I suppose I talk sometimes about sex, on this blog. I must, because that’s most of what I talk about in real life, too. It’s funny, because my way of talking about sex is never–um, inappropriate?
I’m not actively doing theatre right now, because my kids do better with an early bedtime, and young people are hellions when you have to cart them about with babysitters or have them up until one in the morning with actors flitting in an out.
Theatre is a night owl life, which I love, but little kids, and work, etc. It’s an awkward time of life for producing anything significant with theatre.
Back To Sex As A Driver For Character Change
But back to sex, I really never used to speak about anything to do with sex, or even romance, for most of my life. My parents are both gross monsters, in that they see little kids as exploitative bundles of energy and charm to be toyed with and played with as pretend spouses. They’re pretty screwed up, because they’re of the mind that as long as they aren’t touching anybody, they can say or insinuate anything they like. Gross.
Anyway, my two parents both used me pretty freely as a therapist, ever since I was about three years old, and since I was smart enough to manage our relationships with cunning, we accidentally-on-purpose never talked about sex, almost all of the time. My dad would try, because he was a horny old bastard who will rot in hell someday, but I’m charming, amusing, and very distracting when I need to be, and he never got the chance to be nearly as disgusting as he tried to be.
I only say all of that because sex, to me, was always a sort of forbidden no-man’s-land that I skirted around to avoid being actually raped. Impulse control was a problem, with all of my early clients, so I pushed for a lot of light emotional drama and deep philosophizing instead.
Then, once I got a lot more space between myself and my previous owners, I started directing theatre. It started out with me helping really horrible actors in their classes. People were just so incredibly bad at acting, you know? That line from Hamlet, about nature’s journeymen making men, and badly, too? Yeah, only a lot worse.
Psychological torture makes for pretty good formative acting training, and I turned out to be unbeatable when it came to shaping gradual, exquisite nuance in another actor’s performance.
And Creating Charisma
The first time my boss (important guy, professional actor) saw the scenes I’d been working with a bunch of students, he swiveled in his chair and was like, “You should be doing this for a living.”
(Meaning, teaching actors professionally.)
And I was like, “Yeah, but grad school.”
Meaning, I Didn’t Want To Go
Because for all the awful crap that went on in my undergrad program, it was nothing to what a really stinky MFA would be like. And I had–well, I looked very, very young at that point. Like, you know those police officers who look so young that they can go work undercover in a junior high school, and no one notices they’re actually in their late twenties? It wasn’t actually that bad, for me, but I did not at all look my age. At all. And with my incredible good looks, that was a problem.
I Needed My Face To Grow Up
I was really, really good at acting, and more mature than any of the old people I was working for, and people did not know what to do with me at all. They would audition me, and love my work, and coo over me, and then pass over me because it just looked absurd to put me up on stage next to the clumsy young actors who couldn’t deliver a line with any command of their emotions.
Like, if you had a musical prodigy, and you wanted to put on a concert, but all the other little kids are playing those cheap plastic recorders? So it’s like, well, we can do a solo show, or you can go move away and find a professional orchestra. Except I wanted to finish my degree, etc., so I was sorta kinda choosing to be stuck for a while.
And My Personal Life Needed Straightening Out
Anyway, I started to direct, and the first thing I realized, in the first four months or so, was that my actors were so repressed about sex that it wasn’t even slightly amusing.
Their sexuality was buried up under a pile of shit, emotional shit, and terror, and confusion, and juvenile embarrassment.
So, finally, after all my long life of avoiding any mention of sex at all, I started dragging out gender, and that worked so well on opening up and smoothing out my actors that I tentatively started to work on bringing their sexuality into their acting.
So They Wouldn’t Walk Around On Stage Like Dead Fish Anymore
That worked really well. And my actors got all shiny and contented, like abused animals who are given a real home with more food than they’re used to, and they get sleek and home-proud. My actors started to act like that, and to saunter around looking infernally pleased with themselves. The ones who were in relationships (and they would volunteer this information, because I don’t ask shit like this), would hump like bunnies after rehearsals, and the single ones would eye all the other actors and start clumsily scoping out potential mates.
Oh, they were so cute and helpless. It was sweet. Anyway, I finished some personal goals I had about directing, for testing my powers and figuring out how far I could go, as a shaper of human souls on stage, and then I closed up shop because #awkwardlifestagewithchildren and turned my mind to writing.
Because Writing Works Out Really Well With An Early Bedtime
I always wanted to be a novelist, ever since I can remember. Most of my good memories, as a kid, were of reading books. My parents were shit, but we had a magnificent local library, and I spent a lot of time there. A lot of time. I read something about O. Henry a long time ago, about how he really stopped reading after he was about nineteen or so, and only wrote instead. I’m not quite that bad, but I don’t read at all like I used to.
