for. Morgan Spurlock from “Super Size Me”? I’ll take two. James Spader? Swoon. I even get what she means by the Pets.com Sock Puppet.

I just love that Meg seems to have developed her romantic taste, as I did, based upon a combination of science fiction, Broadway musicals, and admiration for men whose resourcefulness emulates MacGyver. She likes a lot of guys who are quirky, exotic, romantic, heroic, and ingenious. Just reading her analyses (and admiring the accompanying photos) is inspiring, because she really gets (at least according to my particular taste) what makes men spiritually satisfying to women.

Love, love, love it, Meg. I only wish we were both twelve years old and could stay over at each other’s houses making scrapbooks of our fave guys and giggling till one in the morning.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Sexiest Guys of 2007


Okay, People magazine, I just don’t get the Matt Damon choice. He’s cute, funny, a good actor, but Sexiest Man Alive?

I realize there can never be any kind of consensus on an issue like sexiness, so the question is moot anyway. But a choice this weird just motivates me to make my own list. I blog about sex, isn’t that enough qualification? Okay, I know my opinion counts no more than yours...so write your own list!

Here’s mine:

Sexiest in a TV comedy: John Krasinski (Jim on “The Office”). Now that he’s got the girl (Pam), he manages to be just as adorable, charming and sexy as ever. Even playing ping pong badly.

Sexiest in a TV drama: Milo Ventimiglia (Peter on “Heroes”). I know I’m not alone on this one. Dark, handsome, goodhearted, brooding and tortured, looks great half naked and bruised, plus he is the most powerful superhero in the Heroes pantheon.

Sexiest in a film comedy: Simon Pegg (Nicolas Angel in “Hot Fuzz”). I wish I could tell you why he got to me so; I guess his being a super cop with perfect dedication to his job was some kind of turn-on to me.

Sexiest in a film drama: Daniel Craig (James Bond in “Casino Royale”). I think I’ll get some seconds on this one too. He added a dimension of vulnerability to the Bond package that intensified his allure. I would be remiss not to mention the eyes, of course.

Sexiest villain, TV or film: Zachary Quinto (Sylar on “Heroes”). Gotta give it to him this year, he just brings superpowered-blacksouled-serial-killer to a whole new level of hotness.

Sexiest dancer: Danny Tidwell (runner-up in this year’s “So You Think You Can Dance”). The looks, the body, and one hell of a samba. Honorable mention to third place Neil Haskell who shines mostly by humor and charm, but pulled sexiness out of his tights a time or two as well.

Sexiest singer: Les Stroud. I’m not about to deny Les his due here, and if you don’t believe me, listen to “Nice Tattoo.”

Sexiest speaking voice: Mike Rowe (“Dirty Jobs,” “Deadliest Catch,” Ford commercials, etc.). The rest of him ain’t bad either, but I could listen to him talk all day, even about poo and crabs.

Sexiest in a reality show: Les Stroud encore (“Survivorman”). Call me biased, but I really think a national vote (wait, let’s include Canada) would back me up. The commentary in the blogosphere sure suggests it.

Sexiest entertainer who doesn’t sing, dance or act: Criss Angel (“Mind Freak”). We all find magic sexy but this guy blows away all competition. He’s one of a kind, this one.

Sexiest sports figure: Mark DeRosa (Chicago Cubs). I have to qualify this by admitting I’m a rabid fan of the Cubbies, but Mark deserves the title. He’s hot, nice, talented, hardworking, and a team player. Honorable mention to Peyton “Laser Rocket Arm” Manning who may not be sexy but steals the show both on the gridiron and any commercial in which he appears.

Sexiest guy, mature category: Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama, “Battlestar Galactica”). At age 60, E.J.O. has a strong, wise, gentle dignity about him. As Adama, he can be father figure and alpha male all at once. Works for me.

Sexiest guy, barely-legal category: Shia LaBeouf (actor, “Disturbia,” “Transformers,” etc.). Okay, he’s 21 now but he doesn’t look it. Shia has a shy, youthful charm with just enough innocent sexiness to attract without freaking you out. Runner-up props to 18-year-old Corbin Bleu (“High School Musical”), who in my opinion totally outshines Zac Efron.

Sexiest person if you base your choice on Google searches leading to my blog: Cody Willard (Fox Business Network, hedge fund manager). 2.3% of searchers, people, can you believe it? I have a feeling all those hits are due to the fact that investors are so surprised to see the third result in Google for Cody is a blog called “Erotica with Soul.”

Matt Damon, eat your heart out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Memoirs from Puberty: Chris


I guess since I haven’t had anything current to blog about lately, I got to thinking about the past. Every once in awhile I get nostalgic for the distant days of yore, the formative years of she who would eventually become a peculiar sort of romance writer. Ah, first loves! Is there anything like the way we felt during those first infatuations, when the opposite sex was so mysterious and interesting? So come back in time with me, to 1970 when the sexual revolution was in full swing and hippies were singing the praises of free love, and I was an intimidated ninth grader trying to make sense of what was going on in my body.

The musical “Hair” was in its heyday. While I had no idea what most of those naughty words in the songs meant, there was a strange appeal in the shows two stars, Claude and Berger, as they appeared in photos on our album jacket. The drugs and nudity and the pall of Vietnam frightened me, but there were songs in that musical about love, and that I could understand. So I was drawn to Claude and Berger, and frightened by them, and that was how I felt about sex, too.

So...ninth grade. Chris, the guy who sat in front of me in geometry and across from me in study hall, was not my “first love.” I’d been sweet on Jeff since fourth grade, but redistricting had separated me from my grade school crush with the big blue eyes. Anyway Jeff was a little kid thing; Chris seemed altogether different. My interest in him crept up on me, even as puberty did. At first I was simply intrigued by him because he was so shy. The boy barely spoke to anyone. I wondered why; my imagination invented all kinds of alluring mysteries. And as I studied him, for the first time in my life I began to notice masculinity.

My obsession with Chris’s masculinity took very interesting forms in my innocent psyche. I memorized his shirts. They were knit pullovers and cotton oxfords, and for the first time I realized males wore their clothes differently than females. I was fascinated by the colors and patterns of Chris’s shirts, and on days when he wore my favorite striped oxfords, I was happy. I still remember those fabrics. Chris was the first male to allure me by turning up the cuffs of his shirts to reveal his wrists. At fourteen he was barely a man by any standards, but there were definite signs.

I loved to pile my books on my desk in geometry class, and set my hand on top, close enough to Chris’s back to feel his body heat. It was inexplicably thrilling. The warmth that came off of him seemed so different than what came off me, as if it had a different chemical composition, as if one could get drunk by feeling it.

How I yearned to know the secrets of this magical creature! I shared a table in study hall with Chris and a talkative nerd named Rich (nicknamed “the Bod” based on an odd last name which shall remain unrevealed here). Every word I said to Rich was meant for Chris’s ears, and I longed for some sign that he recognized I was alive. But he kept to his strange silence, working away on his assignments as if no one else was in the study hall.

Was there anything particularly attractive or amazing about this boy? Not really; he was fairly plain, with a decent physique, and with no unusual attributes except intelligence. I never learned about his hobbies or interests, never knew the bands he liked or the TV shows he watched. So he remained in effect a blank slate, a young everyman upon whom I could project my budding fantasies about masculinity.

Chris was the first boy to make me feel like sex was not necessarily a bad thing.

His was the face and body and voice that maleness wore as it changed my mind about the sex act. What had previously seemed, as it does to all children, as repulsive and bizarre and inexplicable, began to have strange appeal. I felt that with this one person, it was possible such intimacies could be not horrifying, but rather pleasant and exciting. I could do it with Chris, only with him; he alone could make me want to explore such things.

