Saturday, February 9, 2008

The World of Romance: A Man's Perspective

by Jo Robertson

Since February is the traditional month of love – Valentine’s Day and Leap Year – I thought it might be fun to have a male perspective on this whole romance-writing and love business. I sent an invite to Dr. Big – not to be confused with Mr. Big from SATC fame – to get some of his feelings and ideas.

While waiting for Dr. Big's response, I’m rather enjoying the golf game on his HD wide-screen telly. Hmmm, men swinging long poles, great back views of said men. Wow, that Tiger Woods is something else!

[cough, cough] Welcome, Dr. Big, glad you're here.

Dr. Big: Wait a minute! You weren't supposed to identify me! If any of my golfing buds find out I’m doing this interview, I'm in for a lot of bogies!

Jo: Calm down, Dr. Big. I can assure you, the only male visiting us is P226. Uh, he does like to play with his guns, however. Hmmm, and I heard that George Clooney likes to hang out here occasionally.

Dr. Big: From what I've seen on celebrity info stuff, most of George's female companions are the models for the book covers, not the creators.

Jo: George does like his women.

First question, Dr. Big, I understand you have a fairly definite conception of what the typical romance writer looks like. Please share that with us.

Dr. Big: At first, I thought very attractive women were writing somewhat autobiographical novels. Part of my mistake, as I found out later, was that I mistook the cover pictures as the author and her lover. I also was acquainted with one well-known romance writer who was quite attractive.

Jo: You’re speaking of our good friend author Brenda Novak. Yes, she’s very pretty.

[aside] I think Dr. Big has had a crush on BN for many years.

But, do tell, Dr. Big – are you saying you mistook those rather revealing clench covers for the authors? Oh my, how delightful! Were you ever tempted to buy one of those books, just to become better acquainted with said author? And did your perception change?

Dr. Big: My wife is a member of RWA and she invited me to attend a conference. I was quite excited to meet some of the writer babes. As it turned out, I thought I was at a Weight Watcher's conference. Needless to say, I changed my mind about writers.

Jo: OMG, you're NOT implying that romance writers are overweight housewives are you? I must assure you that the Romance Bandits are teachers, lawyers, engineers, and nurses, as well as wives and mothers. Are you surprised by that fact?

Dr. Big: I'm sure they have teachers, lawyers, and engineers at any Weight Watcher convention. Sorry – that is kind of a cheap shot. Nine in ten of my golfing buddies are candidates for a tummy tuck!

Jo: [seriously into eye rolling]

Most of our heroes in romances are what we writers call alpha males. Do you consider yourself an alpha male?

Dr. Big: Alpha male, huh? Sounds like Greek stuff. I am pretty well endowed on the golf course, except that is not how us golfers refer to a golf stud.

I am still looking for a romance novel that has a low handicapper as the hero. Maybe something going with the cart girls? Although, most of the cart girls are not much to look at, just fast with a Dr. Pepper.

Jo: [eyes now in danger of flying out of head]

I understand you're married, quite happily in fact, to a romance writer. Please refrain from revealing your spouse's identity, but tell us – what’s living with a romance writer like? Do you find yourself constantly supplying, uh, research for her books?

Dr. Big: If I were really honest, I believe my wife learned a lot from me about that stuff. I just never thought it would make it into her books!

Jo: [Aside – in your dreams, Dr. Big]

Interesting. Do you think she had anything to teach YOU about romance and sensuality?

Dr. Big: She definitely was the catalyst! My wife really was a very attractive and sensual woman.

Jo: [choking over the use of past tense.]

Dr. Big: One day I decided to show my golf buddies a picture of my wife, as I was sick of hearing about some of their wives. I showed them my favorite picture, but when they were staring at it I realized it was a few years old – like about 15!

Jo: Are you saying you carry a fifteen-year old picture of your wife in your wallet? No, don’t answer that!

Back to the topic -- you don't think your wife ever practiced any of her scenes on you? I mean, tried a move just to see if it would work? How would you feel about that?

Dr. Big: That is a big slant on reality! After reading her first book, I tried to figure out just who she was inventing for her more than graphic sex scenes. I figure she got her information from research and other writers because little of what I was reading had to do with our reality. Of course, I would never tell, anyway.

Jo: Romance novels always have what we call the HEA, happily ever after. Do you believe in that stuff in your reality?

