Monday, August 1, 2011

Q&A DATING A METRO MAN Part 1 (technology+love=?)

My primary motivation when I was writing this book was the group of readers who had written to me asking about when it would be done. One reader mentioned wanting to see all the couples again and how they got along. Another mentioned being interested to see what kind of advice they would give Jenna and Seth as they worked things out. And of course, some readers really, really liked Allen. Well and I did too by the time he'd been around for several books. This leads me to admit my secondary motivation was to close the loops. I think I did everything except show Lauren having the baby which I just didn't want to go into in the story. So you just have to pretend with me that Lauren and Jim will be excellent parents, the baby will not have colic, will sleep all night, and. . .wait, are you laughing at me again? They call it fiction for a reason, you know.

What was the inspiration for Jenna's character?
My daughters and every other female under 30. At the risk of sounding like someone's grandmother (no wisecracks from those who know me), younger women these days are much more honest about themselves than I was at their age. However, I discovered through research and other sneaky methods that they are really no closer to knowing what they want from the men in their lives.

In researching the "metro man" label, I came across a blog where women were commenting that metro men were wonderful in many ways including being outstanding lovers because of their sensitivity, but there were several things the women really, really didn't like about them. The list included competition for looking good in public, competition for shopping dollars for clothing, competition for bathroom time, and the pressure they felt to always look "as good" as the metro man which everyone knows is an easier and cheaper process for males in general. Fortunately, I was at home so my hysterical laughter as I was rolling on the floor did not embarrass anyone.

Want to know what the bottom line was for the woman who commented? Many had left the "metro man" for an old-fashioned guy that held doors open for them but who had to be reminded to shower and shave. They professed to be much happier without the I-look-as-good-as- you competition thing. OMG. My ROFLMAO lasted for days as I began writing this book. My empathy for women under twenty-five can now fill a stadium to overflowing.

One thing I knew for sure going into this story was that Jenna was not trying to be like Alexa, even though she looked enough like her mother to go that direction if she chose. I wanted it to be clear that Jenna was choosing not to be focused on her femininity as compared to the femininity of other women. Instead, I wanted to show that Jenna was trying to reconcile who she was as a person. Part of this of course was comparing herself to her mother. Every daughter does this. Plus, as the daughter of a rich, notorious, successful business woman, Jenna's unconventional childhood had some lingering effects in her as an adult. She understood that she had some faults AND that they had an impact on her relationships. But being really busy climbing her career ladder, she had little time or patience to work on "fixing herself" just to make a relationship work. It took a lot of investment in her relationship with Seth to convince Jenna to modify her behavior.

Admittedly, Jenna's character is not that of an easy woman nor do I think she turned out to be typical, but I know she is "real" in many respects. I have a daughter the same age as the character who is very career focused. She is a supermom, but also there is a superdad close by shouldering his fair share of the load. Why does Jenna suit Seth so well in the story? One good reason is that there is a physical honesty between them that few relationships manage. Also, it is highly unlikely a woman like Jenna will ever let a man like Seth have all the power over her that he exerts over everything else in his life. Like a counter-weight on a scale, Jenna helps Seth find balance.

What was the inspiration for Seth's character?

I can't tell you. Not won't, but can't. Let's just say his propensity for being too attached to his electronics grew from some personal grievances with the effects I see electronics has on romance and love. I have seen and heard too much of "Wow, you look amazing in that outfit. . .wait, the phone is ringing. Hello?" Aaaarghhhh!!!!! Okay, I'm calming down again now. I'm pretty sure I can finish this post without a meltdown.

Thanks to my technology and love poll for Dating A Metro Man, I collected a more balanced view of modern romance and technology's effect on it than the one I hold personally. Men like Seth are everywhere. So are women. As my poll takers explained to me, it is "just how it is now". Urban Dictionary has a term called technosexual which has two pages of suggested definitions. I think this defines the problem well enough.

In their story, Seth has to modify his interactions with his electronics and I gave him the one motivation guaranteed to work. He wanted a physical relationship--and with Jenna--a woman who hated his attention to technology.  To be fair to Seth, he had good reasons for its use given the business he was building. I show Seth torn about taking a call vs taking Jenna to bed. I show him throwing a ringing phone in the floor in middle of things and even let Jenna make sarcastic remarks about it.

