“The worst thing about Donald is that there’s nothing subtle about him…”
Marla Maples (one of Donald Trump’s ex-wives)
The Beast won Belle over her actual lover, Maurice, only because the Beast was subtle in his love for her….
Let’s take stalk of all those things in men that turn women on. Men who are well-informed, poised and cool, suave and smooth, polished and debonair, slim and dapper, steely and aloof, raw and honest, sinewy and hard but vulnerable within, quick-witted but unassuming, humorous and at the same time self-deprecating and at times.
As you are well aware, I am all of those. Did I include ‘vain and conceited’?
And subtlety. Women love subtlety and I don’t have any fucking subtlety. To be effectively subtle, one has to be a bit aloof and seem as if he is ‘above everything’ and doesn’t really care if you’ll accept the point he is making, because he always makes sense.
If conveyed with the right tone, subtlety can carry quite a punch. I remember this one time, back in the late 1970s, when I was at work in India. We were interviewing a candidate for the post of ‘outside sales engineer’ at a German held engineering company. Our Managing Director, a Dr Brandl, was with me, quietly observing the back and forth. The interview itself was lacklustre and the candidate was middling at best but as he got up to leave, he said to Dr Brandl,” Auf Weidersehen, mein Herr.”
“You speak German?” Dr Brandl asked, sitting up and speaking for the first time.
“Very little,” said the candidate,”I wish I knew it better though. I believe every mechanical engineer should know a little bit of German.”
The young fella not only got the job but went on to become our head of marketing by the end of the decade.
Wish I had that kind of head-turning subtlety. I don’t. I have observed the same thing with my writing – it is never subtle. There are no nuances to it, just a lot of hyperbole. If I am expressing anger, my writing sounds belligerent instead of a quiet frown. If it is affection or romance, I am a schloop-me-tight guber, instead of a fleeting touch. If there’s a breeze, I say it’s a breeze. I don’t mention instead the rustle of leaves. If its the season’s first downpour, I fail to mention the smell of the wet earth.
My humour has no subtlety. Wish I could make up jokes like the one below that I filched from a friend……
As Air Force One arrives at the Heathrow Airport , President Obama strides to a warm and dignified reception from the Queen. They are driven in a 1934 Bentley to the edge of central London, where they change to a magnificent 17th century carriage hitched to six white horses. They continue on towards the Buckingham Palace.
Suddenly, the right rear horse lets out the most horrendous earth shattering fart ever heard in the British Empire. The smell is so atrocious that both the passengers in the carriage must use handkerchiefs over their noses. The fart shakes the coach, but the two heads of State do their best to ignore the incident.
The Queen politely turns to President Obama, “Mr President, please, accept my regrets. I am sure you understand there are some things that even a Queen cannot control.”
Obama, always ‘Presidential’, responded:”Your Majesty, do not give the matter another thought. Until you mentioned it, I thought it was one of the horses.”
What about this one…. “Life without women would be a pain in the ass…” I failed to get that one.
When Kenny told it at the lunch table at work, everybody laughed. Melissa laughed so hard she spilled her yoghurt on my lap near my crotch and then vigorously scrubbed it off, inches from my richard. I don’t if she noticed the bulge but she gave me a flaming hard-on. I just sat through all that, a fixed smile on my face. I almost came, instead of laughing.
But I digress. I started this piece wanting to be serious but swerved into sex instead. I don’t know why you, dear readers, make me feel so raunchy.
Take emotions, the single most difficult thing for a writer to portray. Masterful writers have use what’s called ‘pathetic fallacy’, where emotions are portrayed through nature – the wind howls when tragedy strikes, dark clouds gather when the protagonist is wrapped up in pathos, violence is a raging storm and of course its sunny, when we are happy.
In art too, the best works are those that are subtle and hint at something rather than show it. In a painting, the blue of the sky reflected on the still water of a lake is far more appealing than showing the actual sky. The hint of a smile on Mona Lisa’s lips has enthralled millions over the years.
Likewise, in matters of the heart, subtle looks and hints can be more romantic than expressing your passion outright. A stolen glance can convey more yearning than reams of words. When you’re sitting across the banquet table from a woman whom you have never met before or when you are in a train or a bus, across the aisle from a girl you are inexplicably attracted to, the vibes can be very real and very subtle. Here’s what happened to me back in my twennies…..
On the ride to and from work, there was a girl who traveled on the same bus I did, every day. Mornings, like clockwork she got on a few stops after me. Soon, even before the bus came to a halt, my eyes would be scouring the bus stop, desperate to see if she was there. She got off at the same stop I did and went off down the road to another office building close by.
Evenings, we were at the same stop and we boarded the same bus and always sat way back, facing each other, taking care never to stare directly at each other. Every once in a while though we got caught staring at each other and quickly averted our eyes. We pretended we didn’t exist and at the same time, it felt as if we were the only two souls inside the bus.
On days when she wasn’t there, it seemed as if there was no joy left in the world. I moved around at work, listless, feeling like a humourless zombie. I was in love, no question about it. Was it the same with her when I didn’t show up? I would like to think yes.
And then, all of a sudden one day, she wasn’t there at her stop anymore. She didn’t turn up again. For a month I was broken. Not knowing if she felt the way I had felt for her devastated and crushed me. To this day – forty years later – I feel this piercing pain behind my ribs when I think of that girl in the bus.
Did we really have something going between us, some sort of subtle, telepathic, heart wrenching passion, never to be expressed? Should I have walked up to her and introduced myself as soon as I began feeling something? Or was it a brief torrent of subtle passion that was best left at an arm’s length?
But don’t overdo the subtlety thing, okay? Some women cannot read signals. Sometimes, the best way to know if someone is attracted to you is to send a little flirt signal and see what happens. If there is an attraction, you’ll know. The next move will be to put subtlety in the back seat and let out a hint and step back to see if it is reciprocated. Trust me, 63 years on this earth – 52 of which I spent actively pursuing women – I have tried being subtle and I have attempted in-your-face and both worked.
So don’t fall for all that subtlety crap too much. If you want to be Keats, be Keats but don’t get carried away being Keats, like in his Ode on a Grecian Urn, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter…”