Mr. Unattainable: Icy Emotionally Withholding Heroes—& Why I love Them So

Darcy.  Need I say more?
Darcy. Need I say more?

By Madeline Iva

Last Friday’s post by CMK (check it out here) reminded me of my favorite kind of hero: Mr. Unattainable.  There are many wonderful things to explore about this guy in his icy shroud of utter indifference.  Today, let’s take a look at why you, like me, might thrill to that emotionally withholding hero.

1)  We gals like a challenge. 

It is a known fact after umpteen seasons of The Bachelor that women like to chase men.

As someone who found herself being unexpectedly brilliant in

luring DH to his doom over four months, I speak from experience. I had moves plotted out like the battle of Dunkirk–but they came forth effortlessly from whence in my soul I know not where.  It was like I was possessed.   Once I saw the one guy I really wanted it was game on.  He was a challenge and after 20+ years (I married when I was 5),  I still think he was worth ever bit of effort.

He's no Prince the book he DOES kill her with that famous glass of milk.
He’s no Prince Charming…in the book he DOES kill her with that famous glass of milk.

2) BEWARE! Mr. Unattainable in classic books and movies is in actuality a cautionary tale for women – so listen up and learn something.

What did we really learn from JANE EYRE? The same thing we learned from SUSPICION: if he’s too good to be true, then he’s too good to be true.  I love SUSPICION.  Joan Fontaine is no Cinderella, so why does she think she can snag Prince Charming?  She comes back from her honeymoon to learn That ain’t Prince Charming.  Just like plain Jane does.   Without the spooky Gothic edge Charlotte Bronte added to JANE EYRE what you have here is a cautionary tale about just exactly why the nanny should watch out for her interesting, stimulating employer.

3)    He’s emotionally frozen icy out side, with a soft chewy center inside.

It’s not you.  You’re not messed up, and he doesn’t have an icicle lodged up you know where–it’s just that he’s emotionally frozen and icy on the outside.  Yet with enough work you get to that dark soft chewy center inside.  The outer shell is from past emotional hurt.  You intuit that and all your nurturing genes stand up alert. Let me make it better! your hormones scream.

Yet sometimes it’s not the hero that creates the barrier.  Sometimes it’s just women picking the wrong guy or behaving in such a way that they’ll never get the guy of their dreams. Why do they do this? Why?

Mr. Big.  Carrie can't have his heart, so naturally she wants him.
Mr. Big. Carrie can’t have his heart, so naturally she wants him.

4)    You and your f—-d up standards: This is so NOT my problem – but given my recent S&TC addiction this summer, I got an eyeful of the problem many ambitious (dare I say shallow?) women face.

Sex & The City had a constant ‘I could do better’ theme.  And the reality (as many forth self help books advise) is that you can no-compromise yourself right into living alone for the rest of your life.  At a certain point, the fact is that some women want Brad Pitt—but they’re not Angelina Jolie.

Now, there’s also a corollary to this: the woman who seems overly-picky until she’s not.  Sex & The City seems to show this side too with Charlotte.  At any rate, that’s fiction, I had a friend in real life who seemed to have

Aidan loves Carrie, so naturally she breaks his heart. (Forehead slap!)
Aidan loves Carrie, so naturally she breaks his heart. (Forehead slap!)

perfect boyfriend after perfect boyfriend but wanted the guy who inspired her with his work, as well as his looks , blah, blah, blah.  She found her Mr. Perfect and did compromise in huge aspects.  Nor to my eye was he the best looking, most charming boyfriend she’d ever had.  Shrug.  She’s truly, madly, deeply in love with him and says she was never before in love like that.  The take away is not to compromise–when it comes to your heart.

The sad truth is that Loving Someone Who Loves You Back in some perverse way seems wrong to some women.  They have a hard time riding the bumps in a romance- the dips and swells of feeling, the uncomfortable times when they’re not in control.

Old Spock was classically unattainable.
Old Spock was classically unattainable.

So they love the one who won’t love them back – and some romances, movies, and TV provide wish fulfillment that yes, give him time and he eventually will love you back just the way you want.

5)    You and your f—-d up childhood cause you to want someone elusive and withholding.  Like your father? Like your entire family?

I want to say this is not me—that I’ve overcome my ridiculously messed up youth and in my actions I have.  Yet emotionally, I still resonate with this theme.

Some women do secretly loathe themselves or way deep down feel unworthy – it’s much more comfortable to be a worshipper of an ice god for them than it is to be loved fully and equally by a partner.

Bond & Moneypenny
Bond & Moneypenny

Being the focus of the love as I know can feel ish at first.  Unconditional, supportive, healthy love is a strange feeling when you come from a sad youth.  It can also stir up deeper, more dangerous feelings of abandonment, neglect, and sorrow that were never fully processed.  Many women avoid that land mine because they’re afraid.

I shake my fist at you Dear Author--this book rocked!
I shake my fist at you Dear Author–this book rocked!

