Monday, April 11, 2011
Join me today in welcoming author Barbara Silkstone, who has graciously agreed to share an excerpt from her very funny expose, The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men and One Woman.
Armed only with a tape recorder and a quirky sense of humor, author Barbara Silkstone set out in search of how men really feel about love, sex, and commitment. The lack of letters after her name allowed the men to relax and speak freely, that and a promise of anonymity. The interviewees ranged in age from eighteen to eighty and from all walks of life. They all opened up to her.
1000 interviews in one year turned into 527 in six years.
Far from the strong, silent stereotype that we're trained to expect, this wildly different cross-setion of men invariably started spilling their souls before she even had time to hit the record button. "I knew it was a good interview if I heard - 'I told you things I've never told a single person, not even my wife. Thank you. This has been very good for me.' I don't smoke, but many times I felt like ligthing up afterward."
"It seems simple. Interview 1,000 men about love, sex, and commitment. Collate, summarize, and it ought to be a winner. Women will read it for insight into what makes men tick. Men will compare themselves with those in the book - that's how men are wired, right? Author Barbara Silkstone found it wasn't as easy as it seemed, finally hitting her limit at 527 men. When I finished reading I sympathized with her. If you're a man who doesn't find you compare favorably with many of these interviewees you have serious problems. Many others give you something to shoot for. You'll recognize your own relationships and feelings you've experienced in others. You'll also get at least one woman's perspective on all the men in the book which can't hurt. Silkstone's sense of humor stays intact and lightens up what at times is emotionally draining for both her and possibly the reader. In the end I came away glad I read the book. I even feel like I need to read it again in a few months, yet I was also left with an uneasy feeling. If simple creatures like men are this hard to figure out how can any man ever understand women?" - Big Al
“Most men struggle terribly with the whole idea of sharing.”
~ Ben, 54, married
Case 288 / Ben
My right heel sticks in the snow bank. I yank my foot free and sprint for the safety of the heated reception room. Inside, a blinding glare of bright colored carpeting, white walls and framed photos of men in jerseys accepting trophies from men in suits hits me. Sunblind, I squint to take in a litter of chairs. A ring of metal racks circling the room, proffer pamphlets on Christian lifestyles.
I’ve come to the corporate offices of one of the hottest sports teams in the country to interview their general manager.
“Hi!” Ben greets me with practiced enthusiasm.
At fifty-four, Ben has the kind of energy that sets me on edge. This sports guru wears a navy blazer with gold buttons, tan slacks and a light blue pin stripe shirt. I can’t make out the detail of his shoes, he walks too fast. He herds me double-time into his office. The room is light and bright with very few personal photos and a clean desk top. Oh boy, a clean desk. A bad sign.
Ben opens up the interview by talking about his career. I keep easing the subject back to love and marriage. On my third try, it takes.
He settles into his chair, leaning on his elbows. “From the time my wife was a little girl she had these wonderful visions on how marriage would be.” His gaze moves from my face to my neck and downward. Despite the glass wall extending the length of the room, I feel a little uneasy.
“I sandwiched our wedding in between the games. I was trying to make three trades the night before the ceremony and then get the team on the road.”
He thinks I’m impressed and smiles a photo-op smile. “Once the rings were exchanged and the marriage had taken place, I was relieved. That little piece of the jigsaw puzzle was in place.”
I feel sorry for the pretty woman whose picture sits on the credenza behind his desk.
“For the first ten years of our life, I thought everything was wonderful. Then my wife started to send out these little signals. I would try to deal with it, maybe an evening out or maybe some flowers or a box of candy . . . anything to try and keep the noise down.”
He swings into defensive mode.
“It’s very tough to run a team if there’s a lot of squeaking in the background.” He studies my face to see if I’m with him. “I learned to lubricate the wheels, calm it down and go on.”
This must be the opposite of love. “You’ve been married for twenty one years?”
He nods and shrugs it off – a bent puzzle piece.
“One Sunday afternoon, Patty told me that she didn’t care anymore. She tried everything she could think of and that she was quitting. She didn’t say that she was leaving, but she did say that she didn’t have anything left to give. She said she had died emotionally.”
I begin to shiver.
“You have how many children?”