Dr. Big: I really am at a "happily ever after" place in my life. (Excuse me while I wipe my eyes.) I believe there is a definite place for romantic fiction. It is kind of like condensing a long life into the best parts. Nothing wrong with that!

Jo: Not at all. That's very sweet. In fact, you might redeem yourself yet.

I understand that you read a lot of professional journals and nonfiction. Do you realize that women readers corner the book market? What do you think about that?

Dr. Big: My take on the gender issue is that men are very visual and reality based, while women seem to like written fantasy and non-reality. (That should really stir up the ladies!)

Jo: Come on, Dr. Big, ‘fess up. Have you ever read a romance novel?

Dr. Big: Other than my wife’s writing, the only time I was tempted was when she brought a
bunch of erotica back from a conference. Now that really held my interest!

Jo: What’s the best part of being married to a romance writer?

Dr. Big: The travel! I took her to Scotland so I could fulfill my dream of playing at St. Andrew's, the birthplace of golf. She visited castles and took notes for a forthcoming book. Seriously, I greatly admire creativity. The ability to create a story from the imagination is admirable to say the least. I expect that writers of romance have to be very interesting people. I know my wife is. Jo: Aww. Valentine’s Day is coming up next week. What do you plan for YOUR sweetheart, Dr. Big?

Dr. Big: First, let’s drop the sweetheart reference. We made a deal when we got married not to refer to each other as if we were greeting card writers. I think we also agreed that our romantic relationship cannot be improved upon by copping out to the Hallmark hype. Our love for each other is such that no frivolous gift could improve upon it.

Jo: [Aside – I take it said romance writer is NOT getting a Valentine’s Day surprise this year.]

What’s the best gift you ever gave your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day?

Dr. Big: There you go again, trying to invade our wonderful love affair with the suggestion of a trinket of some kind. My best gift is my sincere affection and admiration for the person who completes my life. Our affection has brought to life seven children, fourteen grandchildren, and a partner I stand in awe of today.

I know you would prefer my offer of sex, but I will not take the bait. For me it would be like trying to shoot pool with a rope. Let’s say, I prefer to be the model for your male studs in your fantasy stories and believe the fantasy myself and let the reality be our secret life.

Jo: There you have it in a nutshell, readers, why most men don't write or read romance novels. They're too damned literal!

Disclaimer: Author disavows any liability for neaderthal-ish remarks by interviewee.

So, readers, do you think men are so different from women when it comes to romantic gestures? Do you like your man/woman to surprise you romantically? Or you more a plan-ahead type? Do you agree with Dr. Big -- that women are more into fantasy and men are more reality-oriented?


Joan said...

Is it dawn? Do I hear a rooster's crow?

Keira Soleore said...

NOOOoooooo!!! I thought I'd surely nailed it this time. This is the closest I come to it for weeks.

jo robertson said...

Cock-a-doodle-doo. I was going to claim my own GR Joan, but glad you did!

flchen1 said...

An extremely entertaining post, Jo! Please also extend my thanks to Dr. Big :)

Congrats, Joan! Cockle-doodle-doo, and all that ;)

I think the romantic gestures depend on the individual, and what one person will find incredibly romantic, another may find either over-the-top sap or far too pragmatic. The stereotype certainly is that men are less romantic-fantasy-inspired and women completely buy into it all; I think many of us fall somewhere in between.

Of course, thoughtful surprises often require quite a bit of advance planning and work, so I enjoy them knowing how special they are. :)

jo robertson said...

I agree flchen1. I think I'm far more pragmatic than most women, but then I wonder if it's because my husband "trained" me that way LOL.

Keira Soleore said...

A true paean to love, Jo. Well done!! And if Mr. Big happens to be attending the conference this July, tell him I have a few bon mots for his ears only.

Joan, I did mean to gracefully concede that you caught the GR in that comment above, even though it may not quite have across that way.

Helen said...

Congrats Joan on the GR

What a lovely post Jo love the photo's love the one of DR Big and the grandchild absolutly beautiful.
I love surprises but also love doing things that we plan together we have had a few short holidays together over the years but we have planned them jointly and they have been fantastic.
I agree that women are much more romantic than most men (not all) and yes I believe that women tend to lean to the fantasy and men to reality.
Have Fun

Gillian Layne said...