So how did it all end? Well, sadly, upon graduation from our junior high, Chris and I were destined for separate high schools. As despondent as I was about this fact, I was determined to raise the courage for one final act of devotion before we were parted forever. I would ask him to sign my yearbook, and pray that he would respond in kind. I composed a few words that I hoped would convey my affection without embarrassing me; I wish I could tell you what those words were, but I don’t recall. The final day of school arrived, and trembling visibly, I asked Chris to sign my yearbook. We swapped books and wrote, and said goodbye, and I got on the bus to go home. On the way home I finally dared to look at what my beloved wrote.

It was: “Diane, you sure seemed to like the Bod. Have a good summer, Chris”

I realized too late that the boy of my dreams had totally misunderstood me! How devastating! And there was nothing to be done about it. Fantasy and reality collided and my little heart was shattered. There was really very little about my devotion to Chris that was founded in reality, but I didn’t understand that then; I couldn’t grasp that he had never picked up on the tiniest wisp of the roaring passion I had harbored, right behind him in math, right across the table in study hall.

Sad ending notwithstanding, this boy was the tool that nature used to urge me along the bumpy road to adulthood. And even if it was nearly all me and very little him, I still feel a pang remembering how he played that part in the awakening of womanly feelings in me all those years ago.

So whatever became of Chris? Thanks to the wonders of Google, I can tell you. He’s a very successful chemistry professor at a prestigious college.

And in the photo I found of him, he’s wearing an oxford shirt.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Two Words: Criss Angel


I pride myself on being a semi-expert on erotic celebrity-obsessions, and I dare say the one man on the planet currently dominating that category could well be mentalist/illusionist Criss Angel. As a student of pop culture who blogs about sex, I would be remiss not to post about this fascinating figure and how he has captured the imagination of so many. How does he do it? Let me count the ways...

1. I had never even seen Criss perform on TV until about ten days ago, but it has been hard to miss the commercials for his show "Mindfreak" these past couple of years. I count myself among those people attracted to the long-hair, eyeliner, rock star look, and from first glance I found Criss to be pretty intense. He is a very handsome man with an amazing physique, and knows how to "accessorize" those assets. The hair, the makeup, the clothes, the poses...he could be anyone and get attention looking like that.

2. But to be more than a guy whose pictures you collect for the "Criss Angel" folder on your hard drive, the man has to have talent. And that he has, a-plenty. He's another "Renaissance man" who writes, produces, acts, and even has musical talent. His expertise sets him apart as someone special and noteworthy, someone capable and confident. His looks get your attention; his talent holds it.

3. And, of course, there is the nature of his area of expertise: magic and mentalism. There's no denying there is a strong connection between these subjects and sex. Magicians and hypnotists have strong erotic power to a lot of people. Women, who traditionally find submission arousing, are easily turned on by a man who can make them feel overwhelmed, irresistibly influenced, mystified and enchanted. Magicians and mentalists seem to possess alluring power, and for many women, this is the ultimate kind of sex appeal.

4. Criss is clever enough to understand the elements of the magician archetype most rich in erotic appeal, and has crafted his on-stage persona accordingly. His employing the term "mindfreak" is not accidental; it's the "polite" form of the implied "mindfuck"...meaning in part simply messing with the mind, but also the sexual interpretation. The word is deliberately meant to suggest that while Criss cannot have intercourse with your body, he most certainly will insert himself in your mind and have his way with it.

So, in Criss Angel we have an extremely hot guy, who is fabulously talented, and plays the role of a powerfully magical, influential being who may or may not have a unique connection to the spiritual world. As a result, droves of women (and droves cannot begin to convey the multitude) idolize him.

Now I want to elaborate on that: I'm not talking about mere fans here, people who simply enjoy the man's performances. I'm talking about people who feel a deep psychological connection to Criss, and on a daily basis are affected by their feelings for him. This is the animus phenomenon at its finest; for what I mean by that, please read this post to be enlightened. All you have to do is poke around a few Criss Angel tribute sites, blog posts, and MySpace pages to see the animus phenomenon happening everywhere.

Women are saying things like "Criss Angel saved me," and "I feel him within me." They give him credit for inspiring them, leading them, easing their pain. They refer to him as an angel or even a god. They immerse themselves in watching him, listening to him, writing poetry about him or drawing pictures of him.

These behaviors are not disturbed or deviant...they are the most natural, normal thing in the world. Criss Angel has a gift for capturing the imagination, and as Carl Jung taught and I firmly believe, it is the imagination that opens up the contents of our subconscious to us, the hidden world within us and beyond reality, whence our deepest longings spring and our greatest source of power and enlightenment lies. These women are connecting with their animus, that hidden and fabulously important part of themselves, as he manifests himself through their individual visions of Criss Angel.

He is simply an ideal animus-bearer.

When perusing these various websites and postings, you will find both positive and negative themes. On the positive side, women are truly inspired by their fascination with Criss, energized and enabled. This is the result of their connecting with power within themselves that is finding a new way to manifest itself. The joy and excitement they find, through Criss Angel and their fantasies of him, gives them energy. It can be a comfort, a pleasant distraction, a call to action. On the negative side, however, there is the common problem that it seems to Criss's fans that it is he--the actual man--who is the source of this joy and power, rather than their animus-related experience of him. That of course creates acutely painful longing, frustration, disappointment, and so on.

Having experienced both the positive and negative effects of celebrity-infatuations, I wrote my book Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life. The theories of Carl Jung were tremendous help to me in learning to avoid the negative and utilize the positive, and many other people struggling with their own "obsessions" have been helped by the book.


Interestingly, I think Jung and Criss Angel would have gotten on quite well. Both are/were rational, scientific men who meanwhile had an appreciation for the connection between mind, body and soul. They both have found an excellent balance between accepted reality and the just-as-real but empirically evasive world beyond reality.

On a more personal note, I must say I'm glad I didn't encounter such a potent guy as Criss twenty years ago when I was not so equipped to understand this stuff. As it is, I just can't help putting him up on my wallpaper and indulging in a fantasy or two...sigh.

(image thanks to http://www.angelofillusion.net/)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bridezillas and Self-Love


The other day Davie and I watched the TLC show "Say Yes to the Dress." It focused on one very high end bridal store and the "consultants" who work there, trying to match brides with their perfect gowns. Needless to say, it confirmed our idea--shared by many--that weddings these days have truly gotten out of control.

As I watched middle class families pick out $9,100 designer dresses for one day's use, I struggled to figure out how all this fit with the big picture of a woman's wedding day. True love...romance...a celebration of lifelong intimacy...sure, the elements are there for one mighty important day. But the brides on this show exhibited a true sense of desperation, even panic, when it came to choosing the right dress. Why should one little ingredient in the day be so crucial, I asked myself?

Then it hit me. For a lot of women, the thing that sets their wedding day apart from every other day in their lives is that silent, understood contract between the bride and all who attend the celebration: for this day, she is the loveliest, most important person there. For this day, she is a princess, she shines brighter than anyone else, and regardless of how plain or unattractive she feels every other day, at her wedding a woman is beautiful.

And seeing as there will be no other day she can be guaranteed of that, the poor bride is terrified something will go wrong to spoil her only chance at unrivalled beauty. There can be no screw-ups to distract or put off the guests. The party has to be at least as big and fancy and flawless as any other wedding the guests have attended. And above all, the dress has to make the bride look her best.

If she chooses one that doesn't flatter her figure perfectly, or is slightly the wrong white for her complexion, or is too plain, or too gaudy, or too commonplace, well...it could spoil everything. And she has one day, that ONE DAY, to get it right. Every other day of her life, no one may even be paying attention to her, much less entertaining the idea that she is beautiful.

What awful pressure to put on yourself! I can tell you right now, my dress and my hair the day of my wedding to David were not at all the best I ever looked...probably not even in the top ten. I'm putting in this post a photo of my in my favorite dress ever...I bought it for an office Christmas party and I just got lucky. Life can not be planned with quite that much accuracy. We had a lot more fun planning our wedding to be a day that expressed who the two of us are, particularly as a couple, and we shared in all the preparations and had a blast.

