Trick or Treat

It was a clever idea or so I thought. I'd blend the horror genre with chick lit for a Halloween story. I explained it to my good friend, Sandi. "But that's just paranormal. It already has its own genre," she said. Sandi doesn't always get my super unique concepts. I frequently have to explain them. "No. Chick lit Horror would be like when a zombie chews off the heel on your new Manolo Blahniks as you're running away from the Walking Dead." She wrinkled her nose. "I'd rather read the Twilight books. That would be horror mixed with gentle first love. A strong heroine with a hottie boyfriend. Yummy." "No. Chick lit Horror wouldn't be about a handsome, sensitive vampire who sweeps you off your feet and vows to protect but never bite you. Chick lit Horror would be more like your boyfriend asks for a small loan until pay day," I explained. "Oh, I get it. He drains your money instead of your blood. But where's the horror?"

Chick lit Horror would be like when a zombie chews off the heel on your new Manolo Blahniks as you're running away from the Walking Dead.

It's frustrating for a writer when you know what you want to say but your audience isn't getting the picture. "How about this? The day before a big party your sister borrows your little black dress, the one with the special memories. She spills hair peroxide across the front of it. Feeling guilty, she sneaks back in your closet to return the dress and manages to tangle all your clothes hangers. You're forced to dash out and buy another little black dress. You're in Neiman Marcus. Your Amex card is declined. The clerk cuts it up in front of you. And your worst enemy just happens to be leaning the adjacent counter, smirking." "Yikes... now that's scary," said Sandi. "Chick lit Horror could get worse. We've accepted as absolute that the appropriate mate for a chick lit gal has to be gorgeous, clever and successful. But in horror stories all he has to do is rescue you from zombies and werewolves. His looks and his wallet don't matter a smidge when you're running from drooling monsters." Sandi's eyes are as big as harvest moons. She's finally grasping my new genre.

"I had a nightmare the other night that my ideal mate was Algy Green. He's a character from my novel, The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters. He super-glues his bat wing ears to his head, uses talcum powder to clean his hair, and dresses like a clod. He's a pretty yucky fellow. In my dream I kept running away, but Algy kept catching me. He was trying to kiss me. He had spinach on his teeth." "No more.!" Sandi holds her hands up as if I'm attacking her. "I don't think I like Chick lit Horror." Trick or Treat!

With love & laughter,

Meet Chick, Jock and Dick

We can recognize chick lit with our eyes closed. It's the scent of Pride and Prejudice. In Publisher's Weekly, Amy Sohn defines chick lit as being about women who can stand on their own two feet. The stories are frequently about females dealing with real issues we face or would love to face. Do men have the equivalent? Is there a male version of chick lit that parallels female frustration, fashion, friends and foes? We have our pink book covers and snappy titles, but exactly where is the male literary hot button? And if the godmother of chick lit is Jane Austen, then who is her male counterpart?

Curious, I bellied up to the Google search bar and plugged in "jock lit." The wheels spun and up came Away Games: The Life and Times of a Latin Ball Player by Marcos Breton and Jose Luis Villegas. The book chronicles Oakland A's shortstop Miguel Tejada's journey from shoeshine boy in the Dominican Republic to the major leagues in northern California. Yawn. I hit search again and up popped - Those Damn Yankees: The Secret Life of America's Greatest Franchise by Dean Chadwin. More books about gents hitting little white balls with a stick. Is that the answer for all men? Surely some guys veer off in another direction. As I peruse these tomes I find no mention of a passion for fashion - it appears men only lust after sports uniforms. They have a genetic need to blend in and yet at the same time to excel at ball chasing. Entering "jock lit" in Google yet a third time I discover Jock Itch - cure for. My quest is sliding downhill - fast. Not one to give up easily, I take out the quote marks and slowly type in jock literature. Magically the answer appears: the godfather of contemporary guy literature, Nick Hornby.

Hornby has an amazing talent for zeroing in on serious contemporary male emotions and serving them up in hilarious style. His men walk with one foot firmly planted in childhood.