Jo-That interview definitely put a smile on my face.

Joan-congrats on the rooster!

I'm in the men-are-pragmatic group.

p226 said...


This quote really says it here:

We made a deal when we got married not to refer to each other as if we were greeting card writers.

My wife and I made that deal within days of MEETING each other. (No kidding, mutual love at first sight story. And now that I think of it, one of the wildest "how'd you meet" stories you'll ever hear. I promise you no one you know met the way my wife and I did.)

Then there's this:

My best gift is my sincere affection and admiration for the person who completes my life.

Bingo! And it's not about saying that with words, flowers, or carats. It's about showing that day to day. Hour to hour.

As to the question, I can really comment on the view from my window. What I see is not an accurate weather forecast for the whole planet. But what I do see out that window, is that MY wife is probably more practical than I am in most things. The exception to that would be her literary tastes. She definitely reads more fiction / fantasy than I. But it's an unfair application of stereotype to imply that she thinks or lives that way. Really. She's far more practical than I am on most things. Always has been. But if you apply the question to our reading habits, oh yeah. Dr. Big's right on the money here.

Ash said...


Caren Crane said...

Congrats on the GR, Joan! Keira, I'm sure some early-morning Nutella will remove the bitter taste from your mouth. *g*

Jo, thanks to you and Dr. Big for the post. You know I have given up caffeine for Lent, so I need SOMETHING to open my eyes!

I believe Dr. Big represents a fair share of the male population in his views. My own dh could not understand that my heroes are NOT based on him (except when I need an annoying habit, perhaps *g*). He has never read romance and probably never will - even mine.

The dh loves his alternate history and science fiction. I think many men prefer fiction that feels as if it COULD be real. He also adores biographies, political essays and histories of all sorts. I am much less inclined to read any of that sort of thing. Except science fiction/fantasy, which sometimes has marvelous characters.

As to reality, we both tend to be pragmatic in our tastes. Cassondra said yesterday that her dh missed when he gave her a rug. I would have been in Heaven! The mixer someone else got would have been equally adored! I would love a new deck for St. Valentine's Day, in truth. Or new flooring in the dining room. If the dh wanted to score big, he would give me home improvement. *g*

Since he pays little attention to Hallmark holidays, however, I'm sure it will be something I don't really want. He did come through with dark chocolate truffles last year, though, so he hits it sometimes! At least I eat those. *g*

brownone said...

Congrats on the GR Joan!

Well, not being the touchy feely type (my family jokes that when I hug, I really give a half hug with a pat on the back), I don't usually take offense when we agree to NOT get each other anything for Christmas or Valentines. We usually do for each other year round. One year I was so sick of stuffing food in my tiny freezer so when we were out shopping, he said, lets get a fridge. When he wants a table saw that does miter cuts, I take him out to Lowes and tell him to take his pick. Yeah, it's not romantic (which is probably why I read romance novels!), but its us. Most of the time we can't agree on a movie to see or what music to listen to, but in our own way we do love each other. Sometimes it's me taking out his dinner and bringing it to him with an icy cold beer after a hard days work or it's him feeding the kids so I don't have to listen to who touched who's eggs. :-)

Gillian Layne said...

"who touched whose eggs"....

Yeah, all those fun dinner time conversations really inspire the romance, don't they Brownone?

Ah, the joys of trying to stay romance-inspired with kiddos running amuck.

Joan said...

Sorry to snatch roost and fall into bed exhausted...but I had fantasies to dream about! No worries, Keira...I understand your crushing disappointment at not getting our boy :-)

Great post, Jo. I think men do indeed fantasize how else would you explain the movie "Barbarella"? But they are different then us ladies/writers and I think that's great.

Feminists may argue the moot point that women are the same as men but I think the differences are fascinating on their on.

Yes, we are equal in so many ways but there are things I can do that I man can't (and I'm not just talking about having babes) and things a man can do that I can't...that's ok as long as there is respect between the two.

Our love for each other is such that no frivolous gift could improve upon it.

Well said, Mr. Big.....

Joanie T...a writer AND a Weight Watcher :-)

jo robertson said...

Ah, Keira, I'd pass along the message, but I'm fairly sure Dr. Big doesn't know what a bon mot is! He has a PhD, but his rearing in a coal-mining town seriousl limited his sophistication LOL.