Alas, it is far more common nowadays that the groom lays low for the year of planning, hoping at best to placate his future wife and mother-in-law, and to avoid as much as possible the stress afflicting them. Instead of the planning process bringing the couple together, it separates them. And frankly, I don't see how that does anything to make the bride feel more desirable to her husband.

But she will feel, of course, that if she has the right dress, the right hairstyle, the right flowers, he will greet her with joy and adoration at the altar. And I admit most grooms do just that, fortunately. But the sad part is that the bride feels she can never again be the princess, the most beautiful and admirable person in the room.

Truth is, when women focus not quite so much on appearances, and rather work to discover their individual charms and gifts, they can feel beautiful even on some random Tuesday in February. If they expend the effort it takes to plan a wedding instead on nurturing intimacy and shared fun with their partner, that too will bring a more permanent feeling of desirability.

What turns perfectly nice women into Bridezillas is that desperate need to feel beautiful, sexy, and loved. No dress can do that: only we can, by recognizing our great qualities and accepting ourselves as lovable and lovely creatures.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

These Eyes, This Face


Your eyes hold all you are...

Kind, with a hint of mirth;
They tell me, come here little one,
I’ll tell you a long story
of adventure, beauty and truth.

Your eyes are steady,
sure and fearless;
life holds no threat to you--
it is your ally, your accomplice.

When I look in your eyes
everything is inside out;
you are everywhere,
and within you is Planet Earth.

Your face tells all you are...

Brows that dare trouble,
cheeks bronzed and rough with beard,
lips that say, this is serious,
all the while hiding a smile.

Within that set and certain jaw
you hide all your songs;
behind those golden eyes,
you keep your visions.

Just now in your face I see
the eternal quiet of arctic ice,
immovable yet so alive,
so vast, so strong.

But in an instant it can change
to the brilliance of an ocean bay--
sparkling, laughing,
warm and dancing and bright.

They are a symbol for your soul:
these eyes, this face;
and gazing on your countenance,
I find my safest place.

Non-Starving Artist


Personal stuff today.

As you know, I’m an author, but you may not know that it is my “avocation” only. Well, very few people make a living writing fiction, so it will probably come as no surprise. My “day job” is doing marketing and webmastering for a machine parts distributor (which, as I always tell people, is much more fun than it sounds).

I grew up wanting to be nothing but a writer. I’ve always wanted to be nothing but a writer. But I also always have known how difficult it is to make a living writing, even as a journalist. My first several years after college, I had to put my first husband through school. As soon as my kids were in school, I needed to get back in the work force to make ends meet. For a time I was their sole provider. It is only recently that I arrived at last at an income where I no longer worry about paying bills. And happily, I have enough time and energy to supplement my day job with a lively career writing and publishing fiction. Things didn’t turn out so badly.

Nevertheless, there are days I wish I could devote all my efforts in life to the writing. I have to admit things didn’t turn out like I dreamed they might, when I was a grade schooler penning my first stories. No Pulitzer or Nebula Award, no piles of my books in the windows of bookstores, no movie deal. Did I take a wrong turn somewhere?

Today I finished one of the finest books I’ve read in a long time, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Mr. Rothfuss is a friend of a friend from a nearby city, and it is his first novel, ten years in the writing I hear. This book deservedly found a big publisher, and equally deservedly just won a Quill Award, and is apparently under consideration for a movie deal, which would make me very happy.

I couldn’t help but feel wistful that this fellow had managed to make all my dreams come true. I don’t begrudge him any of it--he is brilliant, and I can only dream of writing so well--so at least that aspect doesn’t bother me. (There are plenty of A-List authors I think are pretty amateurish; just ask my family how much I complain!) No, more power to Patrick Rothfuss. Nevertheless, I wonder if I had worked harder, devoted my whole self, if I couldn’t be in some similar spot.

I visited Patrick’s blog, wanting to find out more about this talented man, and it was there I ran into some information that made me think again. Candidly, he admits to rejoicing over the arrival of his first royalty check, because he needed the money. Okay, first of all, I know how long this book has been out...it’s still pathetic to me how long conventional publishers make their authors wait to be paid. Secondly, I can’t help but consider the fact that I have never needed a royalty check.

Now let me interject that if there is any justice in this world, Patrick Rothfuss will soon be in a position to not need royalty checks. I mean, his advances, his past royalties, and his movie deal money ought to, before long, make him snugly in the upper middle class.

But I had to rethink my priorities...maybe I had them in the right order after all. Okay, my first priority is family, but second has always been writing. And writing, fortunately, is free. As long as I have time to write and hands to put to keyboard, I’m happy. My next priority, and the hardest to come by, is readers. I envy Patrick his readers, for while mine can be measured in 5 figures, his are already many times that. This priority has always taken a back seat to another: money. Yes, I have traded readers for financial security, and there’s the rub.

But financial security is nothing to sneeze at. My husband and children have depended upon me for that. My health (I’m diabetic) requires I have good health insurance. I like having a nice home, swell electronics, the ability to travel a little, the peace of mind that I have funds for retirement. And all these things mean I am free to make choices I otherwise couldn’t, like having my own publishing company. This in turn has enabled me to write whatever I want, whenever I want it, and be beholden to no one.

You will not see me on a POP display at Borders anytime soon. But I pay cash for my cars, my kids have straight teeth and college educations, and I can afford all the craft supplies I want from Michaels’.

And as for the readers...well, I will pine for them till the day I die, I’m sure.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Google Takes the Place of Dear Abby


“what does a man really mean when he says your a wonderful person attractive, cute, funny, sexy and real but I don't want to fall in love with anyone right now”

The other day my tracking indicated that someone found this blog by searching on that. Yeah, that entire phrase. My first thought was, “Wow, now that’s some aggressive use of Google.” Immediately after that, I thought, “This poor person! If only she’d actually found an answer to her question!” And my third thought was, “I’m surprised she clicked on the particular result that led to my blog, whatever crazy entry it might have been.”

The particular result was the archive page for March 2006, which just happened to include several of those 31 words. However, in March 2006 I said nothing helpful to this woman, unless she also wanted to know about my personal list of favorite aliens--not likely. And I can’t help but feel sorry that my archive page didn’t offer her some guidance, sympathy or comfort.

31 words, 30 of them different, one of them misspelled...if only it were enough to have some clue how to reply?

My first inclination would be to take the guy at face value, even if it’s hard to believe. Sure, personally, when I meet someone I find wonderful, attractive, cute, funny, sexy and real, I’m all ready to go! (Or I would be if I weren’t already married to someone like that.) But my point is, many of us females think that little list is more than enough to motivate a person to fall in love. How can this guy resist? Well, he’s a guy--and maybe he really doesn’t want to fall in love with anyone right now. Maybe he’s very focused on some other aspect of life: dealing with issues in his job/career, figuring out who he is and what he really wants, saving money to travel, even getting over another relationship. A woman often finds it pretty easy to set aside other priorities when a good guy comes along, but a man doesn’t necessarily put love at the top of his list.

A second possibility is that our hero isn’t being so entirely truthful. He may recognize all these good qualities in you but there are a few things about you that he knows he can’t get past. Nevertheless, he doesn’t blame you for them or feel comfortable listing them to you. Maybe he’s Baptist and you’re Catholic and he doesn’t want to explain why that matters to him. Maybe he likes Amazon women and just can’t personally get turned on by a petite waif like you; what’s he going to say, “You’re too skinny for me”? He’s thinks you’re a really fine person and wants desperately to avoid being negative.

It’s a possibility...but not the best translation of the 31 words. That’s because most decent guys won’t even bring in the words “fall in love” unless they have really good reason to.

But there are the not-so-decent guys who don’t mind toying with a girl’s feelings. The 31 words could possibly translate to “I think you’re hot but want you to know right up front that I don’t want a commitment.” He could figure if he’s made such a statement to you, it counts as full disclosure so you can’t come back later and say, “but you led me on!” If he says this, and continues to flirt with you, beware of actually agreeing to sleeping with him, unless he’s amended his statement.

