Friday, October 28, 2011

Ask-a-Dude!



Hi, everyone! It's me, Copil (Juan Solo to my friends). We're starting a regular feature here called Ask-a-Dude! This is how it works: you'll be the ask part of the equation, I'll be the dude part. Run the equation and solve for X. Am I over-explaining this? I have to, I'm a dude.

There are a lot of dudes out there, by some estimates as many as 3.5 billion! In some places that would constitute an infestation and they'd send people in hazmat suits to eradicate it. Given so many Y chromosomes in the world, you might ask why I am the right person to answer your man-centric questions.

Very simple. I have walked among their kind. I have eaten their food (beer) and prayed to their gods (football and beer). I have held sacred their traditions (always laugh when someone trips) and believed their myths (chicks dig my ketchup-stained “Free Mustache Rides” t-shirt). And now, under penalty of death, I will reveal all for the cover price of one, shiny question from you.

Here's a list of things you might learn from this monthly feature:
  • How do I get my guy friend to read something I think he'd love?
  • What do guys really talk about in the locker room?
  • If two guys, one in L.A. and one in Chicago, approach each other at a constant rate of speed, how far out of their way will each go to avoid even looking like they touched hands in a crowded hallway?
This stuff is gold, people. Absolute gold.

So go ahead. Ask anything. It can be YA-related or not. And I'll answer.

Send your questions to copil [dot] yanez [at] gmail [dot] com.

Let's get started!

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Q: What do guys really think of girls with uber-short pixie cuts?

A: Girls have hair? Okay, in the interest of research, I went online and, sure enough, women not only have hair, there seems to be a whole military-industrial complex of products and services dedicated to making you believe that guys will notice the subtle gradations between your honey-blond summer highlights and your dirty-blond fall highlights.

Personally I love the pixie cut (also known as the “Rhi-Rhi,” the “Halle,” and the “WTF?! I asked for a trim!”). Unfortunately, it is not very popular with most guys. Evolutionary biologists say it's because, to the limbic region of the male brain, you look like a thirteen-year-old boy. This results in a subconscious desire to invite you over for some Call of Duty.

The pixie cut does, however, have at least one thing going for it. It shares some similarities with the only hairstyle we understand: the ponytail. We like ponytails because they speak to us. They say “See, I can be casual, I just threw my hair in a ponytail and now I'm ready to watch that bloody UFC pay-per-view with you and your bros.” By the way, your hair lied to us.

Look, all women are beautiful and the pixie cut won't take that away. But guys are like bears. Startle them and their primitive instincts take over.

Here's my advice. If you're rocking the supah-cute pixie cut and traveling in a region where you expect to encounter males, stay to well-marked paths, speak loudly to alert them to your presence and prove to them you're not a thirteen-year-old-boy by rolling your eyes when they offer you tickets to the gun show as they kiss their biceps. A man's primitive brain thus deceived, he will not be aroused to flight, no matter what hairstyle you wear.

But just in case, pack bear spray.

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Q: What kind of book covers appeal to guy readers?

