An Ordinary Man

Or, Men 101

Month: December, 2013

12½¢ a Year For a Better Relationship?

Isn’t that your New Year’s Resolution?  To have a better relationship with him?  I doubt you can beat the price of 12½¢ per year (that’s $0.125 for those of you coming of age after the demise of the cents sign) price I’m offering.  Let me explain, however, because this IS a marketing ploy.

An Ordinary Man is a novel.  Fiction.  Fictitious characters.  Fictitious circumstances.  Fictitious events.  None of it happened, except, maybe, coincidentally.  But it was written with the benefit of journal entries dating back to 1978 and photographs to 1974.  That’s 40 years of meticulous observation.  On women, sex, monogamy, and marriage.  All of that has been brought to bear in the story.  And for the first ten days of the new year, it is on sale for just $4.99, which amounts to 12½¢ per year (5 bucks divided by 40 years equals 12½¢ per year)

For that meager sum, you get an in-depth view of the ordinary man’s mindset, a little science, and a fair amount of steamy sex.  You might not look at your guy much differently after reading it, but you are likely to understand him better.

The sale will run from January 1, 2014 until January 10, 2014.


How It Started

“Her breasts, frankly, were what first attracted him to her and during their first conversation he had to fight to keep from dropping his gaze in a deliberate effort to distinguish himself from however many other males had also been attracted by them. They weren’t large, they were just perfectly shaped. Liz had noticed his effort to look her in the eye and approved ….”

author's photograph - 1974

author’s photograph – 1974

This part is autobiographical; she was wearing an orange sweater the evening we met.


“… There is one more thing. Nick loves you. But he is a man. And men are clumsy, as well as stupid, and insensitive. Sad to say, but it is inevitable that he will hurt and disappoint you, probably sooner than later. But don’t ever think he did so deliberately. The only reason he would hurt you deliberately would be if he somehow fell out of love with you, and even then, he’s likely to at least try to refrain from hurting you. To accuse him of hurting you deliberately makes no more sense than to accuse a dog of hurting you deliberately. Go ahead and be mad at what happened, but do not think it was on purpose. For him to hear that you think he did something hurtful on purpose is for him to hear that you think he doesn’t love you anymore and that is difficult to come back from, especially since he might have done a dozen things that very day that he feels proves he does. Maybe stupid stuff like picking up the dog shit in the yard.”

In our criminal justice system, “guilty” equates to “malicious,” because most crimes require mens rea (Latin for “a guilty mind”), with the theory being that unless you meant the harm, intended it to happen, or just did not give a flying fig if it did or not, did it with a guilty mind, you were not a criminal for doing it.  You might be liable, i.e., responsible, for it, and have to make some kind of compensation, but you shouldn’t go to jail because of it because you are not an evil person for having done it.  Maybe stupid, dumb, insensitive, self-centered, etc.  But not malicious.  A lot of men fit that description; many more than are malicious.  Do you really, really think he intended it that way?

If so, boot him out.  But if not, don’t.  Unless you just don’t like him anymore.  False accusations cause a lot of harm.  Do you really think this pup did this with malice?  Poor you if you do.

Sex is Sex. Get Over It.

“I could go gay.”

“What!” Andrew’s shock rang out like a gunshot.

“Not gay, exactly – more like down low. You know, like the black guys do.”

“No, I don’t know what the black guys do – and I sort of wonder how you do.” Andrew could not quite hide his uneasiness.

Sex is over-categorized, often in ways that make little sense.  As many as 20% of heterosexual couples persist in relationships that no longer include sex – are you still heterosexual if you’re not having sex?  Do you remain “hetero” because if you were to have sex, you’d want it with a member of the opposite gender?  If two guys live together without having sex, are they homosexual? Does it make them “gay”?  Or roommates?  If they do have sex, but only because they cannot find cooperative women, are they gay then?  What about a woman who, disappointed by a male lover, seeks solace with another woman – lesbian?  At what point; the hug, the kiss, the caress?  Suppose I like to do things with one gender that could be also be done with the other?  What about the poor souls who don’t have someone of either gender to get off with and fuel their fantasies with whatever appeals to them at the moment?  Gay?  Straight?  Sex is just sex.  Some things you’ll definitely do, some you might do under the circumstances, and some you wouldn’t ever.  The labels don’t always work.

