One of my favorite things about reading is getting swept away with the right book, the right setting, the right story, the right boy. It's the best feeling. All love, all angst, but without the risk. I mean, sure you may get your heart broken right alongside your precious character babies, but you can always take a step back and tell yourself, SELF: GET IT TOGETHER. THIS ISN'T HAPPENING IN REAL LIFE. BLOW YOUR NOSE AND STOP CRYING GODDAMNIT. And then you can go back to being your totally chill, calm self. Right? Right.
Within my personal library, there are really only a couple boys who have ever totally stolen my heart, and lately I've been trying to understand why. I keep picking them apart, making lists to try and figure out what they all have in common. My lists look something like this:
Jimmy Hailler:Drug Fiend, Mommy Issues, Lonely Social Butterfly, A Killer of a Listener, Mental Health Ally, Loves a Lamb Roast, Fantasy Fiction Lover, Ass Man, Caretaker of the Elderly, Fragmented, Disappearing Act.
Marcus Flutie:Former Drug Fiend, Almost-Monk, Open Book, Closed Off, One-Time Disappearing Act, Poet Wordsmith, Experienced Lover, King of the Non Sequitur, Honest Observer, Walking Contradiction, Like Catching Lightning in a Bottle.
Jacob Coote:Socially Aware, Deep and Meaningful (When He Wants To Be), Experienced Lover, Typical Idiot Boy, Possible Druggie, Not An Idiot, But Kind of An Idiot, Clever Conversationalist, Ladies' Man But Man's Man Too.
And to prove that I don't just love the pot-smoking boys who disappear and leave you hanging...
Dexter Jones:Rogue / Rapscallion / Musician, Open Book, Believer in Fate, Village Idiot, Non Sequitur Champion, Challenge Accepter, Flailing Limbs, Fearlessly Optimistic.
So what's the connection? Not all of them are broken. Or underdogs. Some of them are more emotionally available than others. Some are dorks. Some are cool. Marcus is too cool to care. I suppose they all have a gentleness to them – not in the same way, but there's always a bit of vulnerability that peeks through in certain moments with certain people... Maybe that's what it is. Maybe it's that none of them are the obvious first choice – they're not necessarily even the second choice or the third – but then, for a moment, you see them in the right light and you start to change your mind. Not because they're suddenly perfect. More that you see their flaws clearly, but you also see what the best days look like: it's Jimmy keeping quiet company on a bad day, and Marcus Flutie kissing your nose when you're self-conscious about the zit that's settled in on it. It's Jacob Coote and his candid chats about life, and Dexter keeping you from shutting yourself up so tight that you can't feel a thing. Boys who turn out to be unexpected.
I'll have to keep thinking about this. Complexity is a big part of what makes a male character compelling to me – well, any character, really – but to that point, there's a lot of characters like that in literature, and they don't all make the cut... so what else is it that makes a person like me fall in love? What's the rest of the magic formula? I don't have an answer yet, but I'll keep pondering.
To be continued...