A: This one may be easier to answer in terms of covers that don't appeal to guys:
Cover #1: Four girls, knee deep in attitude, stand with their arms crossed and stare out at the reader. This one's bad because every guy assumes he is the center of any female's attention (the fact that these women only exist as illustrations on a book cover matters exactly not at all). But while one woman's attention is always welcome, four women's attention is, in man-logic, an anti-guy crusade. So naturally guys assume they are being judged (again, the fact that this assumption is ascribed to a group of non-living illustrations is irrelevant - seriously, you can't apply logic to man-think). Once a guy starts feeling he's being judged, he's going to do one of two things. First option is to start a gonad punching contest with his buds. Why? Because there's no international rules-setting body for gonad punching contests so no one can tell him he's doing it wrong. No standards equals no judgment. The second option is. . .actually, no, on further review, the gonad punching thing is the last, best option for most guys. So, yeah, this is not a super-popular cover with us.
Cover #2: This cover depicts some inscrutable symbolism that requires me to read the book just to understand it. C'mon, the whole point of the cover is to tell me everything I need to know about the book without ever cracking it open. Book covers that appeal to guys allow them to write C+ quality book reports using nothing more than the cover art and the book's top Amazon review. If your book has two pale-white hands holding a blood-red apple on the cover, most guys are going to fantasize about punching your cover in the kidney. Just to be clear, we understand on a logical level that books don't have kidneys. That won't stop us from spending twenty minutes looking for one.
Cover #3: An emo dude or dudette stands with hands in pockets, his/her angst-ridden face half-hidden by a sweatshirt hood. It's not that men don't like emo culture, (an emo bro of mine actually invented the phrase “Ugh, this is so booooring!”) But emo equals exactly one thing in a guy's mind: feelings. Feelings about boredom, about pain, about OTHER feelings. Feelings are male kryptonite. I'm pretty sure I read about a man who experienced the pain equivalent of open-heart surgery and made it through without anesthesia simply by watching pre-recorded videos of his mother asking him, again and again, what was wrong with him today, he just seemed so distant. In the presence of feelings, men will experience total body numbness within twenty seconds and brain death in eight minutes. Eight minutes! And you still want to talk about why I don't want to meet your parents for dinner on Thursday? Get off my back, angel of death!
Cover #4: This one has fields, streams, mountains or farm equipment. Problem is, none of them are being burned, forded, climbed or turned into zombie chopping vehicles of death.
So what would constitute a perfect cover? A hot woman (looking away from the reader), a title that includes words like star, war, zombie or sex (preferably all of them in one go) and a short sentence at the bottom telling me exactly how it ends.

I'll pay extra for dinosaurs or robots in the background. But not both. That's just stupid.

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Q: What do guys really think of romance in books? Do they secretly dig it?

A: First, some background. Girls can read romance and feel emotional excitement on behalf of the protagonist. But when guys read romance, they almost exclusively see it as a proxy for their own love lives. Put another way, women see themselves in the character (“you go, girl!”) while men see the character in themselves (“dude's a mack daddy just like me!”).

This romantic lens, which falls under MRDS (Man Reality Distortion Syndrome) but should not be confused with beer goggles, causes our joy receptors to spike when the romance we read most closely mirrors our own desires. This means that our interest in romance peaks when it appears in novels at two extreme quantities: almost nada and muy mucho.

Because you totally asked for one, here's a curvilinear graph explaining the phenomena:

It is no coincidence that a male romance graph approximates a goofy smile.

Why the u-shaped plot? When a story has a light romantic hand, a dude enjoys it because all guys have crushes that never go past that initial phase where lack of knowledge can be very sexy. A guy's familiarity with that type of relationship means a little romance will peak his interest.

But as the romance in the story becomes more prominent, guys begin to lose interest because feelings, crucial to understanding complex emotional states, make Hulk heAd AcHE, mAKe HuLk aNGRy, HUlK wAnT SMASH FeeLinGs! More feelings equals less familiarity equals less interest (thus giving the romance graph its saggy butt).

At the other extreme, where romance starts to take over the story (I'm thinking of romantica, here), guys start to tune in again for the same reason they enjoy porn: it requires little imagination. In this region, the feelings are more animalistic, baser, instinctual. And familiar.

Short answer, yes, we like us some romance. Longer answer, if your goal is to attract more guys to your romantic YA, either keep things light and don't emphasize the romance too much or put in everything including the kitchen sink. Yes, as a location. Now you're getting it!

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Hope this month's answers helped you understand the male psyche! If so, congratulations. You're rich!

That's it for this month! See you next time!

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Send your questions to copil [dot] yanez [at] gmail [dot] com. That's the same place to send comments, complaints and pictures of fried stuff, cuz I totally dig on fried stuff. The fryier, the better.

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