I Write, Instead
When you’re writing, and using authentic human soul in your characterizations (a lot of people don’t, which is weird, to me), how sexually developed the character is has pretty much everything to do with how they behave.
If you’ve got a character, and they’re genuinely repressed, you can light their whole setup on fire and change everything if you use their misunderstanding about sex as a tinderbox and a ramp into deep change.
Bad Writing (Forced, Unbelievable Change)
Fred Solanski had never yet conquered the complexity of sexy engagement, though he practiced talking to imaginary women in the shower constantly. He practiced pick-up lines, and studied all the pretty girls at the company cafeteria, and engaged in some light stalking of dating couples, only to listen to the way they spoke to each other.
Then, Fred met Bertie, and her bright green eyes and loud laugh made everything uncomfortable about dating melt away. He was easy and natural near her, and they were soon married and had a couple of kids and a smelly dog. Fred was perfectly happy.
Good Writing (Organic, Believable Change)
Fred Solanski wanted a girlfriend more than anything in the world. He had an engagement ring tucked in his pocket at all times, and read books about the secret, hidden desires of all females. He was too embarrassed to practice the things he read, but he thought about them, and imagined himself swooping in next to Vickie Botts every time he saw her in the company cafeteria.
One day, when Fred was thirty-eight and beginning to feel desperate, a woman who introduced herself as Bertie moved into the cubicle next door to his. She was not like other women at work, partially because she seemed so young, and partially because her green eyes sparkled and looked straight into his.
Fred found himself blushing constantly, but feeling sort of at ease, since she was so obviously out of his age range. He was not afraid of her, though she was very pretty, and he started to sit next to her at lunch.
“I wish I had a girlfriend,” Fred told her one day as they dipped their breadsticks in a tub of sauce. The engagement ring, as usual, was in his right pocket, though he had never once thought of it in connection with Bertie.
“Why don’t you get one, then?” Bertie asked, leaning her elbows on the table.
“I don’t know how to ask anyone. I get too shy,” Fred explained.
“Vickie’s single. I’ll go ask her for you,” Bertie said. She sprang up and Fred yelped and scrambled out of the cafeteria. Bertie sat down again, her eyes hard and determined.
Fred avoided her for three days, and then she cornered him near the copier.
“What’s up?” Bertie asked.
“I don’t want to,” Fred explained.
“You don’t like Vickie? What about me?” Bertie asked. Fred tried to run away again, but she got in the way, and he froze.
“No,” Fred said.
“Well, fine,” Bertie said, looking quite angry. She stalked off to her cubicle, and Fred felt so faint he nearly went home. He wandered back into his own cubicle. Every sound from hers seemed portentous. The light taps of her keyboard sounded like shouting to Fred.
He went over to her cubicle after work.
“Hey,” he said, his palms damp.
“Yeah,” she said.
“Want to practice dating with me?” Fred asked, his heart making uncomfortable surges.
“Yeah,” Bertie said, frowning and glaring at her screen.
“Oh. Okay, good,” Fred said, and he went to fetch his coat. He came back and studied her methodical way of closing up her files. “It’s just that you’re really young, okay?” Fred mumbled.
“How old do you think I am?” Bertie asked.
“Uh, twenty-two,” Fred said, his face very red.
“Thirty-six,” Bertie said, standing up and putting on her coat.
“No,” Fred said, all the shyness dropping out of his voice, and his eyes narrowing.
“Look, here’s my driver’s license. Look at that. I’m thirty-six. What a surprise,” Bertie said.
“You don’t look thirty-six,” Fred said, studying her license.
“I work out. I’m going to the gym tonight. Want to be my workout boyfriend?” Bertie asked. Fred’s heart made a gentle flutter.
“Yes,” he said.
“Good. Can I hold your hand?” Bertie asked. Fred relinquished the driver’s license, being very cautious to avoid touching her fingers.
“Could we wait until we got outside?” Fred asked.
“Yeah. I can bring you as a guest for a week to my gym, and you can see if you like it. And if you like me,” she added thoughtfully.
“I like you,” Fred said, staring at the carpet. Bertie nudged his arm, and they walked down the hall.
“I think you’re cute,” Bertie volunteered, when they got outside. Fred, feeling sort of petrified and very excited, reached for her hand. She grinned at him. He blushed and let go. “I bet you haven’t got anything to wear for the gym, though. There’s a store on the way. I get to buy you things today, since I asked you out. Okay?” Bertie asked.