Actually, he's a big teddy bear. He pretends an affinity for seventh-grade boys humor, but he's a marshmallow for Annie (with him in the picture).

jo robertson said...

Helen, from your comments over the months, I can tell you have a wonderful relationship with your other half. Young love is great, but mature love is soul-anchoring, isn't it?

Gillian, men ARE pragmatic aren't they? But once in a while they go and do something so outrageously impractical that you wonder -- wha? who IS this guy?

Once Dr. Big bought me this horribly expensive porcelain rose concoction -- honestly it was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen. My daughters would come by, look at the thing, and actually shudder.

Truly, it gives me the willies, but what could I say? HE thinks its beautiful and it was a true gift from the heart, so (very big sigh) I display it. Unfortunately it got broken one day. So very sad.

Shhhh, he doesn't know this.

jo robertson said...

P226, wow, love at first sight??!! Now you have to tell us the story of how you met your wife.

Dr. Big and I met during a history class. He still remembers the professor's name. I still remember what I wore.

jo robertson said...

Ash, interesting link on Tiger Woods. The man certainly is the High Priest of golfers. I wonder if fatherhood will change his game LOL.

I must admit to following golf tourneys. At first I was curious about what was so hard about hitting a little ball with a long stick. And what was so interesting about watching what basically is paint drying.

Dr. Big is a low handicapper, and I think he rather enjoys trouncing the younger guys on the links.

Men are NOT competitive, no sirree, not ever.

p226 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jo robertson said...

Caren, Dr. Big was generous is saying he read my books. He's read ONE. He prefers journal articles so I don't bug him about it. Plus, I think the sex scenes embarrass him LOL.

So funny about preferring the rug. Our recent gifts to each other were rain gutters and a new dishwasher. So thrilling!

Actually, once in a while, I'd rather like Dr. Big to plan an exotic trip, make the reservations, stop the paper and mail, and say, "Go get a pedicure. Tomorrow we're leaving for Paris!"

p226 said...

P226, wow, love at first sight??!! Now you have to tell us the story of how you met your wife.

Are you sure you want to know? I mean.... ok. At your own risk.

Warning: Contains graphic language and... other stuff.

You've been warned.

jo robertson said...

Brownone, ROTFLMAO about the half-hug and pat on the back!

I think it's great you know what each other REALLY wants even if it isn't traditional romance-stuff.

Dr. Big's latest gift is buying me a car. I HATE car shopping, everything about it, dickering over price, test-driving, the whole awful ordeal. So he's doing all the work and bringing it home for me. What a relief! I don't care about color or make or model. Just as long as I can park it and it won't leave me in the break down lane!

jo robertson said...

Here's a question for you. Thinking about "who touched whose eggs" and shuddering at the memory, I wonder how DO you keep romance in your relationship with all those real-life distractions?

Well said, Joanie. I think romance writers are more willing to celebrate the differences between men and women. I have a strong man's brain, but there's no way I can pit myself physically against my 6'4" 230 pound husband.

And BTW, I'm a weight watchers person too, and damned proud of it!

p226 said...

I have a strong man's brain, but there's no way I can pit myself physically against my 6'4" 230 pound husband.

I'd like to go on record voicing my disagreement with this one. You'd be surprised what you can do.

jo robertson said...

OH. MY. GOSH! P226, that's just plain crazy. The astonishing part is that Beth married you anyway. Or that you return to Toronado, WVA, even once in while. Oh, to be young and dumb again!

jo robertson said...

Yeah, P226, maybe you're right. Cassondra's been giving us defense training tips on our loop!

p226 said...

Oh, to be young and dumb again!


But it was mutual love at first sight. I can prove it. I went back to that place. The things we'll do for love, no?

Aunty Cindy said...

You are right, P226. I don't think I've ever heard a "first meet" story anything like yours! Hanging by the ankles off the second story of the mall?!?!? ACK!!!

Fun post, Jo-Mama! Dr. Big's sense of humor shines through his Neanderthal-ish remarks! HAHAHAHA!


Anna Campbell said...

JT, congrats! He comes back to the lair. Yayayayayayay!

Jo and Dr. Big, what an entertaining post. Always happy to have man's perspective on things and P226 has been getting it all his own way here ;-)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Jo and Dr. Big, what a wonderful post! Such evidence of true love! Grins.