So how to tell which translation is closest to correct? Well, I guess you have to know the guy to judge that. If he seems upstanding and trustworthy, take his words at face value. If he might be a player and continues some sort of flirtation, get clarification before you make any important choices.

Of course the heart-breaking part of this little scenario is that our 31-Words Woman has reason to believe this guy she likes has this wonderful, high opinion of her. What can a girl do when someone says something so sweet? It just fans the flames of hope, regardless of the crushing phrase that follows. Sadly though, it’s that second clause that a person has to focus upon. If the guy was truly motivated to pursue a relationship with you, if he were the kind of guy who wanted to put you first, in other words, if he were a guy worth being with, he wouldn’t say it. No man seeking love, even considering the possibility of love, is going to tell you “I don’t want to fall in love right now.”

And if that’s what you hope for from him, sadly, he just told you quite plainly not to hope for it.

This “lovelorn column” business can be pretty sad! Well, Dear Abby I’m not...I’m just a romance author wishing she’d had a better response for a confused woman than “I had a crush once on My Favorite Martian.”

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Self-Image Mine Field


Last week I discovered the new advertising spot for Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, entitled “Onslaught.” In the short film, a sweet-looking, happy little girl gazes at the camera with hope and interest in her eyes. Then the commercial shows a torrent of rapid-fire images taken from billboards, print and TV ads for beauty products. There are countless sexy and beautiful women; a string of female talking heads promising “thinner,” “smoother,” “softer,” etc.; photos of diet pills; shots of a woman on a scale with her body size, waning, waxing, waning again; clips of women undergoing plastic surgery. It is indeed an onslaught of disturbing images, all sending the same message: you fall short of acceptable attractiveness and must dedicate yourself to doing whatever it takes to reach the impossible goal of perfect beauty. The commercial closes with another shot of the little girl with her school friends, and the tagline “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.”



Juxtaposed against the image of this innocent girl, the various shots and clips have a distinctly obscene air. And yet they are precisely what every woman in the industrialized world has seen daily, everywhere, all her life...so much so that we take them for granted when we are still as young as the schoolgirl in the commercial.

Upon first watching the spot, I was horrified and angry. I was upset for myself, realizing that from childhood and without knowing it, I had been duped into believing I couldn’t even dream of myself as pretty. I was angry on behalf of young girls today who if anything have an even more difficult time. And I resented our culture for having created just one more challenge every female must face.

Today’s women have a tough enough time shouldering the double-burdens of their domestic duties and, typically, working full time. On top of this they must struggle daily, sometimes hourly, with these constant reminders that they do not look good enough. Perhaps you are a fine wife and mother, perhaps your career is going well, but don’t forget that you are not thin and beautiful and sexy. You never will be, but even so, you must never stop trying.

Meanwhile, I suspect the male of the species will never be able to fathom the impact of the self-image minefield the media is for females. I showed “Onslaught” to my husband, and after it was over, he stood there looking at me rather blankly. “I think that commercial is really powerful,” I told him, hoping to prompt a response, and added, “it shows how hard it is to be a woman.” “It looks terrible,” he replied before leaving the room, but I couldn’t be sure if he had been moved or was just having one of those classic husband situations when a guy must try desperately to come up with the answer his wife expects. I got the distinct impression he had drawn no real conclusion himself.

I’m sure men must believe they have the same problem competing with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and their ilk, but it’s really not the same. Men know full well that funny-looking guys get hot chicks all the time. They understand women have different standards. Meanwhile, they most certainly know that other guys, and authority figures like employers, teachers, cops and lawyers, don’t care what they look like. In other words, it’s possible for a man to succeed in every way, from his career to finding a mate, without doing more than staying clean, getting his hair cut, and not dressing like a homeless person.

How can men possibly understand? I’m sure they feel vaguely guilty, feeling that in a way, every time they are attracted to some actress or model they are perpetuating the problem...but really, they can’t help that, so how bad can a man feel about it?

Enough whining. We all see the problem, ladies, the question is, what will we do about it? I think Dove is on the right track, and the key is not to neglect nurturing the self-esteem of our daughters, each other, and ourselves. Sexual attractiveness does not make the world go round--in reality there are a thousand things that matter more. Recognize that the most precious qualities women have to offer are not their physical beauty, but rather the skills, talents and abilities with which each of us is blessed or to which we can realistically aspire. Be proactive about acknowledging to other females the various assets and gifts they possess. Go the extra mile with praise and encouragement. And don’t forget to praise yourself.

“Mythbusters” host Adam Savage likes to say, “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” Well, it’s time women--and, dare I dream, men as well--rejected the “reality” the beauty industry has contrived. It’s time we substituted for their dreamland a world where women are for real, have bellies, and hips, and freckles, and gray hair. It’s time we laughed at the ridiculous Victoria’s Secret commercials and recognized that real men may fantasize about such females, but they befriend, work with, love, marry, and yes even have sex with, women who look just like us. And they are happy about it, too.

I’ll close with a cheerful little anecdote. I may have mentioned a time or two that I was married for 15 years to a gay man. You can just imagine what that did for my self-esteem! I was faithful, and therefore lived as a married woman does, not open to any courtship rituals. After my eventual separation from my husband, I entered the dating world at age 36, a not-quite-pretty, almost middle aged woman. Much to my disbelief, I found men flirting with me, flattering me, willing to date me...men as young as nineteen!

All those years married to a man not attracted to me, I had taken cues on my desirability from the beauty industry and figured I just didn’t have the stuff. Now that I got to “poll” real men, I discovered reality! And what a happy truth I learned!

Let’s all leave the minefield that so puts our self-esteem at risk, and get ourselves more in touch with reality. I think, ladies, we’ll be delighted to discover just how beautiful we really are.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

8 Random Facts You Probably Don't Know About Me

I've been tagged by Cherie Burbach for the Random 8 Meme.

The Rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. List eight (8) random facts about yourself.
3. Tag eight people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving them a comment on their blogs.

My Random 8:
  • I know how to do ecclesiastical embroidery.
  • My first celebrity crush was on Ray Walston as "My Favorite Martian."
  • I once wrote a "theme and variations" for pipe organ that was actually performed publically, even though it was too hard for me to play myself cause I couldn't do the feet.
  • One of my fondest childhood memories is of when my family built a hot air balloon and launched it successfully 13 times before getting it stuck in a tree.
  • I've been over Niagara Falls in a helicopter (flying, not barrel-style).
  • I'm saving to buy my next car in 2009 and it will be a 2007 copper-colored Chevy Cobalt.
  • I have appeared on Quebec radio and television speaking in French.
  • My unfulfilled dream is to play drums in a rock band.
I'm tagging (sorry, besides Cherie, I only know four people personally who blog!):
Jen
Katie
Amanda aka Z
Con

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

He Didn’t Mean to Seduce Me


The other day I had a conversation with a friend of mine with whom I haven’t spoken in a long while. This man is not histrionic, but he is prone to very intense emotions. And while we’re not at a point right now in our relationship where we share our more intimate thoughts, there were times in the past when we did. Point is, although we relate platonically these days, he is quite capable of showing his feelings, and has bared his soul to me more than once in days of yore.

This particular day the subjects of conversation still had nothing to do with our private lives. Nevertheless, by the end I felt he had, in a very real sense, seduced me. In fact, this particular anecdote is an excellent example of what this blog so often purports: “sexual” things happen in life when sex is the furthest thing from our minds.

So, as my friend and I conversed, he spoke with remarkable passion. By that I mean, I got the sense that the issues at hand had been provoking him for some time: his frustration, dismay, and aggravation were not merely intellectual. You know how it is typically when you talk to a male: he may complain or remark negatively, but the associated emotions don’t show much. Well, with this fellow they were so plain I could feel them myself.