“Nine.” He answers, proudly. “I had hoped children would give Patty the emotional food she craved. After we had our three, we adopted six more kids.”
What would the world think of this man, this team manager if they really knew? Ben wined Patty and dined her and wooed her like a player he was trading up for. He placed her on his team and then ignored her. When she felt emotionally hungry, he would fetch another child to fill her void.
After a long pause, he continues. “A woman has a hard time understanding. She wants her man totally engulfed in her. And the guy may be, but he has a hard time demonstrating that. A man comes home and she’s there like a little puppy dog. He can’t respond to her and she feels totally crushed.”
This is the first interviewee I have wanted to punch. It would feel so good. With no apparent love in his heart for either his wife or his children he burdens her while making himself look like a benefactor. I consider the possibility that I’m cracking up.
He focuses south of my face again. Is it my imagination?
The phone bleeps and Ben excuses himself. I spend a minute making eye contact with the picture of his wife. What a crappy deal she cut.
Ben returns from his phone call with all the verve of a game show M.C.
“I’m convinced that most guys create little islands for themselves and get encamped on those islands. Men dig a moat around their island and fill it with water. There they sit. It’s a device designed for self-protection. If they can stay within the safety of those walls they avoid risk taking and getting hurt or exposing themselves.”
I open a mental image of my second ‘ex’ in his walled-up island. I would ask him how his day went and he would freeze with anger. The water must have been cold.
Ben shuffles the few papers on his desk and realigns the pens in a straight line like little team players.
“A wife will do anything to get over her husband’s walls and get down where her man is. The thing is… he doesn’t want her there.”
There is no point in asking if he would die for the woman he loved – he’s never loved a woman . . . of this I am sure. Two years and four months of interviews have taught me to read men. A man like Ben is incapable of loving anyone but himself. I stand to leave.
“Give me your cell phone number, just in case I think of anything else,” he asks.
“Sure.” I jot my number on a piece of paper and hand it back to him.
Ben continues talking, “I went into marriage thinking I would do what comes naturally. Well if you do what comes naturally, you’re basically going to do the self-centered thing.”
Nauseous from his presence, I find my way back to the rental car and suck on a mint in a futile effort to kill the bad taste.
True to his nature, Ben does the self-centered thing. He leaves four messages on my cell phone within twenty-four hours.
I don’t respond to his calls.
He sends a small basket of flowers to my hotel. Funny, I don’t remember telling him where I was staying.
More messages over the course of the next three days. He must talk to me in person. I hesitate. My instincts are raw little pricks. He persists. He says he has a list of men wishing to be interviewed by me. The list is confidential. “It must be delivered in person,” he says.
This whole episode reminds me of when I was six years old, and I met a strange man in the hallway of our apartment building. He was selling bibles and his penis was hanging out of his zipper. I was sure he had forgotten to put it back in. I should have told him, but I didn’t want to embarrass him.
Somehow, I was sure it was my fault he was exposing himself.
Each time Ben leaves his messages, I feel a strange sense of the familiar. In some way, his pursuit of me has to be my fault, or maybe it is just my overactive imagination. I decide to play out this hand.
I meet Ben in a public restaurant . . . just for coffee. Three people come over to thank him for the great job he is doing with the team. He beams and signs autographs.
“I’m so glad you came,” he smiles. I can’t get you out of my mind. You must know enough about men to know what I really want. I’d like to get to know you better. My life is so empty.”
I stand and lean over as close to him as I can stomach. “Your penis is hanging out,” I whisper. By the time he looks up again, I am gone.
When you’re a freelance writer with a quirky sense of humor, being in the right place at the right time helps a lot. If I just stand still for five minutes… wham! Something funny and worth writing about will happen to me. I’ve accidentally sky dived, been stalked by crazies, and ran off with a real life White Rabbit.
I’m the author of The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three Quarters the first in a series of criminally funny fables. The second book in the series is Wendy & the Lost Boys is scheduled for release this summer.
The Adventures of a Love Investigator, 527 Naked Men & One Woman is the non-fiction account of my one-on-one odyssey into the minds of over 500 men. Please drop by my blog: Barb’s Wire - eBooks & More
Posted by Karen Cantwell at 7:18 AM