P226, how wild. Glad you both made it through the experience...and that she looked beyond the beer and shotguns. Ha! (Lucky you!) :>

JT, congrats on the GR.

Christine Wells said...

Laughing at this aspect of he said, she said, Jo and thank you to Dr Big for his, er, honesty. I know men say they show their love in their actions but sometimes the message doesn't quite get through! Particularly when to them, a loving action might be to mow the lawn or something--yeah, right, every time I do the dishes, I'm doing it out of lurrvv. And sometimes I think women want to hear the words simply because it seems like such a difficult thing for men to do. No pain, no gain, boys!

I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day. Shh, don't tell anyone! But I don't think sll that palaver has much to do with real love. Totally agree with Dr Big on that one.

Congrats on the GR, Joanie!

Caren Crane said...

Christine and Dr. Big, I'm so relieved there is someone else who doesn't give a hoot for Valentine's Day! *g* My husband tells me and shows me he loves me all the time. Why do we need a special day for it?

Unless it happens to be a Federal Reserve holiday and I get the day off, I'm not much on holidays that are not holy days. Go, Columbus Day! *g*

jo robertson said...

That's true, Christine, but every time I watch Dr. Big wash the dishes or mop the kitchen floor, my heart gives a little lurch LOL.

Once, years ago, he told me the reason he doesn't say he loves me aloud is that the phrase would become overworn and trite. Uh, ya think so, Dr. Big? I notice that with age, he's reversed that stance. Something about being older and sentimental, I suspect.

And really, gals, I'm with you on valentine's day. I think it's a greeting card-chocolate store-jewelry business-flowers conspiracy to part us from our hard-earned money.

I loved what Cassondra's husband did for her, though; that showed real thought.

Caren, you get a holiday for Columbus Day??!!

Nancy said...

Joan wins! Congratulations, Joan. Keira, Jo, maybe next time?

Jo, what a funny post! Funny with kernels of serious, of course. Dr. Big and his wife seem to understand each other very well. I love the "not refer to each other like greeting card writers" reference. Pretty cards are great, but they're hard to find without sappy messages inside.

We don't really have much of a "do" for Valentine's Day. We met about a week later, so that's the date we emphasize.

Flchen1, Jo, I agree that what's romantic depends on the individual. I like to be surprised by flowers, preferably not on an occasion.

OTOH, Helen, I like planning holidays. The one time we winged it, in England several years ago, we had couldn't find a B&B to save our lives. There were none in the area, just industrial sites. We finally found a hotel, which was comparatively pricey but did have room for us, and that was the end of winging it! I like to know I have a place to lay my head in an unfamiliar place.

Caren, my dh also loves science fiction. He reads for me and has been helpful with guy reaction kinds of things, but his reading someone else's romance writing is about as likely as our getting a radio message from Mars next week.

p226, thanks for posting the url. It's not polite to hint at things you won't explain, y'know. :-) Having seen everyone else's comments, I'm doubly curious and will be off to read it shortly.

Brownone, it's what works for a given couple, right? You two sound very supportive.

Kate Carlisle said...

I'm pitifully late but had to comment anyway because this was such an entertaining interview! And very sweet, too. I love the photos and laughed out loud at Dr. Big's impression of the Weight Watchers conference. Hmm, I've had that same thought. But hey, I've done WW too. Snork!

Funny, my husband did the grocery shopping yesterday and came home with a dozen red roses because he's traveling later this week and won't be here for Valentine's Day. Shhhhh, don't tell him it was the fact that he did the grocery shopping that made my heart skip a beat. ;-)

jo robertson said...

Kate, so darling! My heart would skip a beat at the grocery shopping far more than the roses, too! In fact, it does!! Dr. Big does the grocery shopping every week. He pretends he hates it, but I think he rather enjoys running up and down the aisles. I feel guilty about it, but not enough to take that chore back! No sirree!!

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Nancy, and all, for commenting on Dr. Big's humor. One rather gets used to the juvenile tone, tee hee.

Men, can't live with them. Pass the beer nuts!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

P226, all I can say is be thankful you weren't in Blue Creek, Tornado runs a close second to Blue Creek.
My BF "observes" the holidays only because he was married twice before and I think they scared him a little. Personally, all it takes sometimes to make me happy is to listen to me.