I am a rather empathetic person, and it’s quite likely my friend feeds off that very phenomenon: sensing I am catching his emotions, he feels urged to reveal them all the more. This may also be why he often “tests” me in conversation. It’s like listening to a very charismatic professor: he will make a point, then ask me a question, and if I reply with the answer he was looking for, something that shows I “get it,” he will respond with obvious pleasure and enthusiasm. Yes, I know it sounds like a scene out of Pavlov and his dogs, but you know what it’s like when you please a passionate authority figure--it’s kind of a thrill.

To make the scenario just that much more interesting, my friend took me to a private spot for this conversation, and stood near me, and spoke nearly in whispers. Now this was a practical consideration, for we didn’t want to be overheard. But the whole conspiratorial atmosphere was pretty intense. He made it plain on a couple of occasions that he was telling me secrets maybe one or two other people might know about his thoughts. And he did all this with great fervor, as if unburdening his soul, as if I were the only person who could truly understand.

Now, I relate to you the mood of this exchange, the style in which it was conducted, but I remind you that we spoke of nothing personal. It was not in the least sexual in nature, not even romantic, not even familial. Nevertheless, I walked away half in love with the guy. And can you blame me? If the script had been different, it would have been a sort of love scene. The elements were all there: the emotion, the body language, the setting, the tones of voice...and the unique personality of my friend.

He is, as I said, a passionate guy, but he is also the sort who is reserved and has impeccable manners. Most people would never guess him to be capable of the ardor, zeal, and fury the man has demonstrated privately to me. How is a woman to react when such strong emotion is revealed to her? You can’t help but feel you hold the key to the guy’s secret heart, and wonder why he has chosen to surrender it to you. He may be talking about a movie, the cable company, shirt shopping, whatever mundane topic, but his heart is on his sleeve so plainly you can see its accelerated beating.

I let him run on as long as he was inclined to. He’s a pretty good-looking guy, he has a very pleasant speaking voice, and he smelled good to boot. Not wishing to sound shallow, I will quickly add that he is intelligent and his points were very well taken; I was not faking my empathy at all. Our like minds only intensified the experience, in fact.

And so, I walked away from this completely platonic conversation feeling light-headed, giddy, confused and curiously pleased. I’ve had men quite pointedly flirt with me to far less effect. My guileless friend I’m sure had no such intention. Nevertheless, his eagerness to unveil his secret emotions to me so unabashedly boiled down to a sort of plea to be understood, to form a private club of two, even to exchange affection. And by the end I was truly of a mind to give him any of those things. See what I mean? Seduced.

I’d hate to have to deal with this if I were any younger or less experienced. As it is I can smile and go on with life, figuring someday we may talk like that again sometime--like in six months. Anyway I completely understand he didn’t mean to have that effect on me and would surely be shocked to learn he had.

To me, it’s amusing little events like this that make life worthwhile. And I’ll bet I could use it all in a story one day....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Bloodchained Trailer


Well, I went against my own marketing advice and created a book promo "trailer."

Yes, I've always been one to poo-poo the idea of using dramatic visual media to promote text...till I discovered Windows comes with Movie Maker software. A couple of night's work later, I think I'm the M. Night Shyamalan of the book world. Well, actually I don't, but I'm hoping the result of my efforts is not so cheesy people will know I'm from Wisconsin.

I did attempt to give a sense of the atmosphere of Bloodchained as well as pique the viewer's curiosity. So take a look and see what you think....and if it makes you want desperately to know more about the novel, that website URL again is http://www.bloodchained.com/. LOL





Wednesday, September 19, 2007

He’s In You


One of the fascinating principles I learned in my studies of Jungian psychology was Carl Jung’s theories of the animus/anima. It would take several chapters to explain in full, but the gist is that every person’s psyche contains a subconscious “other,” an autonomous personality that constitutes all your “missing parts”...in effect, the opposites to which you are attracted. Much of romantic love is based on this principle. Jung taught that when people encounter a personality with enough similarities to this animus (if you’re female) or anima (for males), we project the qualities of our animus/anima on that person. We are thus tricked into having feelings like “he’s the only one for me,” “I can’t live without her,” “he completes me.”

Between my Jungian studies and personal experience, I came to understand that my animus is truly not me, operates outside my will, and is pretty much a self-contained, autonomous being. I hesitate to say “being,” since that suggests I’m saying I’m possessed by another soul, but in some respects it boils down to that. Over the years, the fact that he’s “in me,” not somewhere outside of me, has saved my hide and sanity numerous times.

Anyone who has been incurably in love with someone very bad for them, or anyone who has had a desperate crush on an unattainable figure such as a celebrity, knows that infatuation can be a nightmare. It’s been very comforting to me in such times to step back and remember that the irresistible person I see is just the projection of the perfect-for-me animus, and not actually that real individual. For example, were I really to believe Les Stroud is the guy I imagine him to be, I’d have to get divorced and move to Canada and persuade his wife to leave him. But I know that however admirable he is, the man is just a human being with flaws and foibles and he is not in reality some sort of “dream man.”

You really have to be careful when the animus “gloms on” to some real life person, and it takes practice. There are still times I struggle with not giving in to what seems like irresistible allure. But there are other times when something happens to drive home just how the animus works, and how he truly is in me rather than outside. My dream last night was one such occasion.

In my dream I had had a longstanding, deeply devoted affection for some celebrity I had never met, and I had occasion to actually finally go to his home and meet with him. I’m not even sure if the guy in my dream was supposed to be anyone in particular; I believe his house was in Ontario which would suggest Mr. Stroud, but the similarity ends there. I can’t clearly recall what he looked like, but I certainly remember how it made me feel to be with him, talking to him and touching him and seeing him face to face. It was sheer bliss to put it mildly.

Interestingly, I had sent a number of emails to this man over a period of time, emails he did not elect to answer, but which he had certainly read intently. As we talked, I could see that at first he was unsure where I was coming from, if I were possibly crazy or some kind of threat. But as we spent time together he came around to seeing I was actually someone whose affection he could return. Observing this process taking place was no small thrill either, believe me.

This guy in person was everything I had believed him to be: he was perfect. Being in his presence made me happier than life ever manages to do. In short, he was my animus guy.

Did I get these feelings, this joy and contentment, from a real life man? Did the emotions depend upon some external source? No...this was my dream, my brain, my imagination only that was the source of Mr. Wonderful. That said, he was not a puppet, a fantasy man I could make walk and talk and do what I wished. He had his own will, and had to overcome his skepticism about me little by little. He was autonomous, and as I like to say, me-but-not-me.

Thinking about him now is an interesting exercise. The thought of him makes me happy even when awake, even knowing he “was just a dream.” I think I feel that way because he is so much my heart’s desire, and so thoroughly mine. I know I will run into him again in other dreams, in other imaginings, sometimes glimpsing him in a movie actor or TV personality, or a character I write for one of my books, or even a man on the street. He is never far away.

I’ve learned over the years that I have a particularly acute perception of this animus guy, and not everyone does. But I find often enough that other people have had similar experiences to mine that I continue to believe Jung was right.

So next time you really want somebody badly, so badly you feel you might go crazy, think about it: perhaps he’s actually in you.

(If this really strikes a chord with you--and you haven’t decided I’m just nuts--see also my book Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Choose Your He-Man


Well, an awful lot of people find this blog by googling “Les Stroud,” and I am about to commit an act that will mean a lot of people will find it by googling “Les Stroud vs. Bear Grylls.” Now before those of you not into either of these dueling survival show masters bail on me, you may want to stick around. The issue of which guy a person prefers is about more than just whether “Survivorman” or “Man vs. Wild” is a better show.

First of all, these two Discovery Channel shows have quite different themes. “Man vs. Wild” is about just that, one swashbuckling ex-Special Forces guy taking on the worst nature can throw at him. Many people feel it is the more entertaining of the two shows, because Bear is a young, highly athletic, agile, tough and fearless fellow, whose abilities are far above average. The program’s producers have tried to convey that Bear’s survival techniques are not necessarily the sort of thing you or I should tackle. The show is more about impressing us with what one amazing guy can do, while dazzling us with the exotic locales he visits.

