Archive for February 19th, 2008

Keep the Man Who Digs the Hat




I had a little vote going on my website (www.melaniewells.com) during the writing of my last novel.  The issue was whether or not Dylan Foster (the lead character in my stories) should get to keep her boyfriend. A simple question, I thought. 


Here’s Dylan’s description of said boyfriend, (from My Soul to Keep – released February of ‘08).


David Shykovsky is quite possibly the most perfect male I’ve ever met. He says “thank you, ma’am” and “please” and rises from his chair when a woman enters the room. He has the shoulders of a linebacker and the waist of a dancer, knows his downward dog from his warrior pose, and can quote every word of every Lyle Lovett song ever written. He makes a mean chocolate pie with cooked pudding, not instant. He can rebuild a transmission or choose the right wine to go with the fish he just grilled. Take him to a party, and he can hold an animated, engaging conversation with a sack of shelled corn.

            And he never leaves crumbs in the butter.

            His one flaw, other than the fact that he owns a funeral home in Hillsboro, is that he put up with me for almost a year and a half. I eventually lost respect for him for it.


See, the problem here is a tricky one.  David’s a dream.  But Dylan is bad luck and high-maintenance. In the series of three books, her house becomes infested with flies (along with some other vermin) and begins to smell like deviled eggs; a college student commits suicide (for which Dylan – a psychology professor – gets blamed); she’s arrested for a crime someone else committed; the murderer of another young college student leaves his weapon of choice on her doorstep; and a little 5-year old boy is kidnapped in her presence.  I could go on. Suffice it to say, her life is a disaster zone. Get anywhere near her and you’re liable to get sucked into the vortex.


After her wistful description of David, she goes on to admit:


I was the worst version of myself during our time together—catastrophically anxious, chronically forgetful, and relentlessly self-involved. I was even more cranky, compulsive, and impulsive than usual. And obsessive, of course. That goes without saying. The smell of Pine Sol alone would have been enough to run off the average boyfriend candidate. David, however, remained sweet, thoughtful, and thoroughly magnanimous throughout.

Then, to his credit, he broke up with me.


Now, my vow to my readers, which I kept, was that they could choose Dylan’s fate. Would she remain doomed to inhabit the boyfriend-free zone she’d constructed for herself?  A fate which she richly deserved, might I add.  Or would he come back to her? It was up to the readers to decide.


Their answers blew my hair back. I couldn’t believe how passionate my readers were about what to me (it is fiction, after all – I made these people up!) seemed a trivial matter.  I got emails from EVERYWHERE.  Japan.  South Africa.  Prague.  London.  Vancouver.  And from all over the U.S.  Adamant arguments on both sides, from both men and women. 


I’m quoting here: “Dylan doesn’t deserve him.”  The man’s a prince.  He deserves a girlfriend who treats him right.”  David should get a spine and stand up to her.  Then maybe he’d be datable.”  “They both deserve better.  He’s a wimp and she’s a pain in the ass.”  “She can’t live without him!”  “He’s the one stabilizing influence in her life.”  And my personal fave, “Please, please, Melanie, don’t take away the ONLY person who ever really, really loved her!!”


Which led me to ponder the place of romance in our stories and in our lives.  As a modern, liberated woman, I determined long ago (well, pretty long ago) that I’d never again depend on a man for my well-being.  My livelihood, my ability to change a tire, my sense of peace and happiness in the world… these were all my responsibility.  Hang your hat on some man’s hook and he’s liable to steal it, stomp on it, or ask you to wear it with those teeny, invisible lace panties he gave you (HA!) for Mother’s Day.  Or if he’s really bad news, he might urinate in it, shoot a hole through it, and then hand it back to you with a smile on his face.  But rarely will he take it off the hook, gently place your (unsullied) hat back on your head where it belongs, place his own on his head, and walk side by side with you into the future. 


The thing is, though, this is what we’re all looking for.  This is the juice.  What women want, (listen up, fellas!) is a man who, though not a perfect man, is the perfect man for you.  A man who’ll give you a run for your money.  Who dislikes all the same people you do.  Who looks at you like you’re the smartest person he’s ever met while you’re telling a story at a dinner party.  A man who throws back his head and laughs at your jokes, but will call you out if you fail him.  A man who thinks you look pretty damn terrific in that hat.


So if you’re still looking for your David Shykovsky, here’s a suggestion.  Leave your umbrella at home and wear a hat next time it rains.  Take note of the man who looks your way with an admiring, respectful gaze.  That man just might be worth a cup of coffee and a conversation. And boys – a word for you – tip your hat, say “thank you, ma’am” and “please.”  And rise from your chair when a woman enters the room.  And if you’re lucky, she might just be willing to sit down to a cup of coffee with you. 


In the meantime, let’s all just keep reading.


Melanie Wells, who lives and writes in Dallas, is the author of When the Day of Evil Comes, The Soul Hunter, and My Soul to Keep.  She never uses an umbrella in the rain.  When not in use, her cowboy hat hangs on a hook in her study, where she can keep an eye on it. 

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