Hornby has elevated the Peter Pan figure to cult status, his protagonists are made even more lovable by the on-screen performances of his characters by Hugh Grant and John Cusack. I have found the male version of chick lit. This British author has mastered the art of combining the serious quest for male adulthood with that terrifying fear some guys have of growing up. He has an amazing talent for zeroing in on serious contemporary male emotions and serving them up in hilarious style. His men walk with one foot firmly planted in childhood and the other touching lightly into the adult world. They limp.

Jock lit differs from chick lit in that the protagonists often don't have successful jobs. The men are usually card-carrying members of the Geek Squad and desire to live beneath the radar. If they have longings, they are a melding of careers beyond their reach and unattainable females. His lads look for love and success in all the wrong places, and unlike their female counterparts, they usually don't apply themselves except in a hit or miss manner. Hornby's heroes are less than perfect, frequently neurotic and horny. In the beginning of his books, the guys are more interested in getting drunk and watching football on television. They're often selfish and have lessons to learn about caring and sharing, usually taught by good women who see through their stumbling boyishness by novel's end.

In a classic Hornby story, About a Boy, the central character (Will Lightman) is a 36-year-old slacker who lives off the royalties of an old Christmas song his father wrote. He's not the kind of fellow who would get his jollies roaming the aisles of Home Depot or have an orgasm in the tool department of Sears. He's a womanizer who has run out of hunting grounds. Envious of his friends who are all married and having children, Will continues to seek meaningless relationships that ensure he will be dumped by the gorgeous women he dates. He discovers SPAT ("Single Parents - Alone Together") and passes himself off as a single widowed dad. "He was acting, yes but in the noblest, most profound sense of the word." He becomes the perfect catch for a young mother who should, according to his plan, be willing to dump him after an interlude of sex. She will discover that her child is not ready for a man in their life, allowing Will to run off into the arms of yet more ladies in distress. The catch in Will's plan, the thing that causes him to step over the line into adulthood comes in the shape of a 12-year-old boy (Marcus) whom Will meets while attending SPAT disguised as a widowed father. This boy is a victim at school and at home. In rescuing the child, immature Will eventually succumbs to what he has fought off for so long ... he grows up.

In 1995, Hornby published his delightful analysis of contemporary underachieving males with High Fidelity. In many ways the opposite of Bridget Jones, protagonist Rob Gordon manages a used record store. He recounts his top five break-ups as if they were hits on the music charts. This is a comedy about fear of commitment, loathing your job, and falling in love. This is pure jock lit. Men being the visual creatures that they are, Hornby's characters fall in and out of love with the ease of a wiggly ferret in a toddler's arms.

Many people think men are less romantic than women. But men fall in love quicker because they are so visual. Statistics tell us that men are two times more likely to kill themselves when a relationship ends. But according to my research as The Love Investigator, men are NOT willing to die for the woman they love.

Is love necessary in jock lit? Yes, but just a smidge. Is sex necessary? No, but that's where dick lit enters the game. Sex in dick lit is a staple much like a case of beer at a ball game. Hard-Boiled Men by Guy Jacobs is an example of true dick lit. The protagonist, university professor Benjamin Wise, is fresh off a bummer break-up and on a quest to reawaken his sleeping libido. Set against the backdrop of Asian massage parlors, West Village anarchy, and darkened hallways, Hard-Boiled Men provides an honest and infuriating account of single life in New York City. The book exposes men's secret thoughts on the nature of love, marriage, and sexuality while indulging in promiscuity and debauchery on the road to one man's self-discovery. It reads like manual for self-destruction and is written from the perspective of a penis.

Women read chick lit to enter a Cinderella world where they have the option of pulling themselves up by their own strengths while falling in love. Men read jock lit to become - if even for a few pages - invincible. It's a world free from concern with unemployment or cracking the ball over the back fence. At the end, they'll rescue themselves while clearing the goal posts and making it into adulthood. Similar to the chick lit happy ending. Dick lit is basic mating drives without human bonding. The stories usually combine erotic descriptions of drive-by sex. Quick Dopamine releases, almost but not quite pushing the protagonist over the threshold of falling in love. But it always comes short and leaves us turned off. Women need that sense of connection, that intense romantic love. So do most men. If it weren't for those pink book covers more men might veer from jock lit to chick lit bypassing dick lit completely.

With love & laughter,

When the Right Man Comes Along ...

