Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Exams do this to me. Any inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.

There comes a breathtaking, all-defying moment at some point or the other in every schoolgirl’s life – the point where she’s passed a much-worn tome covered in sorry-looking newspaper, quietly and surreptitiously under the desk so that the teacher won’t notice. The Moment comprises the quick taking-in of breath and the slow opening of the book, the glossing over of unimportant first chapters and the arrival at the much-thumbed page. And then the giggling. Always the giggling.

Most schoolgirls are around thirteen when this happens, I think, and the book is usually a Mills and Boon. Or at least it was when I was thirteen (I have long since passed that age and am now an ancient fossil, yes. You can stop smirking. This is a girlie post and I intend to finish it). And this was before we discovered all the other more explicit books that left nothing to the imagination but were somehow more disappointing, and grew expert at finding the page we were looking for with one expert flick. I remember the day my first Mills and Boon was passed to me, and I remember what I was doing at that very moment.

I was reading Gerald Durrell, and swatted the hallowed Tome of Girlhood away.

I never caught onto Mills and Boon, and I still consider it a shame more than an achievement – it robbed me of many hours of comradely discussion about the Perfect Man and everything related. I remember one of my friends asking me about my perfect man, and I remember the blank look on her face when I said “Mr. Rochester”. She hadn’t read Jane Eyre, and it was all the better that she didn’t find out I wanted a man who was beetle-browed, boorish, bigamous, burnt, blind and one-armed. Quite the hero.

And then came my Mills and Boons. They were written by a woman who lived in the 1950s and were about the 1800s. The people in the books spoke elaborately and wore magnificent clothes but contrived to get themselves into the most ridiculous situations. And oh, they were funny. Georgette Heyer, after LM Montgomery, was my salvation as far as all things romantic went. I am not trying to explain why I became obsessed with them, I have always liked history and maybe the idea of funny regency romances with very unlikely heroines caught on like a fever, but Georgette Heyer gave me something else. The Georgette Heyer Man.

The Georgette Heyer Man (GHM for short) is a tall, loose-limbed, cynic with unruly hair and quite unremarkable features except for a smile that transforms his face. And yes, the eyes. Usually a queer light grey, very bored, but with a sparkle that comes out with the smile. He is well-travelled and well-read, and about ten years older than the heroine. He is, by turns, a rake, a social outcast, a diffident aristocrat, a jaded Corinthian, a reluctant saviour – it doesn’t matter. The problem with the GHM is that he’s poison for a girl who routinely falls in love with literary characters, and if he enters her life at the right moment he can very easily make sure that the girl’s teenage years are wasted in daydreams about older men with careless demeanours and sardonic voices.

No, I am not making excuses for finding older men hot. I am not denying the hours wasted discussing love with other friends with Heyeritis. I am not making excuses for the fact that I have never liked anyone my age, but always someone older (and, er, younger). I am not justifying joining Facebook groups called “The Association for Girls in Love With Ageing Celebrities” and “Boys in books are just BETTER”. What I am trying to do is write my last blog post till the 29th of March, and devise a way to get as many comments here as possible, obviously. That is what blogs are for, and that is how evil and unscrupulous I am. I’ve been letting off sinister muahahhahaha laughs in my head all morning for no reason, so this will suffice.

Right then, I'm starting a meme (muahahhaha). Anyone who has ever fallen in love with her version of the GHM, I tag you. Write a post, it doesn't have to be very big, about that person – literary character, comic book hero, some guy in a movie, a random person you'll never meet – we’ll start a list that will probably never end. I get to go first.

Number One - Roald Dahl. Okay, so he’s not a literary character, but I just finished re-reading Boy and Going Solo, and I’m still boggled at the life he led. Spent his childhood holidays in his native Norway (Fjords! Islands! Northern Lights!), breezed through school, got a job with Shell at eighteen, left England on a ship and went into Africa looking for adventure, had his adventures, took some prize-winning photographs on the way, became an RAF pilot, crashed his plane in the desert, was injured, forced to retire, and then – then – he gave us The BFG and The Twits and Willy Wonka and Matilda, and actually dreamed up the Chocolate Factory. And then he wrote some of the best short stories I have read, from Skin to Henry Sugar to Lamb to the Slaughter. Currently, Roald Dahl is on my GHM list. In fact, if hip-hop didn’t baffle me so much, I’d call him Da Man.

