Sunday, December 07, 2008

This Folder of Photos is Not What You Think

Hey, it's my 200th post! That's a lot of essays about sex. :-)

The other day I happened to gank from the internet a passleful of photos of a certain animus-bearer of mine, who to save me from embarrassment I shall leave nameless. Okay, okay, I just have to post this one, because wow, it's such a glamour shot of a normally unkempt fellow...check it out!

So, yes, I admit I have a folder of photos that bears his name. Over the years quite a few celebrities have qualified for folders on my PC. Sometimes they are named after the actual celebrity (e.g., Guy Carbonneau, although of course as keeper of his online biography it has been my job to collect photos of him, ahem). Others are named for a character, in the case where I really only get off on the person in that particular role (like Faramir, for example).

Meanwhile, my husband David also has a folder of photos. I occasionally glimpse the thumbnails when he's picking out a new wallpaper. Talk about your bevy of beauties. Sometimes he'll have a really attractive woman on his wallpaper, and I'll ask, "She's nice, who's that?" He invariably replies, "I don't know, I just really liked her eyes." Or nose. Or smile. Or sometimes a feature located lower, although Davie's more a face guy than a lot of males.

My point is, he collects photos simply because the women are cute, or beautiful, or hot. They don't represent anything at all to him beyond that. This is pretty classic for guys, who are hardwired to respond to pure physical beauty.

Women aren't so much like that. I very rarely become genuinely interested in a guy just because of how he looks. For example, I knew who Ewan McGregor was long before I saw him in "Moulin Rouge!", but the moment I took notice was when I heard him sing and a quick Google search confirmed it was really his voice in the movie. Obviously my attraction to the Kohls guy, aka Kevin Rice, is strictly physical...but I assure you, I have never actually fantasized about him. I mean, how could I? He's just a face and a body wearing Chaps clothing. I do always check the Sunday Kohls circular, but that's as far as it goes.

So please understand what it really signifies when some guy qualifies for Folder-on-My-PC status. There has to be enough there that when I look at pictures of him, something happens to me, emotionally, spiritually. A flare-up of emotion. A flash of imagination. Inspiration. Otherwise, what is the point of storing up the photos?

Every once in awhile in my life I've had one of these pure experiences of connecting so strongly with a picture or pictures, that the images just evoke all kinds of imaginative and emotional material in my brain. Last night I had one of those. It was time to start writing the last story in my new collection Soulful Sex: The Darker Side. It was to be about vampire themes, about the issue of why it is that females are turned on by the vampire archetype. It was a simple story that required no backstory, with only two characters, and I knew it could be told in under 3,000 words.

But I didn't expect to write it all in one sitting.

There are two stories in this book that I wrote in one sitting each. When that happens, you know you are in the grip of your muse. In both cases, I was looking at a photo all the while I was writing. The meat, the moving elements of those stories, was derived right out of the photo.

This just goes to show you that certain faces serve not as mere bits of beauty, but as portals through which all kinds of imaginative, archetypal, transcendent material may pass. It's true that some faces do tend to function in that manner for a disproportionately large portion of the populace (good examples of that are Elvis, Sting, Davie Bowie...okay, to stop dating myself, Robert Pattinson in his Edward Cullen role). Most of the time, however, it is a very individualized thing. Certain women adore Alan Rickman as Snape, others are crazy for Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, and the two groups really don't get each other at all. There are Legolas or Aragorn women, and there are women who adore Merry or Pippin. But you see the pattern: it's not just a look, it's the whole archetype of the guy.

Awhile back I posted about Neil Gaiman's perfect face. In that post I didn't mince words, and the result was actually rather tongue-in-cheek. As much as I know I'm not alone in thinking the author is attractive, I also know he's not going to be picked People's Sexiest Man Alive. Nevertheless, I was not lying in that post as far as my own view is concerned. When Davie first showed me Neil's picture in the back of American Gods I thought he was indeed my type, but I would not have said then, "OMG, the perfect face!" My current opinion about that is the fruit of a lot of experience and reflection.

One more point I feel compelled to make: Whenever a woman feels this strongly about the appearance of a guy, whenever he reaches Folder-on-My-PC Status, you can be sure of one thing--her imagination has created a very vivid and important personality to go with the face. I sometimes refer to "my imaginary Neil Gaiman" because I recognize that fact. I can even tell you which traits of his are probably also possessed by the real man. (And really, there are very many that are not.) I am also able to step away from the pretend version and think very rationally and objectively about the real version. (The real one inspires me in an entirely different way.)

So, if you happen to discover some friend has a folder on her PC of pictures of some guy, stop before you mock. There's probably some perfectly natural, healthy, actually kind of neat stuff going on there...and it might prove interesting if you ask, "So, what is it about So-and-So that inspires you?"

(Oh, and thanks, imaginary Neil, for this final story for my new book.)

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