When the right man finally comes along... chick lit happens. It all started with Eve but as she lead a relatively uneventful life compared to today's chick lit heroines and had a woefully inadequate wardrobe, we'll skip over her. Cleopatra had a closet full of yummy outfits, a super career ruling Egypt and became an early chick lit legend. She met the wrong man, then the right man, but she ended up with a snake at her neck - failing the final test of chick lit - a happy ending. The eventual mate of a chick lit gal has to be gorgeous, clever and successful. His use of haughty rejection and perceived coldness are his most intriguing qualities. If he can ignore our gal until the reader can't bear to read another page without knowing he'll sweep her up in his arms, then he's the guy for us... I mean her.

The heroine has to stumble over relationships with at least one if not two inadequate but superficially appealing men. Scarlett O'Hara fell for weakling Ashley Wilkes, in Gone With the Wind, as desperate readers urged her into Rhett Butler's arms. Rhett said he didn't give a darn but we knew better. Cool indifference is hot on the written page and hotter still in real life. When Rhett turns and walks out of Scarlett's life we know she'll get him back. She's a chick lit gal, nothing can keep her down. She'll worry about that tomorrow.

In Jane Austen's day, the highest career a woman could reach for was marrying well and above her station. England had this silly law back then called "fee tail male" (that phrase paints a quirky picture.) It meant by statute women couldn't inherit land or homes from male relatives including dead husbands. The law launched that generation of women on a constant hunt for healthy, wealthy males. Austen was able to create four major novels all based in some way on "fee tail male" - Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma.

When Fitzwilliam Darcy gives Elizabeth the ice treatment in Pride and Prejudice we know he's the guy she'll end up marrying. He's 28, handsome, tall and intelligent. However he makes an awful first impression with his aloof decorum which comes across as excessive pride. Elizabeth steps over the simpering Mr Collins and his preposterous proposal of marriage. She has decided to only marry for love, even though she has no real ideas about how she will survive financially. Fitzwilliam proposes to Elizabeth after admitting his love for her. She refuses his proposal as she feels insulted by his high-handed manner. After he rescues her sister and tosses in a few heroic stunts on her behalf, Elizabeth reconsiders. After all he is a cutie despite being stuffy. They live happily-ever-after, thus passing the chick lit test.

"If he can ignore our gal until the reader can't bear to read another page without knowing he'll sweep her up in his arms, then he's the guy for us... I mean her. "

It's what remains just out of our reach that will always tantalize us as readers and lovers. As I travelled the USA interviewing men for my book, The Love Investigator - 527 Naked Men & One Woman, one thing rang true to me ... men and women always want what they can't have. From one of the interviews: Frankie, a 46-year-old bachelor in New Jersey, summed it up from a male point of view. "If you give a guy a piece of candy and then pull it away and make him look for it, he'll want it that much more." With his gnarly beard, flashing dark eyes, and Barry White voice, Frankie presents a hard shell with what I guess to be a soft inside. He's in the midst of describing his close call with commitment. "I wouldn't say it was smothering but it was getting too comfortable." I ask if the same girl didn't want to get involved, would she have been more appealing to him? "Oh yes." The words sound mellow as they leave his lips. "It would have lasted a long time. She made it almost too easy. The relationship would have lasted longer if she had made me chase her. Guys like something they can't get."

Bridget Jones is a particular chick lit favorite. Her obsession with her love life, her weight, her over-indulgence in alcohol and cigarettes, and her career makes her a leading lady most readers can identify with. Her charming and handsome boss, Daniel Cleaver, remains just out of poor Bridget's reach. When she finally nails him or he nails her, in that hysterically funny scene as he attempts to make love to her on the floor, he discovers she's wearing huge white "mommy" panties under her slinky black evening dress. Despite his passion and ardour over her quirky underwear, we know he's not the guy. He's too flirty and that's always suspect. Easily found - easily lost. We want Bridget to succumb to Mark Darcy with his haughty hunky demeanor. We want him to sweep our heroine off her stout legs. Holly Ross, the heroine of Holly Would Dream, by Karen Quinn, is obsessed with all things Audrey Hepburn. She has the perfect job as a historian in a fashion museum. Her fiance Alessandro appears to be the perfect man ... until he's caught having sex with an underage woman and hauled off to jail. He plays the lead in Beauty and the Beast, so Disney is none too happy. Alessandro drops Holly before she has a chance to drop him so he can go off to rehab as all stars do when they are caught with their pants down. Meanwhile, Holly meets Denis King, the most eligible real estate developer in York City when he drives by and splashes her in his ivory Maybach. Holly decides he's the right man. Soon, she is in hot pursuit of both Denis and a suitcase full of stolen Audrey Hepburn gowns. With the sparkling Mediterranean and the eternal city of Rome as backdrops, Holly's adventures begin to resemble one of the 1950s Hollywood movies she so adores. Finally, she must choose between her long-held fairy tale and a new, real-life dream with an ending she couldn't possibly imagine.

