There’s an interesting article at AlterNet called Are Men Threatened by Funny Woman? It’s really worth reading, and gave me lots of ideas about characters (old and new). Here’s a paragraph:
“If you say to a man, ‘I know a woman who has a great sense of humor and you’ve got to meet her,’ they think she weighs 300 pounds and has an eye in the middle of her forehead,” Barreca says. “If you say to a woman, ‘This guy has a great sense of humor; you have to meet him,’ she immediately thinks he’s cute and will be a great lover and fun to be around. People think the girls who are desirable don’t speak, so the syllogism is don’t speak to be desirable.”
After I thought about this for a while, I came to the conclusion that as generalizations go, it’s pretty much on target. Or maybe not. Thoughts?
Also, a question: How do you describe a person to somebody who doesn’t know them? Some things you might say, in no particular order:
- She’s (my ex’s, Maria’s, the grade school principal’s, Joe’s) (sister, mother, cousin, next-door neighbor, ex-wife, coworker, boss);
- She’s the (nurse, teacher, homeless person, doctor, one who sued, the one who donated a million bucks, the one who slapped Alice);
- She looks (alot like your sister Alice, my brother’s wife, that actress, whatsername, on that show, a young Elizabeth Taylor, like Rosie O’Donnell)
- She’s got (a ’66 Mustang, a great sense of humor, no sense of humor at all, six kids, the J. Jordan McMillan chair at Harvard Law, three ex-husbands, the best recipe for coconut cream pie)
- She’s (a terror on the tennis court, never too busy for coffee, always at the office, always volunteering at the Humane Society, polyamorous, really smart, not so bright, a nice person, a bitch, an interesting person)
- She thinks (the London Underground is a political movement, children should be seen and not heard, photography is the only real art form anymore, the school system can be saved, the moon landing was a big farce, it’s her duty to bring people to Jesus, we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq, we should drop the A bomb on Iraq and just get it over with)
If you take one of the possibilities from each of the categories, you’ll come up with somebody who may surprise you.
She’s Joe’s boss; the one who donated a million bucks. She looks like Rosie O’Donnell; she’s got six kids. She’s a bitch. She thinks the school system can be saved.
With just this much, you know something about the mystery person being described, but you also know quite a lot about the person doing the describing.
Does any combination of features jump out at you? Can you pull a character out of those six categories who is interesting enough to write about? You can also concentrate on the speaker — the person who is describing — instead of the person being described.
Here’s a thought then: She’s my coworker, the one who slapped Alice. Come to think of it, she looks a lot like your sister Alice. She’s got three ex-husbands, and’s always volunteering at the Humane Society. Go figure, she thinks children should be seen and not heard. Animals are another story. Sorry about Alice, by the way. I better go find my friend. (Slips off into the crowd at the wedding.)
Pam — that was really good. Amazing, isn’t it?
She’s my ex. She’s a teacher; looks like that actress, whatshername, on that show. She’s got the best recipe for coconut cream pie…she’s a nice person, you know? She still thinks the school system can be saved. But she’s with Amy now. She always did have a thing for red-heads.
Meredith and Pam, those are really good.
She’s the homeless person who donated a million bucks of play money to the Humane Society, since she loves her stray dog Butch, an affectionat mongrel. She looks a lot like Elizabeth Taylor did as a child, given another 100 years of hard livng. She thinks she has a ’66 Mustang, although it looks to me like a grocery cart. Since she can’t see any movement on the moon she’s sure the moon landing is a farce. For a cup of coffee she’ll sit with you and tell you all about her 6 children. Or 5. She’s not entirely clear about how many.
It’s bin my experience that if a guy(talking to another guy/talking about a girl) starts off with anything other then a physical description, he’s holding something back. Theres a natural order of things when men talk about women. Mess with the order, caution flags go up. The sense of humor thing has just bin so overdone in every media that men can’t help thinking “Oh,Oh.”Besides NOOOBODY likes getting set up so there gonna start off suspicious anyways.