This week, people who live in urban areas who do not like loud bangs are in trouble. Because whether fireworks are legal or illegal, somebody will be almost continuously setting off firecrackers, the noisy type of firework with no pretty sparks. Just a sudden, loud disruption of the peace. People who live in the country are used to loud bangs because target shooting is often a local entertainment. But the noise level intensifies as July 4th gets closer. And then on the day itself, things go up for grabs everywhere. Yes, in certain areas there are police crackdowns. Despite that, it’s an American tradition to set off fireworks of some kind on the Fourth of July.
When a heroine and a hero meet in a romance, it is often said that fireworks go off. In movies made before sex scenes were allowed, fireworks were substituted for the sex, most famously in Alfred Hitchcock’s stylish thriller, “To Catch a Thief.” Cary Grant and Grace Kelly start kissing, and then the screen fills with showy public fireworks, the kind that burst high in the air and send a shower of artfully contrived, multicolored sparks shooting in all directions and then falling to the earth. A good metaphor for sex, to be sure.
But when a heroine describes fireworks in her body on merely meeting the hero, sometimes I wonder if the author is exaggerating. It all sounds so uncomfortable. And overdone. And too soon.
I can understand instant attraction that is physical. It’s more common to men than to women, I was raised to believe. But I don’t know if that is still considered to be the truth. So much of what I was taught about male and female sexual response was sheer hogwash. In fact, if you’d like a laugh, check out any antiquated science book. And for the most absurdities read an old sex manual, or rather, what they used to call a family life manual, one that is at least 50 years old. In them, sex ends with middle age, and women don’t much like sex to begin with, and take forever to have an orgasm or never have one at all. And that’s supposedly okay. How times have changed!
Anyway, fine, the fireworks of instant attraction are credible. But not too much of it, please. Not so much that a woman falls all over herself or a man goes berserk. That’s not attractive. And one of the chief tasks of the romance writer is to make sex sound attractive. Because let’s face it, the desire to rut is merely an animal response unless you add some romantic details. And carefully filter them and describe them in attractive terms. It’s not attractive if a man breaks out in a nasty sweat when he sees the heroine. But a romance writer can make it sound attractive.
And then there are the blushers. The women (and men) who experience a strong flush of blood to their faces when they feel something. In novels, women get teased a lot for blushing, which they are usually doing while denying that they have any feelings for the hero. Their faces tell a different story. And as for men, they are said to experience an occasional dark flush of emotion. When I was a kid, we had a handsome young hillbilly for a math teacher, a Mr. Brown. If a lady teacher came by the classroom, he would blush and automatically straighten his already immaculate tie. Even at the merciless age of 14, we all thought it was sweet. Teenage students are careful observers of their teachers, and I remember another, fairer-skinned teacher who turned red on occasion. The time I remember best was when he caught me passing a note (forbidden behavior) and swooped down and seized it. And then discovered I had simply folded a blank piece of paper. He went red. Okay, enough about my youthful escapades. My point is that physical reactions can be sexual or they can just be related to temper or embarrassment. Was Mr. Brown hot for every lady teacher he saw? Doubtful. And the other teacher was ticked off for sure. Similarly, most women do not feel gerbils dancing on our spines if we see a hot guy. Of course the problem may be that we seldom see really hot guys except through the cool medium of television. Or is it a hot medium? Marshall McLuhan was the one who claimed that certain media draw us in and others don’t, and he rated them hot or cool. Darned if I can remember how he rated a romance novel or any novel, for that matter.
But back to fireworks as a metaphor for physical attraction. If fireworks go off when the heroine and heroine first meet, what happens when they finally kiss? Or when they make love? What’s left? So maybe the fireworks in the first scenes should just be the prelude, the firecrackers of June that lead up to the displays of July. That’s a good reason to delay the more emotional and passionate scenes in any story, or even in your life, until the tale has developed to its full potential. Meanwhile, for all you annoyed city dwellers, may I suggest noise reduction earphones?