In the interest of fairness, I must admit right now I have only seen a little bit of this series. When I saw the ads, I said, “Oh wow, another Survivorman-type show, and the guy is really hot, and better yet, British!” I tuned in with eager curiosity, only to tune out after 20 minutes. Why the quick loss of interest? More on that later.

“Survivorman,” meanwhile, is more truly about survival techniques. Les doesn’t have any particular interest in calling attention to his personal prowess, and in fact, sometimes tries new things just like an actual survivor would do, or showcases his failures. The one-man-alone-with-cameras style makes the viewer feel much more empathy, more a part of the experience, rather than like someone watching a travelogue. And there is a lot more truly helpful survival advice; in fact, in a recent interview Les said he’d been told of three separate incidents in which real life survivors credit watching his show for helping them know what to do.

Okay this is the Erotica with Soul blog, not the Emmys, so I’m not here to review these two shows. I’m here to address the question so many have debated online: who is sexier, Bear or Les?

Let’s make the point right away that if you are going to be superficial, Bear wins hands down. I was attracted to him enough after one commercial to tune into the show. He’s young, handsome, British and can climb rocks, what more does a girl need to know? Meanwhile, I didn’t fall for Les until sometime during the third episode (note I did watch the show up till that point for its own sake). He’s 45, a tad balding, just slightly handsome, and I didn’t know yet that he was a fabulous musician with a drop-dead gorgeous singing voice. (I am a die-hard Canuckophile though, so that’s second best to British.)

However, given more than 20 minutes, my loyalties settled in the opposite way and I will explain why. My own reflections may enlighten you as to why at this point Les is the more popular of the two Discovery Channel stars, and has a bit of an edge in the sexiness department for us women. There is a palpable integrity about Les, a sincerity and openness, that truly make you feel connected to him as you share his adventures. You honestly know when he’s afraid, and consequently, you also know when he’s not, so he comes across as possessing bravery rather than bravado. His willingness to show vulnerability, clumsiness, and even stupidity keeps you mindful that he is only flesh and blood, and the danger he faces is real.

That was why “Survivorman” sucked me in, and, to my mind, “Man vs. Wild” just kinda sucked. Well, not really...it just paled by comparison. While it’s pretty sexy for a guy to be able to leap across gorges and look good doing it like Bear does, it’s a lot sexier for a guy to know that in a survival situation you have no business leaping across gorges. When Bear eats elephant dung or a live fish, you can’t help but feel it’s just for show. When Les eats something weird, you are so convinced how starving he is, you believe it’s for survival...much sexier (or perhaps less “not-sexy”). And of course, what could be sexier than a guy all alone in danger? Yeah, he has a safety crew nearby for emergency aid, but that’s okay; it’s not sexy for a husband and father to be taking unnecessary risks for the sake of a TV show.

The alone factor definitely helps. Even though it’s silly, you feel like the poor man has no company but you as he soldiers through his seven day ordeal. And meanwhile, he’s doing his best to show you a good time! Seeing as it’s Les running all the cameras, sacrificing rest and survival time to share with you everything he can about the adventure with beauty and style, you have to admire him all the more.

That’s why all over the internet you run into people saying, “Stroud is the real deal.” Of course it didn’t help when the British Daily Mail exposed “Man vs. Wild” for misleading viewers in a dozen ways. The volcano was faked? The “wild horses” brought in? Bear stayed in a hotel for the night? His crew built his raft for him? And the wild bear...was a guy in a bear suit?

Now I’m not going to be petty and knock off Bear’s sexiness points for this stuff; for all we know, the production company or Discovery forced it on him. He is the youngest guy to climb Everest so I don’t think he’s pretending to be what he’s not. Please don’t flame me, Bear fans--I’m sure your bloke is a perfectly nice person.

Still, he’s not a wonderfully human expert on survival, he’s not a brilliant filmmaker, he’s not a fabulous composer, musician and singer. And he doesn’t quite possess that genuineness that makes viewers think of Les Stroud as a friend, a guide, an inspiration even for people afraid to go camping.

You just gotta love our Survivorman, and there’s nothing sexier than that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More Animated Attractions: Erin Esurance


Two years ago I wrote a post about my crush on Honda’s spokescartoon, Mr. Opportunity. I admitted the animated fellow’s charm was most likely his voice (he is voiced, by the way, by prolific voice artist Rob Paulson). Still, the point was that sometimes cartoon people can be pretty sexy.

A much better example of this, apparently, is Esurance auto insurance’s Erin Esurance (55,000 Google results and growing). While Mr. O seems to draw mixed reviews--some people turn off their TVs when he appears--this past weekend my husband discovered the rampant popularity of his own personal animated crush.

Yes, David did a search for Erin “photos” to put up on his wallpaper. I wish I could say this was ridiculous to me, but seeing as I have this history with Mr. Opportunity, I really can’t criticize. Besides, I think Erin is pretty hot myself. I do, Davie does, and apparently so do an awful lot of other people. You’d be amazed how many online folks are asking “Is it wrong for me to be attracted to Erin Esurance?”

Look, guys, it’s really okay to lust after the pink-haired cutie. To paraphrase Jessica Rabbit, “she’s just drawn that way”; the artists at Wild Brain used, albeit subconsciously, the same standards in creating Erin as those that males use to judge attractiveness: large, wide eyes, tiny nose, big...yeah. These visual cues get the same results whether they are flesh and blood or tan and hot pink.

In my research on Erin, I discovered there are an awful lot of men with crushes on Ariel, aka Disney’s The Little Mermaid, too. Those Disney animators have always been good at drawing nice looking people. I for one have always wished the footage of the Beast, after he turns back into a prince, went on for another 75 minutes.
The comics in Playboy notwithstanding, we tend to think of cartoons as being for children and therefore incompatible with erotic feelings. But animation is just another form of visual arts, albeit a stylized one, so there’s no reason why cartoon people can’t be sexually attractive.

Consider then the middle ground between cartoons and live action: “interpolated-rotoscoping,” the technique used, for example, in the film “A Scanner Darkly.” Live action footage is converted into cartoon-style, yet realistic, imagery by computer. Since the real life Keanu Reeves is sexy, his rotoscoped version is too. Can you say you’re attracted to a cartoon if you react thus to the cartoon Keanu? Or is rotoscoping too close to real life to count?

So, there’s really no reason to feel weird about lusting after a cartoon person simply because said person is animated. Erin is a perfectly wholesome, clever, resourceful, spy/insurance expert. Of course, this brings up the issue of some of the Erin Esurance “fan art” out there, in which our intrepid spokescartoon engages in not-so-wholesome activities and is altered from the original in certain key ways. Well, what are you gonna do?--it’s fantasy.

And at least this celebrity isn’t going to sue you for Photoshopping her into appearing nude.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Male Attractiveness in the 21st Century


David and I just watched Mel Gibson’s amazing film “Apocalypto,” which takes a peek at the lives of Mayans in the Yucatan in the 16th Century. As amazing as this civilization was (and you’d think we’d learn more in school about the peoples of our own continent), it was still pre-industrial, and therefore primitive by today’s standards.

It made me think about the differences between the past hundred years and all of human history in the time that preceded it. Among those differences, of course, is the relationship between males and females of the species. Interestingly, things haven’t changed all that much for men in all these millennia; in “Flintstones” days they chose their mates based on physical attraction, and that’s just as true in 2007. I’m not saying today’s men are Neanderthals; I’m just saying they are turned on by pretty women and always have been. When it comes to marriage, they will seek other traits as well, but when it comes to mating (and sex is mating), looks are generally enough.

Women, on the other hand, are in a whole new boat. Just as genetically men are hard-wired to seek beautiful mates, women are hard-wired to pursue men who are competitively successful, skillful, and good providers. In days of yore, that meant men who were strong, smart, and/or talented...men who could protect you from enemies, hunt well, and perform the skills to keep a comfortable home.