When the right man finally comes along.... chick lit happens.

With love & laughter,

Should You Kiss and Tell?

It was Girls' Night Out in Miami. Six of us, including author Sierra Michaels (pictured left with me), were driving through pelting rain and bolts of lightning to view the sequel to Sex and the City. It seemed like a great idea at the time. We had even thought of renting a limo just for the novelty but with the recession as a fact of life, we reconsidered. Yes, we knew we were on our way to play our grown-up version of Barbie Dolls as Chicklit Club movie critic Georgina Young-Ellis so perfectly phrased it. We all know that Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda don't look or dress or live like regular people but we didn't care. Girls just want to have fun. At the theater we settled in the front row center feeling slightly damp from the drenching buckets of Florida's liquid sunshine. As I watched my friend Tina pat down her hair - it gets very curly in the rain - I wondered how my London pal, author Jackie Buxton, was doing on the British side of the Atlantic with her Girls Night Out adventure to see the same film on the same night. Jackie lives in London and is the author of Glass Houses. Tina's a US writer and national publicity guru. While they both share rain-induced super curls, Jackie's also a look-alike for Sarah Jessica Parker, the star of Sex and the City.

The theatre scene in London: Jackie wore tight jeans, a little too tight for sitting for a few hours, but nonetheless, at least they were clean. With those particular jeans, she has to wear her highest sandals, her five foot five shoes, she calls them. (She's five foot one and a half inches in wet feet.) It was hot and humid and the cinema would be full, so she put on her 10-year-old silk, baby blue halter neck top with no sleeves. It's one of her old favorites. "Very Sarah J.P," Jackie's equally vertically challenged friend, Fiona, said to her on arrival, donning her dark, Givenchy sunglasses to good Sex and the City effect and blowing her two air kisses. According to Jackie, her friend has flawless olive skin and gleaming, straight chestnut brown hair and does look a bit like Kristin Davis, aka Charlotte York. Fiona put her arm though Jackie's and on her insistence they walked in together like superstars. The eight British ladies swarmed around the kiosk, filling their arms with buckets of popcorn and ordering lukewarm caffe lattes in plastic cups because they were too late for Pimm's and lemonade in the pub next door. They giggled and swapped compliments on their varied array of beads, the color of toenails and Louise's impressive fake tan. Once prices had been divided by two and three and four, change given and returned, given and returned, they made their way to screen four.

Louise pointed to the row of women in front of her. "They asked if you were Sarah Jessica Parker," she said. "I just nodded."

Their seats were right at the back, all together, in one line. As Jackie walked up the aisle, juggling her three cups and a bucket, she noticed a girl of about 20. The girl held up her hand in front of her mouth and whispered to her friend. Then she gave Jackie a small, shy wave. As Jackie walked away, the hysterical giggling would have made her fear she had her dress caught in her knickers but she wasn't wearing one ... dress that is. She couldn't turn to see if the laughter was aimed at her because the cups and bucket wouldn't have negotiated the turn. So she carried on, paranoid, and desperate to put down her food and disappear into a seat. When she arrived at her row, gorgeous, lofty Louise put her arm around her and laughed. "No! Not you as well," Jackie groaned. "What have I done?" Louise pointed to the row of women in front of her. "They asked if you were Sarah Jessica Parker," she said. "I just nodded."
Meanwhile back in Miami the movie was in full tilt. The fun of any of the SATC films is wondering how the girls, especially Carrie, get away with wearing so little and not get mugged. When I travel I try to look as much like Inspector Clouseau (Pink Panther) as possible thus to avoid unwanted male attention. My trench coat has circled the globe three times with me inside it. The idea of running around in teeny skirts and more than flats - let alone 5-inch heels - terrifies me. I would feel so vulnerable. What if I had to run from a thug? How would I get away? I look at my friends ... Sierra is wearing serious wedge heels that would prevent a hasty escape but then again she's much more athletic than me. She could kick-box her way out of a mugger's grip. Tina was wearing black suede Pradas with gold leather trim and five-inch heels, but like most publicity pros she can handle herself. I'd have to rely on sarcasm and mean faces. In the movie Carrie and Mr. Big are married and he's become a couch potato. Oh course he did. I've interviewed over 500 men ... they all become couch potatoes after marriage. It's in their genes. Carrie asks to spend some personal time in her old apartment to meet a writing deadline. Big asks for equal alone time. Men love solitude in their Man-Caves. Two scenes later, the girls are in Abu Dhabi. Don't ask how. Carrie bumps into her former lover Aidan. They share a dinner date and then a passionate kiss. She's torn between confessing to Big or doing the smart thing and keeping her mouth shut. She calls Big and confesses. This gives us something really important to discuss over drinks after the movie. Do you kiss and tell?

