Man plus Woman equals What?

“As soon as a man and woman of almost any age are alone together within four walls it is assumed that anything may happen. Spontaneous combustion, instant fornication, triumph of the senses. What possibilities men and women must see in each other to infer such dangers. Or, believing in the dangers, how often they must think about the possibilities.” – Alice Munroe

If the Yahoo home page is even remotely accurate in suggesting what people wonder about, then people appear fixated on revealing dresses and bathing suits, who celebrities are sleeping with, and older people who’ve “still got it.”

“It” is the danger of a man and a woman alone in a room.

If novel sales are even remotely accurate in telling us what we like, then we like speculating about what might happen in that room (car, forest, castle, swamp) when a man and a woman are alone. According to the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Romance was the top-performing category on the best-seller lists in 2012, generating $1,438 billion in sales.

“Romance” in novels is often linked to the danger of “Man plus Woman.”

Like many other authors who read a lot of books, I am variously amused, excited, disgusted, bored and curious about the what the reporter says s/he will tell me about in his/her celebrity story or what the author promises to reveal between the covers of his/her novel. As an author, I usually care a lot more about how the writer/reporter tells the man+woman story than what happens when the man and the woman are together. Not much is new on that score, but I guess we like hoping there might be.

There are times when I think the cynics are wrong about the $ sign being our defining symbol. Perhaps it should be a bed.

The old newspaperman Horace Greeley once said that the thing most readers are interested in the most is themselves. I know a lot of us are interested in having money, friends, security, good food, successful children, great health and long lives. A lot of that involves the $ sign.

Yet, when reading habits come into play, a lot of us apparently want to be in the bed when–as celebrity journalists’ would say–somebody arrives in a jaw-dropping outfit and asks, “How about a night of spontaneous combustion?” Or, if we can’t be there, we like hearing about people who are.

I’m not a romance novelist or a celebrity journalist, so I try very hard not to focus my writing on the sexual what that happens in the “Man plus woman” equation. But, as I look at the importance of the bed in our culture, I sometimes wonder if I need more beds in my books.


People who need to shut up in 2011

Guest post by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter, the Star-Gazer

At the end of the year, hack reporters traditionally make inane statements about what has been important during the past twelve months and what will be important during the next twelve months.  Truth be told, I don’t have a clue. I’m paid to tell you what happens, not why you ought to care about it.

These days, many journalists are breaking that rule. Here’s what that means to you. You know what they think before you know what facts led them to think what they think. What a shame. Why should anyone care what a hack reporter thinks? Reporters aren’t gods, sages or soothsayers. Hell, a lot of them are just plain stupid.

My profoundest hope for 2011–other than getting rid of the IRS and TSA–is that journalists who tell me what they think will shut up.

Whether I’m watching FOX or CNN, I’m pretty well guaranteed to see a bevy of talking heads (usual suspects) who are paraded before my wondering eyes who just happen to feel the same way about the issues that the network feels. Hell, what are the odds that an objective panel of experts would all think the same way?

My profoundest hope–other than not seeing celebrity divorces and affairs spattered all around the Internet like they’re real news–is that those CNN and FOX news panels of “experts” will shut up in 2011.

There’s a fair number of celebrities who need to shut up in 2011 because, quite frankly, we’re tired of hearing how they hate the “evil rich” even though they’re rich and/or seeing them testify before Congress because they’re famous rather than actually knowledgeable about a cause or an issue.

My profoundest hope–other than not seeing boring trailers for movies that are supposed to be funny–is that most celebrities will just speak the lines the writers give them and then shut up in 2011.

“Silence,” Lao Tzu reportedly said, “is a source of great strength.”

Why then, do we admire those who never shut up? This is a puzzlement, if not a paradox. As a hack reporter with credentials that will get me inside any meeting, press conference or sanitarium, I would like to report stories about the strong, silent types rather than the noisy weaklings who occupy so much of our attention, column inches and air time.

Alas, we live in a noisy world of sound bites. As a reporter, I have to report that the beauty queen really wants to feed the hungry, that the movie star who earns more than my neighborhood really cares for the poor, and that the politician cares more about his constituents than his next election. In the world of sound bites, I know from experience that all the usual suspects won’t shut up in 2011. So, my profoundest hope–other than learning that soup makers have decided we don’t need all that damn salt–is that we’ll just stop listening to the people who can’t stop talking.

If silence is golden, then noise must be fool’s gold. All the more reason in 2011 to ask why the people who should shut up won’t give us a moment’s peace.

As a hack writer, I’m paid to listen. Since you’re not, you can tune out all those people who need to shut up in 2011.