Kristin Higgins hits the nail on the head with this theme in MY ONE AND ONLY.   While this romance got excoriated by Dear Author here, I had to roll my eyes at the review.  The hero is a hot guy.  He’s not Mr. Perfect—but he’s Mr. Pretty Perfect and is very very worthy of admiration.  The heroine can’t handle it – and what the reviewer at Dear Author didn’t seem to realize is that the reason the heroine couldn’t handle Mr. Pretty Perfect is that his love made her resonate with the emotional memory of how she was abandoned by the mother she adored.  Those scars ached when it came to letting herself be loved again and handle how out of control that feels.   It’s not until she’s much older that she can face those feelings and put them to rest.  (I’ll admit it, I sniffled.)

6)    Desire is the art of withholding.  I don’t know where I read that – but boy is it often true.  This is the most dangerous hero of all.  The one who gives you just a little at just the right time can plant his hooks in deep.  He’ll make your toes curl with sex, but a meeting of the minds? Not so much.

On the other hand there’s the least dangerous guy–

7)    Mr. Hands Off.  If he’s withholding physically chances are he’s not a man-whore, a lip-slut.  He’s the opposite of the guy who can’t be with the one he loves so loves whomever he’s with.

Don Draper: an expert at withholding.
Don Draper: an expert at withholding.

This guy presents a challenge like  #1 – only it’s a physical challenge we’re talking about here.

I like to think about this unique kind of guy.  I mean, what’s it all about? Well, he’s displaying a sort of guy-purity.

Think about it. The locked up private guy in our minds equates with someone who’s not out plowing the fields every night with his dick.

It’s just not super-fun for some women to contemplate the super-experienced man slut.  The guy who’s  who’s swapped spit and assorted fluids with countless others comes off even

Go through 80 years of virginity? Sufferin' succotash!
Go through 80 years of virginity? Sufferin’ succotash!

worse in this age of STD’s.

So this no-touching, locked up guy is our masculine version of chaste.

Yet he’s an old school version. The 2.0 version for young ladies out there now is…

8) The Virgin Guy. (Even if he’s also a hundred year old vampire)

There’s Virgin/religious/virtuous guy and then there’s…

9) Sensitive/Choosy Guy He’s had experience–but he treasures love n monogamy.  This guy loathes sexually predatory women who want to bump and run.  He will take the masculine punch to the gut these rejected women land when he Just Says No.  I find both completely adorbs.

And you, dear reader? Got any secret hankerings for that unattainable hero? Do tell.

Mr. Unattainable isn't  emotionally available to you--but he is to his best friend.
Mr. Unattainable isn’t emotionally available to you–but he is to his best friend.

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  • Post authorscribblersinkblog

    Great Post and dead on as to why we ladies always go for the “Bad Boy” in real time, not to mention it makes for a much more interesting read!

    Reply to scribblersinkblog
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      Thanks! I confess I get obsessed with that kind of read, for sure.

      Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorAuthor Charmaine Gordon

    Delightful and insightful post. As for me,dear writer, I married my best friend and high school sweetheart and nary a harsh word spoken until he died suddenly after 37 years. Is it any wonder now as an author, conflict comes hard but I work it through and nine books later, I ‘m into it. Big time. Thanks for a good laugh and lots to think about. No bad boys. . .only bad guys.

    Reply to Author Charmaine Gordon
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      Conflict comes hard to me too, dear lady. You’re right — there are no bad boys–they’re only misunderstood.

      Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorSofie Couch

    Looove it. I also like the emotionally cool, because he’s so sensitive/a geek/a social disaster! (Sweetland’s Olaf Turvek – sp?, Kinamand’s Keld Decker, and any of the guys on Big Bang…) Benedict Cumberbatch’s version of Sherlock – meh. No so much, but he’s perfect for Molly the character on the show. :o)

    Reply to Sofie Couch
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      Who wouldn’t go for a guy named Olaf? There’s an Icelandic installation artist named Olaf Elliasson that I swooooon for!

      Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorLizEverly

    I also think that men who are a little more reserved, or prickly, or stubborn, or whatever, are more interesting. I for one don’t want a man who follows me around looking for ways to please me as his only life’s passion. How boring. A little of that is fine, of course. 😉

    Reply to LizEverly
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      Mr. Enigmatic is not Mr. Smooth, for sure. I too, want someone interesting, someone with layers and then more layers…and then more layers. ;>

      Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorellaquinnauthor

    I married my bad boy almost 30 years ago, (I was not 5). Great post. I think it’s much easier for readers to like bad boys than it is for them to like bad girls.

    Reply to ellaquinnauthor
    • Post authorLizEverly

      Isn’t that the truth? And oooo I love bad girls!

      Reply to LizEverly
  • Post authorElizabeth Shore

    And of course, no emotionally withholding heroes post should omit one of my favorites – Heathcliff. Oh, he’s got emotion a’plenty, and I think that he and many other of our icy heroes are the same. The emotion is there, you just have to chip through the ice to get to the soft gooey center. Great post!

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      Thanks! — I didn’t have room to cram in Heathcliff, also Prof. Henry Higgins and some others…

      Meanwhile, I think nothing helps a bad girl focus like suddenly setting her sights on an elusive man. Maybe this will be the era of the Bad Girl going after and conquering the good/innocent/aloof/elusive good guy?

      Reply to Madeline Iva
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