The torrential Miami rain had stopped. The six of us puddle-jumped our way to a local beach bar on the far side of the parking lot. Asphalt and plastic palm trees. We settled in and ordered wine. After the usual - who are you quizzes (funny how no one ever wants to be a Charlotte), I tuned out of the conversation. I know I'm a Carrie and there's no need to discuss it. My mind drifted to the movie. What would life be like with an unlimited budget? A poster from the film caught my eye. It featured Carrie in a white dress and gold sunglasses which reflect a Moroccan backdrop. I love that white Halston Heritage V-neck Jersey mini dress. It would look great on me. OK ... So I'd buy that. And those gold aviator sunglasses. Have to have those. And those nude heels by Steve Madden would sure make my legs look longer. But could I walk in them? I'm so clumsy. It would be just my luck to catch my heel in a penny-size pothole and break my ankle. As I'm trying to figure out what designer crutches would look like, I'm drawn back into my friends' conversation by a remark from Sierra. The women had been debating the conflicted question of do you tell someone you love that you kissed someone else if telling your loved one will hurt them? Sierra was multi-tasking, walking on those impossibly high wedge heels and texting her husband to tell him she would be out with the girls for a few drinks after the movie. She was half listening to the girls' conversation about kissing and telling while texting him. She almost spit out her drink when she read his text and then hers. Apparently she had texted him, "Going to have a kiss with the girls." Her husband was a bit perplexed. She texted back frantically "Not a kiss! A drink!" We all shared a good laugh and another round of drinks. Verdict from six women who've had 12 glasses of wine. Should you kiss and tell? Depends on your history with the Kissee ... we wisely decide.

Thanks to UK contributor Jackie Buxton:

With love & laughter,

Catching Up with Candace Bushnell

The 15th floor restaurant of the swank new Epic Hotel in Miami was the perfect setting for catching up with Candace Bushnell. The hotel is situated where the Miami River enters Biscayne Bay. For those who may have spent the last 16 years in a convent, Bushnell is the woman who wrote the newspaper column that spawned the HBO series Sex and the City and later gave birth to the movie.
A gentle breeze kissed the faces of well-dressed joggers; humongous luxury yachts bobbed in the hotel's marina as I left my car with the valet. I followed a bevy of swan-like ladies with long hair and elegant carriage as they entered the elevator and were whisked to meet their icon. The ladies were wearing Jimmy Choos and carrying Louis Vuitton handbags. They were business women from all persuasions but they chatted less about their jobs and more about meeting Bushnell. About 120 ladies gathered at tables surrounding a small platform with a backdrop of the Miami skyline.

Lunch was simple and quickly devoured. With half an ear, I heard the women discussing what characters they most identified with - Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte or Samantha. The theme music from Sex and the City began as Bushnell walked to the podium. She was wearing a form-fitting floral dress in spring colors and bright green strappy sandals with six-inch heels. Her long blonde hair bounced in curls down her back. Curls never hold up in the humidity of South Florida but Bushnell carried it off. Having met her before I was once again surprised at how tiny she is. Probably size 0. I feel like I should hate her but I don't. As she got to the platform she did a little shimmy. "Has anyone developed a dance for the Sex and the City theme?" she laughed as she stepped around the floor.
Here to promote The Carrie Diaries, her newest bestseller which entered the ranks at No. 16, the highest starting rank for any of her novels, Bushnell began to read a passage from the book. For those who haven't had the pleasure of reading The Carrie Diaries yet, the book is about Carrie coming of age. She's 17 and finds her own version of Mr. Big along with female friendships both good and not so good.

