Friday, July 31, 2009

Battle of the Sexes

I’m bound to get someone’s ire up with this post, I’m sure.

First off, let me say the following: (1) I believe men and women are different, but neither is superior. (2) I realize you can’t generalize about all members of a gender, but I think certain gender tendencies are well established. (3) My “gay-dar” isn’t perfect but close to it (probably comes of being married to a gay man for 15 years when I was younger).

Okay, so let’s get to it. Davie and I recently watched the second episode of this year’s “HGTV Design Star” competition. The challenge in this ep involved the ten contestants divvying up into two teams, and each team redoing a kitchen. Teams were picked “playground style,” and ended up with Team Amy (consisting of four women and one guy, Dan, who is probably gay) and Team Nathan (consisting of three men—one of whom, Antonio, is definitely not gay—and two women). You can see Team Nathan (left) and Team Amy in the photo.

Both teams had some good (and bad) design skills going for them. Both teams had a guy (Dan and Antonio) they had to rely upon for carpentry. So it became clear quite quickly that the winner was going to be determined mostly by project management skills.

Team Amy was led by a female and had a preponderance of females. Team Nathan was led by a male and had a preponderance of males. What a fun social experiment. Now I don’t feel that “project management skills” are gender-linked in any way. But given the right conditions, “focus” can be.

Team Amy fell prey to having an unfocussed leader. More than once, Amy’s emotions collapsed under the time pressure. Another member of the team was too scatterbrained to accomplish her share of the work. There was no cohesion. As the project unfolded, it was Dan who took over leadership. He tried to keep people on task, and also served as a steadying influence. In fact, at one point I had to cry, “These people need more testosterone!” And Dan, regardless of sexual orientation, definitely had that. Sigh…there’s nothing that irks feminists more than the sight of a man having to comfort his female “superior” when she dissolves into tears.

Team Nathan didn’t have much better of a leader, sadly. Nathan didn’t have much in the way of organizational skills either. However, without some of the emotional distractions occurring for Team Amy, the largely male team did stay on task and conduct their project more logically. And speaking of testosterone, it was the very heterosexual and aggressive Antonio who ended up taking charge and keeping the team in line.

So in the end, Team Nathan completed the kitchen re-do, largely successfully. (It needs to be mentioned that the room’s best feature, a faux hammered metal backsplash, was the brainchild of one of the women.) Meanwhile, when time ran out, Team Amy had left countless tasks incomplete, hadn’t had time to clean up, and didn’t have a chance to put out any accessories. Yikes.

Is it really fair to credit this failure to estrogen and the female nature? Not completely. I’d be the first to say that the average woman is just as capable as the average man of bringing a challenge to a successful conclusion.

However, in this particular case, I truly believe we saw the feminine nature proving to be a disadvantage. The price women pay for their well-developed emotions and their sensitivity to the world around them is this: sometimes we find it too hard to turn that off, ignore the pressure and emotional conflict, and power through to closure. Meanwhile, the same tendencies that can make men insensitive oafs oblivious to what’s happening around them, can be a real boon when closure is the goal.

None of this demonstrates to me that men are better than women. What it shows me is that the success of our species depends on the participation of both genders in reaching goals. Together we not only bring different skill sets, but sometimes completely opposite ones that complement each other perfectly. Team Nathan didn’t win this round of Design Star because it had more men; it won because team members of both genders brought a better balance of aptitudes to the task.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

At Your Service

On innumerable occasions I have blogged about the sex appeal of aggressive, alpha-male type guys. Well, today it’s time to look at the flip side.

The other day Davie and I were watching “The Next Food Network Star,” and I was suddenly reminded of a totally different style of guy that really sends me. Calling this particular archetype “the servant” doesn’t completely do him justice, since that implies a slavish subordinate. I’m talking about a man who dedicates himself to serving you out of his own free will. He’s chosen the role because he enjoys it.

My favorite contestant on the show is Jeffrey Saad, a handsome 42-year-old currently working in real estate. Don’t be misled: Jeffrey’s prior history includes culinary school and many years of operating restaurants. In the episode of which I speak, the remaining five competitors teamed up to cater a Miami cocktail party. Jeffrey served as host, and his background as a restaurateur was apparent.

Welcoming the guests, Jeffrey was warm, gracious, welcoming and cheerful. He said something in Spanish that I, who only know English and French, could not translate beyond it including some sort of expression of being “at your service.” Whatever he said, it was hot. And for much of the rest of the evening, Jeffrey bustled around the party, proffering trays of food, tending to guests’ needs, and adjuring everyone that he would “take care of them.”

I should tell you that Jeffrey is no poser. He’s a very sincere, guileless fellow, kind-hearted and slow to anger. That lovely smile of his is not faked. And I could see he truly enjoyed playing the role of “servant,” not because he’s into the subservient role, but because he knows he does it well. He pleases people. I’m sure that has to feel good.

All I know for sure is, it would feel very good to have this man wait on you.