29 kindred spirits have swallowed my rambling:

ad libber said...

Perfect, one of the most perfect blog posts I have ever read. All the trials and tribulations of teenage girlhood and the fact that love is always contained in pages of a much thumbed book, the first mills and boons, it has such a wonderful whiff of girl's schools and kindredism.

I intend to take up the tag pronto, right before I turn 20 and do not count as a young, teenage girl any more.

Elendil said...

When I was about that age, I would get James Bond novels from the library and hunt for love-scenes :P

Ps: You seriously not intending to write till the end of March? I was hoping you'd add to Project 97, and soon. I'm dying to continue.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ ad libber: hurry then, i'm dying to see who you write about :D

@ elendil: i'll put up my project 97 post by this saturday, but my boards are starting and i don't know. i'll probably end up posting anyway, my no-post warnings are usually bogus =]

hovering between ennui and ecstasy said...

Until yesterday, I had no idea what blogging is all about. There are many seemingly interesting things one can do on the internet, and I discarded blogging as one of them. And today, I spent my entire afternoon reading every one of your blog posts :) I haven't spent such a remarkable afternoon in a long time. Your posts surpass excellence.

I have a list of literary characters who are my versions of GHM :)
Howard Roark from Ayn Rand's Fountainhead would undoubtedly be the first on my list. Next, Hank Rearden of Atlas Shrugged. Wodehouse's Psmith. Margaret Mitchell's Rhett Butler (when I'm being a normal teenager). And Richard Feynman (He isn't a literary character, but he's overwhelmingly attractive)

ad libber said...

er yes, I am done. And I am shocked at myself.
Best of luck for your Boards.

Fishy! said...

Brilliant post.. You seem to outdo yourself with each consequent one..
And yes, boys in books ARE better.. *sigh*
I'm kind of partial to Captain Haddock. :)

quietlittleshything said...

hahah i am not a teenager and not half as well-read as you guys (at the referred-to age ithink i used to read a lot of pheluda and professor shonku and tintin and asterix, none of whom i crushed on muchly), but i'm jobless enough so i'll prolly end up doing this tag. but just a list methinks. describing will be a leetl too difficult.

Poojo C. said...

I love this Meme! I'm not teenaged or particularly romantically inclined, but I couldn't help myself on this one.

Roald Dahl is a cool GHM. Some of his short stories are truly creepy and his kiddy tales are adorable.

@ quietlittleshything
Me too on the crushes on Asterix and Tintin!

speedpost said...

I get to do kirin!!!!!!!!!!!

*Goes into crazy mata-hari dance mode*

ArSENik said...

There is a certain flow in this post, rivaled by few others that I have ever read (and that's mostly all I do at work all day). It's almost as if passion or something greater was driving the hand (or fingers if you will) of this blogger.

Interesting insights into a not-so-old, not-so-young woman's 'perfect' man. The preference for the one-armed guy is pleasantly kinky. I don't know if you like Johnny Depp at all, but something tells me you do. I suggest his latest "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Elm Street' with a lot of confidence, if you can handle musicals that is.

heh? ok said...

this is the most creative tag i've ever come across, except for one problem. where do i begin? but this sounds like so much fun. and thanks for reminding me of my days of swatting away mills and boon as well as my days of devouring them for pure, unadulterated comedy. will write soon! and will tag a zillion others!

Amazing Greys said...

u write well, & don't be sorry for not catching on to M&B, u saved urself a lot of time.
Roald Dahl is great, but if authors count, the one man i gave my heart to was Oscar Wilde, but then he was gay. :P

SPIRITed! said...