Bushnell is an animated speaker. "I wanted this book to have cross-generational appeal. Every time I do a book tour, I have mothers and their daughters talking to me. I wanted to make sure that The Carrie Diaries was appropriate for teens but also something moms would enjoy. This book is not like my other Carrie books. When I sit and write I have to be authentic to the moment. I had to be true to what these characters are telling me. I love this Carrie Bradshaw. When I start writing there is no plan or outline. I write in the moment. I like to be surprised when I'm writing. I like to go with what works and not calculate things. Writing is not a business plan . . . ABC. You might get to Z but be open-minded about how you got there. Metaphorically." When asked who her favorite characters are, she smiled. "Carrie. I also like Mindy Pooch from One Fifth Avenue. She's a climber and she struggles but prevails through her blog writing. Sometimes you're not supposed to like characters. Like in my novel Four Blondes. Jane is a borderline narcissist. I wondered how she got away with it. That's what I was trying to work out with her character. What makes her tick? So I walked in her fictional shoes."

"Having met her before I was once again surprised at how tiny she is. Probably size 0. I feel like I should hate her but I don't."

On Sex and the City, the television series: "I have no input as far as casting. I worked with the writers for the first two seasons but writing for television is very different. When you write a novel, you write alone. On a television series there's frequently four to 16 writers involved. My favorite Carrie moment was in the pilot episode when Big gives Carrie a ride home. He says to her, 'I guess you've never been in love.' That line means so much to me. It drives the whole series. I still get chills when I hear it." "Knowing what you know now, what's one thing you would do differently?" I asked her. Her eyes got big. "That's a very good question. I wouldn't have wasted my time thinking about men and getting married. In my 20s that's where my thoughts were. I got married at 43. What you're doing with your life and your career should be your concern. The getting married will happen. But it should be about the person you are. Concentrate on growing your career. I would also NOT say a few things I've said to people." She smiled at the ladies as they hang on her words. "I'm a novelist. It's hard work. My goal is to write the best book at the moment. You hope that it works and that people like it. Right now I'm working on Carrie Diaries 2 which will be about Carrie's first summer in New York City. In that book Carrie will meet the first of her best friends. When one is younger and trying to be successful we might think "bitch" is part of the format. That's why I wrote Lipstick Jungle. True successful women are the girls next door and they've done well by figuring a way to manoeuvre though life. Yelling doesn't work for a woman or a man. Treat people with respect. There's no reason to make people feel like crap. People do their best work when they feel they are part of a team. Most people want to be heroes."

Sex and the City written in 1996 broke down the bedroom doors. It exposed the secrets of the rich and beautiful people of New York. Bushnell's writing introduced us to words that have become a part of our language: "toxic bachelors" "modelizers," and the women looking for "Mr. Big." The Carrie Diaries is the coming-of-age story of one of the most beloved fictional characters of our times. The story of how a regular girl learns to think for herself, and become an insightful writer. Readers will learn about her family background, her early career and her early friendships that became a part of her life and legend. The New York Times has called Bushnell "The philosopher queen of the social scene." Born in Glastonbury, Connecticut, Bushnell married Charles Askegard, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet in 2002. They live in Manhattan. Askegard is 10 years her junior. Once referred to as a "cougar", Bushnell wrote a response in MORE magazine. "The fact that a man is open to being with an older woman suggests that he doesn't give a hang what other people think of him. More likely, he's confident, open-minded and willing to make his own rules. All of which just happen to be great qualities that much more than a great six-pack, make for a great relationship."

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sex and the City 2, which opens on May 27.