But over the past century, industrialized society has meant big changes. Women don’t need men to provide safety, food, or shelter. Competition, which at one time literally determined who lived or died, and who won the quality females, has now been relegated to the arena of play. Successful athletes still attract women, but the majority of men don’t compete for mates in this manner. Their natural competitive urges are typically channeled into things like fantasy football, PlayStation, and flaming each other on Internet bulletin boards.

These things don’t really turn women on. And because they still yearn for the strong, smart, and talented, they will often find it in celebrities: movie actors, TV stars, singers and dancers, athletes. I’m starting to understand why nowadays we have so many reality shows like “Survivorman,” “Top Chef,” and “Design Star” and women love them. It’s just great to see men demonstrating any kind of prowess. The problem in this is that it can be very frustrating; not only are these men unattainable, in real life they aren’t necessarily particularly good catches.

We’ve come a long way, baby, and I’m not complaining about either the “emancipation” of women or the technological advances of society. But let’s face it: women have had to adjust their male-seeking radar. Even since the late 60s when I went through puberty, the accepted idea of the ideal man has changed dramatically.

I grew up learning to lust after the swashbuckling space lothario Captain James T. Kirk. He was later replaced by the charming, dignified Jean-Luc Picard, who nevertheless at least was a strong, handsome figure (weren’t we all turned on when he said “Engage!”?) DS9’s Captain Sisko was a step forward in terms of empowering blacks, but he was at times so conflicted as to be almost an anti-hero. And then came “Voyager” and the inevitable female captain.

Well, political correctness dictates that we all should have been happy, and I guess we liked Captain Janeway well enough, but it left us women with no commanding male figure, and the male viewers all complained that she wasn’t young and pretty enough. Naturally. Well, as you might expect, they got the incredibly hot Seven-of-Nine to make up for it. Meanwhile out of the male cast, I found the most engaging character was the balding, gentle, slightly goofy holographic Doctor. Interesting, nice, but not sexy.

Forgive me, non-Trekkies, for that illustration, but it perfectly demonstrates the sort of thing that has been going on over the past 40 years. Men have, in a sense, been castrated, and meanwhile women’s basic natural tendencies have been lost in the shuffle. It’s true that our more enlightened culture has made great improvements in many ways (and didn’t I just blog about how dreadful the 60s attitudes were towards women?!?). But if women are finding it hard to be motivated to choose mates, or to be aroused by men outside the entertainment field, or to be satisfied in their sex lives, I really have to think this is a factor.

The hero of “Apocalypto” knew how to hunt, and how to make weapons from plants and rocks. He could build deadly traps and out-think/out-maneuver his enemies. He could run and climb and leap with a couple bad arrow wounds. He could rescue his loved ones. This kind of man will impress today’s woman with all her sophistication, despite the fact that he can’t speak English, pay for an expensive car, or win the football pool.

So, do I have a conclusion here? A recommendation, an eye-opening revelation? Not really. But ladies, if some night you are lying in bed and can’t think of a single male to fantasize about, this just might be part of the reason.

At least they’re still making James Bond movies.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Real Life Renaissance Men


My regular readers know I do tend to focus on fictional heroes. I’ve blogged endlessly about fantasy men like Admiral Adama, Jack Sparrow, and Rhett Butler. Even when I turn my attention to real men, it is usually some celebrity who by that token is somewhat larger than life. I mean, if you’re talking about someone who got his own show, it’s not so surprising that he be able to survive in the wild, write beautifully about the wilderness, film his own escapades, and compose and play the soundtrack. Okay, I’m still impressed, Les. But you get my point: it’s easy to find men to admire and lust after in the fantasy world of books, film and TV.

But can’t a girl find one of these guys in “real life”? Aren’t there any “Renaissance men”--guys who can excel with right brain and left--in our homes, shopping malls and offices? I don’t need to sleep with these guys (happily married, remember!), but it does the soul good to find them anyway.

As a matter of fact, I do know a real life Renaissance man. He’s a great friend of mine and my husband’s, also happily married, and if there were more people like this guy in the world, I think we’d all be happier. John (yeah, that’s his real name) has managed to excel in such a variety of ways, it truly boggles the mind.

John studied music in college and to this day plays wonderful classical guitar. He can do rock too (always a plus in my book). I could listen to him play all day; if only I could keep him in my closet to pull out whenever I’m in the mood for live music. But on the other side of the brain, John is a total computer whiz. He can build ’em, network ’em, troubleshoot ’em. Hardware, software, he’s your man. This is an even better reason to store him in a handy closet, hey?

John’s a voracious reader--for example, I believe he read all the Tolkien books before puberty. He’s quite a good pop culture guy as well--TV and movies and music. Meanwhile he can also talk sports--even hockey--intelligently. He can put together a grill and choose nice d├ęcor pieces. And dare I mention it...he’s also a fabulous cook.

If you’re starting to think I’m making this guy up, read on.

So, clearly John’s brain is pretty impressive, but wait, there’s more. He’s also damn amazing in the brawn department. He’s run marathons and recently moved on to triathlons, seeing as he’s also a good swimmer as well as cyclist. Yeah, the cycling: he does 100-mile rides on a regular basis. Meanwhile, he’s studying yoga and planning a trip to India for intense training. And he also took up mountain climbing and negotiated Mount Rainier the same week a couple climbers were lost up there.

Yep, he can do the outdoor thang, not quite as well as Les Stroud, but with similar enthusiasm. He loves to hike, camp, backpack, and takes excellent photos of his adventures as well.

It might have been easier thinking of things John can’t do. Okay, not much in the way of arts and crafts, and I haven’t seen him shoot pool.

The cherry on top is that John is a really thoughtful, generous friend. The whipped cream is that he’s also really cute.

Sigh.

You have to be wondering what kind of woman snags a husband like this. Well, John’s wife is also thoughtful, generous and cute. She has a doctorate, also cycles and is the true yoga expert in the family, and has extensive training in martial arts. She’s just as smart as John (have to be to be a scientist) and keeps up with him in all his adventures, which is certainly more than I could ever do.

Am I jealous? Not unless I become a widow, LOL. My own David, although he doesn’t have quite John’s repertoire, is an accomplished runner, can build a computer too, and has many irreplaceable qualities like his ability to do ventriloquism with our cats. He has nothing to worry about, there is only one David.

I’m just thrilled to be friends with a guy like John, a real, true, living Renaissance man. (And by the way, he looks great in Renaissance clothes, too.)

Know any real life Renaissance men? If so, do post and tell!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

When Geeks and Jocks Collide


As you know, I’m a fan of the Discovery Channel show “Mythbusters,” where special effects gurus Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman use science to confirm or bust interesting concepts about the world in which we live. I’m especially enamored of Grant Imahara, mechanical engineer extraordinaire, who with Tory Belleci and Kari Byron comprise the Mythbusters Build Team. Grant personifies all the qualities I’ve loved about science geeks since I was barely nubile: he’s ingenious, creative, quirky, funny...and cute, too.

Okay, so in the latest episode that we watched, the Mythbusters tackled (sorry, wrong sport) baseball myths. They recruited famed pitcher Roger Clemens to assist. In the course of the show, all my fave engineering geniuses put on baseball jerseys and stepped up to the plate in the cause of science.

Let me tell you, 4 geeks + 1 jock = serious conflict in Diana’s brain.

So, Adam can construct an air cannon, but he cannot swing a bat. And when he, Jamie, Grant and Tory took lessons in sliding into second base, it was easy to see they were not the first guys picked for the team except at the Science Olympics. The highlight of this episode was when Grant exclaimed, “But I can build a robot that can slide!” That, my friends, is it in a nutshell. These are guys who have spent a lifetime substituting brain for brawn.

Well, I get turned on by science geeks, and have ever since this guy in my high school physics class diagrammed for me his concept of the self-harvesting potato. But I also get turned on by baseball players. Imagine my quandary watching this show. Grant indeed gets sexiness points for having designed and built a killer batting machine that hits harder than Roger Clemens ever could (or Barry Bonds, for that matter). But Grant loses major sexiness points for sliding in such a ridiculous fashion. I am trying to forget I ever saw this slide.