I remember when I was a fourteen year old kid and picked up a fat book with tiny writing called Gone With The Wind.Bam!I was smitten.Rhett Butler The Guy for me.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ hovering: thanks. and you reminded me, i must read ayn rand someday.

@ fishy: then blog him! do a captain haddock blog.

@ quietlittle: i was thinking of a list too, initially, but then i realised it would have been long enough to be seen from the moon.

@ poojo c.: i loved your post, and my crush was always obelix, i even thougt of putting him in before dahl :D

@ speedpost: ta hole naachanaachi porey. do the tag first.

@ arsenik: aargh, i want to, but my dvd walla hasn't got it yet :(

@ heh? ok: put in a disclaimer about what a casanova you are, and pick one.

@ amazing greys: oscar wilde broke my heart too =( here's to girls who wish he wasn't gay.

@ spirited: aha, he's one of Da Men too. blog him!

Clezevra said...

OH, yes, I unabashedly fall in love with people in books. And in fact, tend to live my whole life thorugh books, I feel.
But mills and boons? NOw that's blasphemy, sacrilegious to my concept of 'books'(ha, ha!) And Georgette Heyer- I think I read one and was all for laughing at the absurd plot, which included and arranged marriage with a lunatic.
Whatever.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ clezevra: you read the wrong one. cousin kate, was it not? possibly the worst.

new age scheherazade said...

Was the comic book hero part pointed at me? huh?
i've already written ones about comic book heroes(Superman and Batman) and brilliant scientists (Feynman)and people on TV(Seth Cohen) and random people(the guy who didn't steal sreerupa's bag) and a literary character (howard roark) so i am probably beyond writing GHM-obsessed posts.

But I shall still do it. There is no shortage of fantastic men in the world of un-reality. Reality, I'm sorry to note, is another matter.

new age scheherazade said...

and hovering between ennui and ecstasy and I seem to have a lot in common, i see now. especially the ennui.

panu said...

i loved devil's cub. and the young marquis.

the soliloquist said...

I love(d?) GHMs.
I mean the actual georgette heyer ones.I have never read mills and boons either.

of course, you realize that you have secured the undying gratitude of all your female reders(namely, me) for coming up with such an innovative(and well, yeah,something we all wanted to do) tag!
kudos.

Opaline said...

I used to read Mills & Boons when I was in class three, I'm rereading one right now, it's toogood.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ newage: *silence*

@ panu: so did i :D

@ the soliloquist: i'm honoured =]

@ opaline: you must tell me which one. i like the really old ones with the hum hain raah pyaar ke kinda storylines but i stopped when i came across one with a magnetic miniskirt in it.

the soliloquist said...

Also, me adding you to blogroll.
You don't mind,do you?

VelocityGirl (tm) said...

Ok, I know someone already said Johnny Depp, but since we're doing characters here, my favourite character would be Edward Scissorhands; he was SUCH a sweetheart!
Oh, oh, and Gary Lightbody and Eddie Vedder. Not literary, but noice. =]
I'm so happy Gary Lightbody is a real person.
*happy dance*

Death On Two Legs said...

Priyanka, I honestly think you're one of the best bloggers I've EVER seen.

I'm not sure whether to be inspired or tell myself that I'm a deluded little teenager who needs to stop writing.

Tell you what, I'll just enjoy your writing instead of bringing myself into the picture right now.

I agree with the fact that fictitious men make real men seem bland. But sometimes the writer is just as fascinating as his creation. Names that come to mind are Bernard Shaw, Maugham, Ted Hughes, and yes *sigh* Roald Dahl.

Death On Two Legs said...

I forgot to mention, I too have an affinity for older men, and *is embarassed*, younger ones.

We like older men for obvious reasons:they're MEN, not boys.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

@ death on two legs: aw, shucks, i don't know what to say. but if i find two older guys i'll keep one and es-pecially keep the other one for you =)

Death On Two Legs said...

Magnetic Miniskirt????

NO. No no no no no no.

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

yes yes yes yes yes.