With love & laughter,

Shoes, Shopping and Sex

Let's look deeper into the mysterious passions these three sisters of lust - shoes, shopping and sex - hold over us. When is a shoe not merely a shoe? It can be many things, a relationship, a ticket to the future or a memory slide back in time. Shoes run with us, they work with us, they take us dancing, and they are our sexy friends who get us into all sorts of mischief. We can have an affair with more than one pair of shoes at a time and not be a cheater. A shoe can be the prelude to romance or a reason to leave someone. Did our love affair with footwear start with fairytales? Cinderella dropped her slipper and gained a prince, while the old woman hid out in a shoe pregnant and barefoot.
Remember the shoes you wore the night you lost your virginity? Were they innocent little ballet shoes or were they "take-me" strappy sandals? Do they sit in the back of your closet wearing little grins on their leathery faces? Does the sight and the texture of them re-excite or embarrass you?
How about those red strappy sling backs you wore just before that memorable one-night stand? Remember what they looked like the next morning strewn on the floor with the rest of your clothes? Do they come out when you're looking for trouble or have they migrated to the thrift shop?

For fun, ask your guy what shoes he was wearing the first time you had sex. Unless he only owns one pair, he's going to be stumped. And if he owns only one pair of shoes what are you doing with him? We hang on to shoes because they hold an emotional connection to an event. We seek out new shoes because we're looking for new relationships. As your favourite pair becomes a little loose and worn, are they like a former lover? Is it time to find a tighter, firmer fit? That leads us to shopping.
In Intimate Encounters by Sierra Michaels, Cali the heroine is working her way through graduate school by giving massages and happy endings at the apartment, a pleasure pad in Los Angeles. Cali counts on a variety of nifty spiked heels to turn on her clients and also to pay for her degree in archaeology. Angel works at the apartment to feed her shopping habit. She's a bit of a princess and shops at least three times a week. She likes designer brands and would spend all her money on clothes, purses and shoes. She's shopping to fill the void as she doesn't have a boyfriend, but she does have an unconscious desire for sex. She's in the sex industry, but it's not satisfying for her. She's competing with a lot of beautiful women in Los Angeles. She must look hot all the time, that includes those six-inch heels.

At the beginning of Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, recent college graduate Rebecca Bloomwood is offered a hefty line of credit by a London bank. Soon she's exceeded the Visa limit and is playing hide-and-seek with bill collectors. As many readers may recall, the irony of the story is that for all her outrageous spending, she works for a publication called Successful Saving. Shopping as a replacement for sex is never drawn in sharper detail than when Rebecca buys a Denny and George scarf on sale. It's nothing short of a seduction scene as the clerk slides the scarf box into a thick glossy bag with dark green cord handles. When she hands it to the shopaholic, Rebecca almost cries out. She describes the ultimate orgasm as 'That instant when our fingers curl around the handles of a shiny, uncreased bag and all the gorgeous new things inside become yours.' In an effort to get her habit under control Rebecca opts for cheaper pleasures like parks and museums. She visits the Victoria and Albert Museum but decides it's a bore. There are no price tags in sight. Can she feel satisfied when despite her fab career, great flat and designer wardrobe, she is constantly ducking letters from credit card companies? Is Rebecca filling her void by shopping?

"She describes the ultimate orgasm as "That instant when our fingers curl around the handles of a shiny, uncreased bag and all the gorgeous new things inside become yours.""

Shopping is more than a form of female bonding. "It's as though we are communing with a higher being," Kinsella writes. As we shop together, we guide our friends to find themselves while we redefine who we are.
I recall a recent shopping trip in Miami with my friend Pam. She insisted on buying five-inch-high slip-on patent wedges. "They'll make my legs look longer." As she waddles back and forth on the carpet I see disaster in her future. "You've just started to date Robert, don't take chances. You've been a year without a man. You're going to break you ankle in those shoes," I caution her. My friend ignores my caring advice and purchases the shoes. The following day, as she runs to the door to greet Robert with a kiss, she stumbles and ... breaks her ankle.
Shopping in London in a shoe boutique, I was trying on a pair of Ferragamo flats, the style called Vara with the little bows on the toes. I've been in love with those classics since I could walk. My legs are thin and my knees have a tendency to look at each other, but those shoes made my stems look like a model's. I did a little spin in the mirror and realized I was being watched. The man looking at me was a relatively famous movie actor. His handsome face was familiar from American Westerns. I stopped twirling and looked at him quizzically. "Please don't stop. I was just enjoying your enjoyment," he said as he smiled and walked away. I should have had a witty response but the shoes got in my way.
Can hot sex come to the non-shopper? Enter Bridget Jones with her closet crammed with twisted pantyhose and sweaters that seem to have grown in the dark like mushrooms. And if huge white panties were really such a turn-on for the Daniel Cleavers, then shopping for shoes might be redundant. But think of the smell of real leather tucked lightly in pink tissue, removing the wadded paper from the toe knowing yours is the first foot this shoe will caress. It's like the first touch of a new lover, but frequently much better. The shoe knows exactly what to do.