But in 2003, a new label came about.  The Down Low.  Men having sex with men, usually anonymously, without identifying themselves as gay or bi-sexual.  Married men, men with girl friends.  Sociologically, it would seem pretty easy; you go to a place where the expectations were clear, where your very presence communicates at least a limited amount of sexual availability.  Go there, get off, go home.  How convenient is that?  Black men didn’t invent the idea and certainly aren’t the only ones practicing it, but they do seem to have been the ones to coin a usable term for it.

Richard probably read about it here, about FLEX, a Cleveland bathhouse: “Double Lives on the Down Low” (NY Times Magazine 8/3/03)

Single Malts and Cigars

“Richard Wilson, Ph.D., posed the question as he was enjoying the rich amber liquid in the crystal tumbler his friend, Andrew Hillsdale, M.D., had given him. They were in Dr. Hillsdale’s office, where they had been meeting irregularly after hours on Fridays for years. The conversation was usually over the doctor’s latest single malt discovery and almost always included sex.”


“Andrew motioned they should move to a pair of padded chairs at the far end of the deck and produced two cigars. For a long while they merely watched the smoke curling in the still air, their feet up on a low table as they sat next to each other on the outdoor couch. Neither of them knew how to restart the conversation.”



Write what you know is common advice for a new writer.  When it comes to whiskey and cigars, I don’t know much beyond that they denote, almost universally, Men Being Serious.  Wealthy men, like Andrew, sing the praises of single malts; men of more modest means are just glad it’s whiskey.  And I remember a party during an unseasonably warm December where a bunch of us guys stood around outside smoking cigars our wives would subsequently not appreciate.  But we were Serious, and we were Men.

Merry Christmas!

Royal Etiquette

“The wainscoted and wallpapered walls were covered with diplomas and certificates lacquered to gilt-edged walnut plaques in a style that was no longer popular but irreversible. Interspersed among them were photographs of Andrew with people famous enough for Richard to know they were famous, but not famous enough for him to know who they were. The collection of honors included a beribboned letter of appreciation from the palace of a minor prince who had sustained a cardiac event of some kind while visiting the area, whom Andrew, the leading cardiologist in Fairhaven, had successfully attended to. Richard wondered if such an elegant letter would have been received if his friend’s efforts had not been successful, royal etiquette in that case being unclear to him.”


Long ago, I had the privilege of working for an eminent surgeon who had been called in to consult on the case of Pope John Paul II after the attempt on his life in 1981.  Hanging on the wall of his office was a framed letter of appreciation from the Holy See that made an enormous impression upon me at the time.  I’ve used the royal seal of Monaco to illustrate the grandeur of such a communication here because the papacy could hardly be expected to endorse the story line (not that the House of Grimaldi does, for that matter).


“She had obviously been doing some heavy-duty housework and looked a little cross. Her hair was tied back, but some tendrils had either missed being collected or escaped since then. Her shirt, a favorite chambray work shirt, was missing a few buttons and he knew it would display cleavage if she were to bend forward. She had gold stud earrings on as her only jewelry; even her rings were off….”

It’s hard to get a fix on where the word Chambray comes from with respect to being a type of shirt.  There’s apparently a commune in France, Cambrai, that is famed for cambric cloth but I thought that was finer.  And where do all the different spellings come from?  In any event, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a chambray shirt, worn well:

Erogenous Zones …

… aren’t always obvious.  One of the men in the story is partial to the axilla, or the underarm complex.  A quick look at the anatomy shows it to be a complex of curves and bulges:

from Gray's Anatomy

from Gray’s Anatomy

What’s not to like?  Very sexy.

Thigh Muscles

“She was so easy to talk to that he decided he could sit down on the grass to continue the conversation. She faced one way, watching her daughter, and he faced the other, looking past her at his son’s team and up the inseam of her shorts. He couldn’t see anything but thigh, and hers were trim and muscular.”

The musculature of the thigh gives it its character and allure.  The two prettiest muscles are easily the sartorious and the gracilis, both of which are quite visible in a  well-formed leg, especially under the proper circumstances.