The episode put me in mind of a dinner party I attended many years ago with some co-workers. It was a potluck, with a dozen or so of us gathered at the home of the boss’s secretary. Our financial analyst, Mark, had been a waiter in college. So for the occasion he reprised that old role, pulling out chairs to seat us, bringing dishes around, refreshing drinks. Mark was a good-looking guy, but he never looked so appealing to me as on that evening, with his suddenly straight posture, and one hand tucked behind at the small of his back.

I’m sure all you readers of both genders have had the experience of being waited upon by a truly talented service person. That kind of attention can be quite an aphrodisiac. My theory on that is, the manner of a expert waitperson somewhat mimics courtship. The attention convinces you that this individual sees you as important. The kindnesses of bringing food and drink seem like gifts of affection. The fervent expression of a desire to please is, well, mildly sexual.

Of course you know the serviceperson is simply doing a job. But if they truly seem to enjoy that job, it’s hard not to get caught up in the lovely little charade. The result of this is genuine pleasure on one side, and, if nothing else, a generous tip on the other.

Just watching Jeffrey wait on other people was thrill enough to me. I think if he did it to me in person I might positively swoon. Nothing says lovin’ like a guy who smiles at you over a tray of canap├ęs.

Monday, July 13, 2009

When Slaughter is Sexy

Those of you who have watched Showtime’s series “Dexter” will recognize this little verbal portrait (if not the photo below). But I ask you to read this next paragraph, and consider: what about such a guy is sexy?

Here we have a serial killer, fascinated since childhood with blood, vivisection, and murder. He is emotionless and can only mimic the human behaviors that are normally prompted by feelings. He is asexual, and unable to muster any kind of desire or arousal without, shall we say, serious stimulation. However, killing—and even sometimes the act of killing committed by another—produces excitement, joy, and even lust in his otherwise cold heart.

That’s Dexter in a nutshell. Of course to be fair, there are a few other things about him to be considered. He learned from his father an ethical code that he strictly obeys: to kill only those whose crimes are so horrific that they are more of a threat to the public that Dexter himself. He truly wants to be human, and is conscientious in his efforts to behave like a kindhearted fellow. While incapable of feeling “protective” of his girlfriend, he certainly has an intellectual commitment to watch out for her well-being. And yes, he’s got a fine sense of humor.

Still, a serial killer is a serial killer. Dexter is a very creepy fellow, with his needles and knives and careful attention to using protective plastic sheets.

All that said, this particular homicidal psychopath is undeniably sexy. It helps that Michael C. Hall, who plays Dexter, is sensuously handsome and has a melodic, warm voice. But I maintain it is the concept of this character that hold the true charm. It’s really quite brilliant.

It’s a fact that many women have a strange interest in the Jeffrey Dahmers and Ted Bundys of the world. Twisted though that seems, it is due to the fact that serial killers possess a few key traits—warped, I’ll grant you—that appeal to basic feminine nature.

  • They are powerful, literally wielding the power of life and death.
  • They are predatory, the ultimate in aggressive (the supreme alpha male if you will).
  • They are brilliant and extremely skilled at what they do.

Certainly these things are true of Dexter in spades. And the writers of the show have cleverly worked out his personality so that women will be even more drawn to him. He is harmless to you and me. He’s not evil—or at least has his evil side under control. He’s not motivated by sex and is not a sexual threat. He feels nothing, so somehow doesn’t seem as culpable for what he does.

And he’s charming, funny, gentle mannered, and as a sort of Robin Hood of Homicide, actually a hero.

With all that going on, a lot of us ladies are happy to overlook the downside of Dexter’s personality and habits. We are even more happy to be able to safely indulge the secret perverse interest we have in sociopaths like him.

As a writer, I can only say, kudos to the creators of such a complex and fascinating character. I’ve created a lot of (hopefully) sexy protagonists, but never one like this.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Fun News re My Vampire Book

Well, it’s been over a month since I updated you about my upcoming book How to Catch and Keep a Vampire. What a difference a month makes! In that time the release date has been moved up a couple of times (it’s now official: October 23!), a Facebook fan page sprang up and gets more fans every day (please join their ranks HERE) and the book has become available for pre-order from Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Chapters.

In case you think this has been all play and no work, I assure you that’s not the case! For the past five weeks my editor and I have been slaving madly away at editing, rewriting, creating more cool content, etc. In fact, you can take a sneak peak at the beautiful design of the book on my website

So come October, you will be able to find copies in bookstores everywhere (and hopefully prominently displayed!). Until then you will just have to keep wondering...
  • How to spot a vampire

  • How to end up dating him

  • This Dr. Grey fellow I’m obsessed with and why I shouldn’t be

  • The name of the most beautiful song a vampire ever played on guitar (IMHO)

  • The potentially dangerous secret of the red satin ribbon

  • How to say no to a vampire

  • And what happens if you say yes
And those are just the tip of the vampiric iceberg! I’m so excited to share it all with you, I won’t even mind this year when summer fades in Wisconsin! :-)