We can't separate these three sisters of lust: Shoes, Shopping and Sex any more than we can separate Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. But let's chat about the ladies of Sex and the City in my next column.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on shoes that have changed your sex life, shoes that you treasure, shoes that made you the woman you are today.

With love & laughter,

Do Real Men Read Chick Lit?

As I travel about the USA listening to men download about women, I find a number of guys who admit (off the record) to enjoying chick lit. These men, who confess in whispers that they enjoy it, say their preference is for the lean mean prose of Stephanie Plum. Perhaps Janet Evanovich is the pied-piper of chick lit for Real Men.

Hank is 41 and not hard on the eyes. Our conversation moves to books. "I never read chick lit... well hardly ever. It's too wordy. Elaborate, superfluous description that adds nothing to the story. Excessive and often redundant adjectives and (he shudders) adverbs that slow down or dumb down the story to the point I might doze off while reading, even if I'm simultaneously riding my Harley on the freeways. But when I do read chick lit, I really enjoy the terse action in a Stephanie Plum novel. I like to laugh when I read."

Pete's 35 and all muscle. He's also witty and sexy. "I've tried to read chick lit but it's like beating a horse to death. I know women love words but frequently in chick lit, the point-of-view character will think what she's going to do and why then do it, and then think about what she's just done and what it means. What's wrong with writing what she does cleanly so the motivation and meaning of the action are clear and aren't thought about ad nauseum?"

" I know women love words but frequently in chick lit, the point-of-view character will think what she's going to do and why then do it, and then think about what she's just done and what it means."

Les is a real estate investor who travels a lot. He acquired a Kindle last year and is devouring e-books. He's in his mid-50s and easy going.
"Plausibility. A relative term that requires, to me as a reader, that the characters and actions be plausible within the confines of the story. For instance, if a young scientist invents an anti-gravity belt and metal shield that allows him to fly around and repel bullets, that's OK. But if he flies into outer space to deflect an asteroid hurtling toward Earth, that's not OK because the anti-gravity belt and metal shield wouldn't give him that ability. In chick lit, the heroine can be a timid librarian who has taken six self-defense lessons, goes out with her cat to solve a murder, and kicks a hitman's butt before dragging him off to jail. The heroine should overcome through intelligence, quick thinking, and cunning or by using weapons because damn few women (even those with a blackbelt) can take down a man (even a couch potato). And you shouldn't take a cat anywhere without a cat carrier unless you've prearranged a transfusion."

As I thought about the type of commercial fiction called chick lit, a term came to me: Crossover Chick Lit, which, as crossover country music appeals to rock and popular music listeners, appeals to many male readers. So when does chick lit crossover? When it wants to get to the other side. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.) When it's tightly written, plausible within context, and contains reasonable emotion and humor with wide appeal. But never loses the female voice or touch. Real men like women and enjoy the differences between the sexes but prefer it without the adverbs. And humor... the great equalizer is the reason men read chick lit, make that Crossover Chick Lit. As with emotion, there are differences in what men and women find humorous with a large middle ground. But you can't please everybody. Humor can be used in any type of novel, it's almost a necessary ingredient. One thing the guys felt really strongly about were niche novels. They just couldn't see themselves cracking open a novel based on antique fish lure collecting, pitbull breeding or full-contact croquet. But a New Jersey bounty hunter with a hooker sidekick, that they like.

I'd love to hear your opinions. Drop me a line.

With love & laughter,

Barbara Silkstone is the author of 527 Naked Men & One Woman - the Adventures of a Love Investigator, available as an e-book. She lives in Florida and teaches a class called Men, A Mystery. Her latest novel, The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters, is available on Amazon Kindle and her website.

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