“I–okay, I guess,” Fred said. His extensive studies had not in any way prepared him for a green-eyed woman who wanted to buy him gym shorts. He felt entirely adrift. He took her hand again, and she blushed. “Oh!” Fred said, his motion halting as his brain hiccuped over the fact that he had, without any premeditation, made a very beautiful woman blush.
“How old are you, if you were so worried about me being young?” Bertie asked, as they wandered down the sidewalk.
“Only two years older than you,” Fred said.
“Oh, I like that. I bet we’ll be perfect together. Are you super busy, usually? I like you. I hope you’re not too busy to see a lot,” Bertie said.
“I’m not–no, I’m not very busy, socially,” Fred admitted. “Um, how about you?” he added.
“I mostly just go to the gym and spend time with my dog,” Bertie said. “Do you like dogs?”
“I love dogs. I can’t have one, because of my apartment,” Fred explained.
“Oh, can you come and meet my dog, after the gym? Then, if he really likes you, we’ll probably get along super well. My dog always knows things about what people are really like,” Bertie said.
“I like you,” Fred said.
“I like you so far, too,” Bertie replied. Fred tightened his hold on her fingers, and she blushed again.
“Um, do you like–would you want to wear, like a dating ring, if I gave you one? Just like, like kids do in high school sometimes, with their first girlfriend,” Fred said. Bertie stopped walking and turned to stare at him.
“Kids don’t do that in high school,” Bertie said.
“Well, they used to give dating rings,” Fred said.
“Like with a class ring, or something? You never had a girlfriend in high school? That’s strange, because you’re so nice,” Bertie said.
“I’m scared of everyone except for you,” Fred explained.
“Oh, sweetie. If you turn out to be really awkward, we could just be gym buddies, though,” Bertie said, as if talking to herself. Fred laughed, and she glanced at him.
“Do you think I’m awkward?” Fred asked.
“No, I didn’t up until you asked me if I wanted a dating ring,” Bertie said.
“We said we were practicing dating, though,” Fred said. “I wouldn’t have brought it up, otherwise.”
“Oh,” Bertie said. “You know, that’s a really good point. Let me see it, then.”
“What? See what?” Fred asked, attempting to pull off an innocent look. Bertie snickered and snagged up his hand. She pulled him into an athletic store, and he started to feel sweaty and strange again.
“Your dating ring you want to give me, since I’m your first girlfriend,” Bertie said. Fred emitted a strangled squawk and reluctantly delivered up the ring, which was an elegant silver band wth white stones. “Oh, that’s gorgeous,” Bertie said, her voice changing. “Yes, I will wear that for you.” She stopped in the shoe section and sat down on one of the little benches. Bertie held out her hand.
“Really? You’re not making fun of me?” Fred asked.
“No, I like you. And it’s only a dating ring, right?” Bertie asked.
“Yeah, just for dating. And we’re just practicing,” Fred agreed. Fumbling and blushing, he tried the silver ring on her fingers and discovered that it fit just right on the ring finger of her right hand. “Oh,” he said.
“That’s very pretty. You have good taste, Fred,” Bertie said, examining the sparkly ring.
“But now people will think there’s something going on with you and me, maybe, or they’ll at least know you have a guy,” Fred said.
“Good. I want people to know, because you’re cute, and you’re mine for now. What size of shoe do you wear?” Bertie asked, jumping up and looking at the shoes.
“Oh, you can’t–I’m buying my own shoes, though,” Fred said.
“Will you let me buy your shorts, and stuff?” Bertie asked.
“Yeah. Shoes are too expensive for a date,” Fred said.
“I don’t think you’re awkward at all. I hope my dog likes you,” Bertie said. “Here, these would be fine for now. What size do you wear?”
Fred began to think, as they bought workout clothes and went along to Bertie’s gym, that all the dating advice he had ever studied so carefully before was a load of hokum, as it didn’t seem to take into account the reality of someone like Bertie coming along and being a genuine person with flashing green eyes and a quick smile.
Later in the evening, when Bertie introduced Fred to her dog Bowser, they all three began to ponder on the possibilities of a shared domicile, and before two months had passed, the silver ring with white stones had been changed to Bertie’s left hand.
Really beautiful character development includes the sexual component of the person in question. Shakespeare’s plays so often revolve around marriage and murder because he exploits the sexual repression or awakening of his characters, and that usually ends in legal (because romantic) copulation or a descent into depravity and murder (depending on the roots of the character type).
You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current book, the wild game hunter is gearing up towards a very important expedition. He’s going after an onyx hound, and his foster dad, an amateur hunter, is planning to go with him.