Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Harlequin wants a real man...do they know what one IS?

When I saw this item, I was intrigued.

Tres tres intrigued, I was.

Oh my...I was intrigued.

OK, you get the idea.

Let me explain my relationship to Harlequin romance novels. I've read, maybe, two in my entire life. I am OK with this because I am honest with myself. Bear in mind, the two I read were read when I was in late grade school. In junior high, I graduated to Danielle Steel before giving up those suckers altogether in favor of sleazy celebrity biographies and regular fiction-type stuff.

My sister read Harlequins when she was in junior high, and she gave up on them too. My mother is the die-hard romantic in the house, and the phrase we use to describe her books is "bodice buster".

To further elaborate, bodice-busters are those paperback books available everywhere a book is sold. They feature hot looking men in muslin lace-up shirts and women in old-fashioned dresses with heaving, cleavage-showing chests. The "chest part" of a dress is generally called a "bodice", and they always looked like they'd pop out any minute...hence the term, "bodice buster". Harlequin romances are a mixed bag...some are bodice busters, some are not.

Bear in mind that when all four of us (mom, dad, sister and me) lived in the same house or spent time in the same house on a regular basis, these books were the subject of scrutiny and many sarcastic remarks. One of my favorite things to do with these books (besides describe how I was going to burn them) was read steamy passages with either a trashy southern accent or a Brooklyn accent. It irritated Mom all to hell, so of course it was worth it.

So NOW...we got the regular guys coming into place for the Harlequin covers. No Fabios for those covers...hell no. We got "regular guys". To quote the article:

Representatives of Harlequin Enterprises, the world's biggest publisher of romance novel series, inspected the assets of about 200 men who lined up at a Toronto casting house on Saturday to prove they could flutter readers' hearts better than professional models.

"We're looking for some guys that are not your usual models, but have that iconic look that women go for -- sexy, sensitive, beautiful and fit," said Harlequin spokeswoman Marleah Stout, who attended the open casting. "We want real men ... exactly what you think in your mind when you're fantasising or imagining that ideal man."

Now, I have no problem with this in theory. However, here's a picture of a man that Harlequin deems a "real guy":

Here are three pictures of guys that I deem "real":

Apparently, my opinions are not worth spit.

It's not that I conceive "real guys' to be slobs or anything. Far from it. But COME ON!

This poses the question, "What makes a guy real?"

If you use the adjective, it means one of the following:

not artificial, fraudulent or illusory;
genuine, occurring or existing in actuality;
relating to practical or everyday concerns or activities;
existing as a physical entity and having properties that deviate from an ideal, law, or standard
having objective independent existence,
fundamental, essential

If used as a noun:

a real thing; especially
a mathematically real quantity

If used as an adverb, here's what the dictionary says:

usage: Most handbooks consider the adverb real to be informal and more suitable to speech than writing. Our evidence shows these observations to be true in the main, but real is becoming more common in writing of an informal, conversational style. It is used as an intensifier only and is not interchangeable with really except in that use.

There's also "real estate", "real focus", "real image", and "real-life"...and I don't have time to go through all that stuff.

The point I'm trying to make is...what's a real guy, anyway? And what makes Harlequin think they're the experts? All their "real guys" in their books are high-falutin' royalty...doctors...lawyers...celebrities...in short, something I wouldn't consider real.

I have met many "real men" I consider sexy in my short life on this planet. They have different physical characteristics. Some are tall, some are short. Some are slim, some are heavy. Some wear glasses, some don't. They're different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities.

The also have different paths in life. Some are "professionals", some are "blue collar". Some are Ph.D's. Some are high school grads. Some are left-brained, some are right-brained. (unfortunately, some were also "no brained". Those I prefer to forget.)

But they're all real. I can touch them. I can stand next to them and feel their presence.

The first guy in the picture? Meh. Doesn't do much for me. He's nice looking, but beyond that, he doesn't light my fire just by looking at him. I do like the abs...yeah...likin' those abs...but beyond that, what is there? I'll never know because he doesn't engage my brain enough to make me want to find out.

I guess the thing that defines "sexy" to me is a certain look in their eyes. Not a "psycho killer" look (although some psycho killers know how to hide the look until absolutely necessary) but a look that shows me something behind the eyes. Intelligence, humor, compassion...there's gotta be something there.

I guess I wish Harlequin good luck in their quest for a "real guy". Something tells me, though, that they need to buy or rent a clue. Sex appeal is so much more than what they put on the covers of those cheesy books.

Just my two cents...