Adam, who is pretty goofy-looking, gains major sexiness points for being really smart and funny...so many sexiness points that he doesn’t even look goofy to me anymore. But his batting swing pretty much erases the smart points AND the funny points. Blorg, it’s ugly. My company softball team has prettier swings--even the women.

Now, I keep telling myself Roger Clemens would look as goofy as Mr. Bean if presented with welding equipment, a galvanometer, some ballistics gel, or even drafting paper and a sharpie, all of which the Mythbusters gang can wield with mastery. Take away his glove and ball, stick him in a lab, and watch him drive the girls away screaming as he fumbles with the electronics and some black powder and sets himself on fire. I can picture Adam laughing maniacally and shouting, “Your split-finger fastball can’t help you now, Rocket! Bwahaha!”

But still, I shudder when remembering my science heroes trying to catch Roger’s pitches. Not good, boys, not good.

And all these years I’ve thought myself to be a sound supporter of Anthony Michael Halls of the world. I love stories where the pretty girl rebuffs the quarterback and rides off into the sunset with the president of the Science Club. It all works well until Anthony Michael Hall steps out of the lab and tries to throw a football or make a free throw. It’s just so hard to feel attracted to a guy when you’re cringing. (Les Stroud, until you tell me you have a mean slapshot, I refuse to watch you on skates...hiking boots only, buddy.)

So, all this is a good lesson in how sexiness works. If a guy is good at something, he can totally compensate for his shortcomings. However, it’s important not to lose all the ground you’ve gained by demonstrating how truly bad you are at something else. Unless, of course, sexiness is not what you’re going for.

And of course, Grant & Co. are more interested in busting myths than looking sexy. Which, come to think of it, is kinda sexy....

Okay, now my brain IS going to explode.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thoughts on “the Junk”


I’ve been keeping this blog for awhile now, and really haven’t given a lot of attention to male genitalia. That’s probably because the subject is a lot less important to us women than it is to men. As was mentioned in my household during a recent screening of the film “300,” referring to the loincloth-sporting Spartans, “That’s okay, we don’t need to see their junk.” Chests, obviously, are another matter. (Good lord, have you ever seen so many pectorals in one place as at this re-imagined Battle of Thermopylae? It was like a fire sale at the Harlequin factory.) Even posteriors (or if you’re me, especially posteriors) are always a welcome treat as well. But the junk is usually better left to the imagination.

Why? Because what the organ represents is a lot prettier than the organ itself. Face it, a penis is a funny looking critter. Not bad, but not gorgeous either. But what it stands for (no pun intended) is a whole nother matter. It stands for a whole passel full of wonderfully erotic things: power, virility, dominance, strength, superiority, aggression, lust, force of will, and the list goes on and on like the resume of a romantic hero. That’s why you find women not so interested in pulling down men’s pants (except for a rear view, especially if you’re me) as they are in seeing men’s jeans bulge. It’s the suggestion that gives rise (what’s with these word choices?) to exciting fantasies about male sexuality.

And the suggestion can pack a wallop.

Case in point: After the aforementioned viewing of “300,” my family took in the wildly anticipated premiere of Season 2 of “Survivorman,” in which Les Stroud (my hero! swoon) takes on the hellishly inhospitable Kalahari Desert. In this episode, Les shares a number of survival tips that will help you immensely the next time you are lost in an arid clime. Among them is the handy “urine still,” a technique for turning your own pee into potable water.

Having crafted his still in the sand with a piece of heavy plastic wrap, Les, as he so eloquently puts it, “does the deed.” Of course this is the Discovery Channel, and this is All-Canadian Boy Les Stroud, who doesn’t even say bleepable words when slicing his finger to the bone while lost in the jungle. So no, you see no stream of fluid and you certainly don’t see any junk.

However, the man does turn from the camera and unzip and without a doubt extricates himself from his sandy khakis.

Is anyone besides me losing it over this mental picture? Judging by the things people search on to find my blog posts about Survivorman, I’m guessing yes.

All right, enough of the goofy schoolgirl crush stuff, I’m trying to make a point here. The female viewer with an affinity for Survivorman doesn’t need to see length and girth to get all giddy over this scene. The exciting part is the gesture. It’s our hero doing something essentially masculine, acknowledging he has that wondrous equipment. And even though peeing is not an erotic act (at least not in my world!!), there are other situations in which men unzip that definitely fall into that category.

So I admit, after this eclectic double-bill of home theater viewing, I did not spend the next day daydreaming about the rippling abs of the 300 Spartans. Not even those of David Wenham, whom I fell in love with as Faramir in the Lord of the Rings movies. Nor those of Rodrigo Santoro, possibly the handsomest man on the planet, who was substantially less attractive in his Xerxes piercings than he was in glasses as Karl in “Love Actually.”

No, my dreams were haunted by the sound of pants unzipping in the Kalahari.

Men, take note of the subtleties of the female mind. You can be as ripped as the computer-enhanced army of Leonidas, only to lose out to a guy from Ontario, simply because the latter knows how to make drinking water from pee. Obviously if you want to lure us, having “the junk” is key, but we don’t care a whiz...I mean whit...about the specifics of said junk.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pig on a Pedestal


I really appreciate the recent TV/radio campaign for the show “Dirty Jobs.” I’ve blogged before about Mike Rowe and this excellent Discovery Channel show about the people who do disgusting tasks for a living. In the commercial, Mike explains that he has literally put a pig on a pedestal, to make an important point about our worship of celebrities.

Just as that pig spends his life in the mud just so we can have pork, the people “Dirty Jobs” features are folks who put up with a lot so that jobs that are essential to society get done. They clean up water treatment plants and sort recyclables out of the garbage and pick up road kill. Watching Mike try out these jobs is truly cringe-worthy TV. It makes you appreciate how horrific some jobs really are.

And as the commercial is trying to point out, Mike’s show gives the pig--metaphorically--a well-deserved moment in the sun. Our society’s cult of celebrities is always giving its attention to people who do relatively amusing, comfortable jobs like act and sing and play sports. While we deify a bunch of people who already enjoy wealth and glamour, we blow their admirable qualities way out of proportion. The nice thing about “Dirty Jobs” is it shows some admiration for people who truly deserve it.

So what is my point here, erotica-with-soul-wise? Simply that I concur with Mike’s observations: there are plenty of oft-overlooked but worthy human qualities we should idolize and love and even get turned on by. Fittingly, Mike himself has become quite the heartthrob among women who appreciate his courage and willingness to rub grimy elbows with tanners, roughnecks, and llama shearers. Does a guy look hotter in a tux on the red carpet, or smeared with poo in a treatment plant? Have you seen Mike Rowe smeared with poo? It’s pretty enticing (at least when you can’t smell him). He’s a real man, you see. Any dork can put on a tux, but it takes a guy with guts to, well, deal with things like rotting guts.

You know I can’t leave this topic without mentioning my own personal hero, Les Stroud (and Season 2 of “Survivorman” has just begun!). Covered in swamp mud, or dripping with sweat, in clothes he’s worn for seven straight days, there is not a damn thing wrong with what this guy looks like. That’s because what he looks like is a man willing to sleep with scorpions and eat grasshoppers, and to hike through jungle, across glaciers, and over blazing desert, all the while braving hunger, thirst, exposure and constant danger.

I really love that television is starting to celebrate more and more the people who have determination, smarts, stamina, and courage. It’s not just the dirty guys that turn me on; I also love people like David Bromstad, the interior designer, and Tom Collichio, the chef, and all the guys competing on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and Grant Imahara, the “Mythbusters” engineering genius. They are all people with special skills, and they all work very, very hard.

Even harder than the pig on Mike Rowe’s pedestal. So let’s salute them, and let them inspire our fantasies and our daily lives as well!