March 6, 2014

He’s Not Alone–He’s Just Saving Himself for Me

By Madeline Iva

John 2It was a revelation — I was in college, and my housemate Claire was about four inches from the TV.  We’d been watching Northern Exposure, which was almost over. I’d just noticed something.  Everyone was paired off at the end of the episode–except the 80 year old woman who owned the grocery store and John Corbett.  Before the commercials roled, John was back in his DJ booth, wisely opining about recent events.  He was alone again, naturally.

I said as much while Claire put her hands on the screen and started kissing John’s face.  Between kisses she said all static-y, “He’s not alone–he’s just saving himself for me.”

Ahhhh.  So true.  Is there any greater catnip for women than a super-attractive guy all alone?

JohnPoor John Corbett couldn’t find the love for years after Northern Exposure–until he met Carrie Bradshaw on Sex & The City.  The perfect boyfriend (See my post about THAT) who did carpentry (see my post about THAT) John listened to Carrie, did his best to understand Carrie and even in the midst of his glorious guy-freedom from the city’s metrosexual vibe, managed to be both a simple yet hot country boy and very successful.  And then what? Well, his time in Alaska had clearly not prepared him for the concrete jungle– he was mistreated and abused by Carrie, that’s what.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, she  musta had her reasons, of course.  But she also must have made a nation of women growl for breaking John Corbett’s heart–not once mind you–but twice.  Grrrrr.

It’s okay, ladies, he was alone after that so you could find him, admire his awesomeness and fall in love.  Well, that’s what Carrie must have thought.  She bumps into him about a second later and he’s married with a kid.  Which just goes to show–not all single women over 30 in NYC are crazy.

HumphOnce Claire opened my eyes to this trope–the guy who walks away at the end, a lonely look in his eye, just waiting for you to come along and hug it out of him–I had a head-slap moment.  Of course! This is a classic trope.  Humphrey Bogart — both as Sam Spade, and in Casablanca — was one of the early lonely guys.

And then there are superheroes–they’re almost all single.  Peter Parker aside, they’re not stupid enough to attempt any uber-dangerous kind of relationship, setting up their love interest to be killed—or at least kidnapped and traumatized by the enemy.  Or are they? Ooops! Well, maybe they are.

Damsels in distress aside, the very core of a superhero is a monster- mix of noble idealism gone perverse and utter self-loathing.  That’s why they are cursed to single-hood. They live in is a twisted world of secrets practically demanding they remain alone–except for you of course.  They’re single so you can meet up together in the corners of your imagination and…well, I leave the rest to you.

The beard just emphasizes the lonely.
The beard just emphasizes the lonely.

Ben Affleck in Argo was a lonely guy.

Oh, and in real life — there’s actually George Clooney.  He’s not a serial monogamist, ladies.  He’s not one of those first-love-last-love divorced idealists, with some bro-mance issues involving his married guy buddies–not at all.  He’s just saving himself–for you.

I think this trope is getting to be more popular on TV as the years role by:

There’s House.

There’s Justified –don’t talk to me about Raylan’s ex–obviously he’s just MADE to be one of these lonely guys–I sweep aside all current and past girlfriends as well.  That’s the thing about a lonely guy.  You can just feel that the woman who seems to be involved with him is not destined to stay very long.

Alexa said recently that there’s that Walking Dead guy—what’s his name? Hands off him though–apparently he’s Alexa’s.

Fox Lost
Good lonely guy?…

Then there was Lost–oh, those shows creators were brilliant — two single guys for the price of one! Matthew Fox and Josh Holloway–the good guy and the bad guy were both lonely-ish.  Kate was there to bounce between them just to reassure everyone that, you know, they actually liked women.

Romance writers are such a devilishly clever lot, even chained to the HEA ending they sometimes manage to leave you a lonely guy to obsess over.

...Or bad boy lonely guy? Who'd you pick?
…Or bad boy lonely guy? Who’d you pick?

In menage there’s often one woman and two guys (and I bet you one of them is a lonely guy). Yet sometimes it’s one woman, two guys and then after a lotta drama, one guy ends up walking away alone.  Saving himself for the sequel I suspect, but in that gap between the first book and the follow-up, he’s all yours.

What is the core appeal of the lonely guy? Other than letting female (or male!) viewers feel all possessive without having to bother identifying for the female heroine? Well, I think many women have that urge to nurture and care.  Guys have it too, they just label it call it protectiveness.  Same difference.

What we women often need is to take some lonely guy, put his head firmly between our breasts and stop that lonely ache with the love of our good selves.

I tried this two for one deal in my first romance novel.  (Which is now out with an editor, I’ll keep you posted about happens there.) I had my hero–a lonely guy if there ever was one–who got together with the heroine of course, but there was the issue of her ex.  Hapless, yes, the ex was pretty lost by the end.  Very damn cute, he walks off single and alone, clearly ready to suffer his Lonely Guy moment.  With any luck (cross your fingers) you’ll get to find out what happens to him.

Meanwhile, you’ll never walk alone with Lady Smut! Follow us and get our ever-lovin’ posts seven days a week straight to your email box.

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  • Post authorElizabeth Shore

    What an interesting post, Madeline! I’ve never thought about that trope before but you’re right, it’s been there all along, staring us in the face. The alone guys’s been crooking his finger toward us, saying, “C’mon. I’ve been saving myself all for you.”

    As for The Walking Dead, you’re referring to Daryl. And Alexa’s going to have to fight me for him. 🙂

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      You are talking about Daryl, but I’m not after him. You’re thinking of Jennifer France, who stopped by my post to claim him. I myself would prefer to see him with Carol, but he’ll do what he does. 😉

      This is a great post! This is sort of the reason I stopped watching NCIS; they started trying to play Pair the Spares with Gibbs.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorKel

    I think the Lonely Guy trope exists because there is an implication of more to learn… and nothing is more interesting than our imaginations. With a known quantity, there is nothing to tease the audience with. With the loner, there’s a tease – why? Why the distance, what’s the reason for the character’s difference or what makes this character special? There’s a hint of secrets or something hidden. And humans love secrets.

    As a reader, I know I’ve been disappointed in the past when a formerly unknown but intriguing character is brought out of the shadows. They loose something, even if that something was just all in my head. (Of course, on the other side of things, a good author can make the reveal just… delicious. Remember to keep teasing with your hidden characters. It’s part of their charm.)

  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    You are SO right Kel! I’ve experienced that same let down and
    1) Sometimes what you don’t show is stronger than what you show — leaving the mystery to our imaginations to chew over makes us engage even more strongly
    2) That act of chewing over–what’s his thing? How could I get on the inside of such a creature–why that’s a challenge. And some women (I am one) just love nothing better than a challenge.
    Great comment!

    Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorAuthor Charmaine Gordon

    Delectable post. The man of mystery, the lonely guy. Bogey, not handsome but oh the expression so much lurking behind his solitary presence. You nailed it. Something else for me to think about when writing my next story. Or is the lonely woman interesting?

    Reply to Author Charmaine Gordon
  • Post authorbridgetblackwoodauthor

    A very well thought out and well written piece! I enjoyed it and all the man candy.

    Reply to bridgetblackwoodauthor
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      Why thank you, Bridget! Man candy is the best!

      Reply to Madeline Iva

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