Okay and so maybe I made his character extraordinarily talented between the sheets because a part of me couldn't imagine any other reason a woman would put up with his techno-obsessions. Yes. Writing is therapy. I'm kidding. Okay, no--I'm not kidding. Oh hell, I don't know. I wrote the book and still don't know. Okay. I don't know. There. That's the truth. I did really like Seth as heroes go and I did think he handled things well with an often unpleasant Jenna all throughout. I guess I need to give credit where credit is due. (Again, excerpt slightly changed for PG-13 rating.)

Jenna looked away from Seth’s gaze. She could feel tears threatening. “It’s like we’ve switched places. You spent the whole time we were dating before ignoring me. Now it’s like I want to keep my emotional distance, and in the process I end up being just as bad to you as you ever were to me.”
Jenna sniffed a little when she felt Seth moving her work things and sitting down beside her. “When you’re nice to me, Seth, it’s hard to remember that I’m still seeking retribution.”
“Don’t worry—I’m sure to make you mad at me again within a few days,” Seth said softly. “Right now I just want to take care of you a little. I’m trying to be more attentive to what’s going on in your life than I was before. I can’t undo the past, Jenna. I can only be nice to you now.”
“Congratulations,” she said, sniffing as tears rolled down her cheeks. “You’re doing a great job of being nice to me at this very moment. It has the same impact on me that this fireplace has on the house.”
“I know you’re too tired for a hug. Can I kiss you instead?” he asked, dipping his head even as she nodded.
Seth lifted her into his lap and kissed her softly, lovingly, uncaring that the truth of his heart was in every move. “Whatever our problems, I have always cared for you. I was just really bad at showing you before. But I’m learning. I’m sorry it took me so long to figure it out.”

What did I see as the core problem Jenna had with Seth?

The technology was annoying, but the real problem was that Jenna did not think she was more interesting or even as equally interesting to Seth as the rest of his life. She wisely feared subjecting herself to ongoing and constant invalidation. However, when you love someone. . .what can you do? Some relationships are just worth the trouble.

In the story, Alexa gives her daughter some good advice about emotional risk, both motherly and woman-to-woman.

Jenna squirmed in her seat and wrestled with herself. Her mother was baiting her. That was obvious. The question was why. Her mother had never been a fan of her and Seth’s relationship. But now Jenna didn’t buy her innocent it-doesn’t-matter-to-me look either.
“Do you want me to date Seth? Do you honestly think he deserves another chance to break my heart?” Jenna demanded.
“No. If he breaks your heart again, I’ll probably kill him. I liked Allen and was happy you were dating him. He’d have been good for you, and to you. I like Cristo, but don’t think the handsome Spanish weight-lifter is going to score either. He’s not even half as charming as Allen,” Alexa said pointedly. “I want you happy in all aspects of your life, Jenna. Seth is either the answer or he’s in the way of it happening. Your obsession with him is making another man an impossibility.”
“If I dated Seth it would just be to scratch a long-time sexual itch,” Jenna said harshly. “I seriously don’t like him. The more I date other men, the more I realize Seth was incredibly rude to me while we were together. He was constantly working and rarely finished more than five minutes of conversation with me before I had to share his attention with a text, an email, or a call. I am not going back to that.”
“Good,” Alexa said. “You don’t deserve to be ignored. No one does. But if you can’t keep your hands off the man when he’s around, something has to give honey. Trust me. Denial is not healthy or fun.”
“What if I can’t move on afterward?” Jenna asked, realizing as she asked that it was her true fear. “What if I like being with Seth so much that I end up being ignored in every other way for the rest of my life? I do not want to be a human slave to a freaking technosexual.”
“Never going to happen, baby. That’s just you not trusting yourself,” Alexa said, reaching out and linking her fingers with her daughter’s. “Just because you watched me unsuccessfully pine for a man doesn’t mean you can’t do better with the one you so obviously want. Maybe you’ll end up being the only thing that draws Seth out of business mode to have a real life.”
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