Friday, March 4, 2011

Guest Post: Becca Dale w/giveaway

How Tough is Too Tough?

Is there such a thing as too tough and if so at what point does an Alpha cross the line and become a jerk? I had to ask myself this repeatedly as I wrote Untamable because I have spent my life surrounded by men who do not express their feelings, especially in public. The cowboys and farmers that I know tend to play their cards close to the chest. Those of us who love them must often find a way to understand without the words. Growing up, I learned quickly that my father’s laughter, always present after some stupid or dangerous event, spoke more of his relief that I was all right than of any humor at my expense.

There is a quiet patience, a cocky defensiveness, perhaps even a blatant arrogance to such men as my father, my husband, and frankly the majority of the guys who live and work more with animals and machinery than humans. A horse or a fine cattle dog understands that a pat means good job or I’m proud of you. Cattle and sheep only care that the man in the tractor cab braves the cold to auger feed upon the frozen ground or shepherds them to shelter from the wind and snow. These are the creatures such men as Thor understand. Women are foreign beasts to some extent. As a cattleman would have to learn about raising an ostrich, so must such men be taught to communicate with women or their women need to listen for the love expressed through action.

I was a teen the first time my father actually told me that he loved me. I had known it all my life but had never heard the words. However, with careful nurturing of his growing abilities, this same man shook my darling husband’s hand after he graduated from college and said, “I could not be prouder of you if you were my own son.” At that moment I wept and they looked at me like I had lost it. Dad grinned and patted my shoulder awkwardly, and hubby pulled me close for a quick hug before asking where we were going to eat. The moment meant so much to both of them but neither would say more.

When our children were born, I insisted that they never have to read the clues, that they would both always know that their father loves them without question. My husband rose to the occasion with class and style despite the fact that he has never heard such words from his own dad. A day does not pass that he does not verbally remind me that he loves me. But the skills of my childhood remain strong. His feelings radiate in actions like putting gas in the car so I won’t get stranded somewhere since I am usually running late, or his quiet, indulgent smile as he stands with a shovel in his hand and some strange plant at his feet and asks, “Where do you want me to dig?”

For some men, saying they care is easy and their wives see and hear it daily. Such men tear up as their bride walks toward them or as the doctor hands over their first born child. I have seen my husband and father cry so rarely in my life that the few times are etched indelibly into my heart. The dark hallway at two in the morning when the vet called to say that Dad’s favorite cattle dog had begun to hemorrhage and would need to be put down. My great uncle funeral. My mother-in-law’s deathbed. That’s it folks. No tears at weddings or births or most gravesites even. Life and death are to be accepted and dealt with. Tears solve nothing – emotions are private things.

UntamableUntamable represents both the challenges and rewards of loving such a man. So what do you think? Do you prefer a hero who demonstrates his feelings or one who expresses them aloud with ease? Is there such a thing as too tough or once the fa├žade cracks and the truth shines, are you like Lily and in love with the man you wanted to smack? Share your preference. One commenter will win a copy of Untamable or another book from my back list.

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Vanessa said...

I don't know if it is too tough, per say, but as long as they are showing in some way (that you can understand) that they care, they aren't too tough. Too tough is someone who is unwilling to say the words, even if it means they sound like they came out of a strangled cat.

Love the post - great job!

Redameter said...

I understand an alpha male pretty well. But frustration can get to you sometimes. I like them because when they do say something they usually mean it.

Love and blessings

Dominique Eastwick said...

Love the Blog Becca, and I think whats great about heros is they come in all shapes and sizes and sometime it feels for himt o get teary eyed when he sees his bride and other times not... Like the way I walked that line LOL

Valerie Mann said...

Since I've met both your dad and your hubs, Becca, I can agree that both of them are the strong, silent types. But you know, still waters run deep. And that's the best kind of man!

JM said...

Oh, I love a strong man, but I have to say, those soft moments mean even more when they show those emotions. My dad is this way. Hard ass to the bone, but cried like a baby when he saw his first grandaughter.
There is a lot to be said for more open men, too though. Hubby tells me he loves me 50 times a day, and I never tire of hearing it. Better yet, he tells our son, who is going to be a wonderful man in a few years.
Great post Becca.

Robert C Roman said...

There are men who can't express emotions with words. Believe it or not, there are women with the same problem. Honestly, it doesn't matter how often they *say* something, as long as the emotions are communicated somehow.

Just my 2c.

Great post!

Sarah Grimm said...

Okay, let's try this again. No, I don't think that a hero can be too tough. As long as the reader and the heroine get a glimpse at the man behind the facade, then it's all good. If the reader never gets a look, then they're going to think the hero is a jerk and wonder why the heroine would ever fall for him.

Also, I love all heroes. Those who demonstrate their feelings as well as those who speak them aloud.


Barbara Elsborg said...

It's a tricky question because it depends on the story!! My heroes tend to be beta males but that doesn't mean I don't love a real macho man. I was REALLY interested to hear what you said as my WIP is a cowboy story and seeing as I'm from the UK, it's going to be a challenge!

P. Kirby said...

I married into a ranching family and grew up around horses myself. So I don't necessarily see a "man of few words" as being coincident with tough or alpha.

The thing is, just because a guy (or gal) doesn't gush about his feelings, or resort to overt romantic gestures, doesn't mean he isn't a big softy. In fact, that kind of man expresses his love in ways that really count. He's often the kind of guy who goes out of his way to help a friend.

So I'm rather fond of "the man of few words."

Becca Dale said...

Interesting. Many of you say that as long as emotion is expressed - eventually or somehow - a man can't be too tough, but you seem to love them vulnerable too. And Robert says that women can have the same problem (really because the women in my family rarely hold back LOL). Hmmm. Must think on this. Perhaps we love our men/women the way they are and do not feel the need to change them only understand them.......Naaa, that can't be it. :-D I do know that sometimes youth and stupidity play a huge role in our abilty to look beyond the surface to the person beneath the bravado.

Amber Scott said...

I myself like a little beta in my Alpha man. It gets me from want to need faster than anything.

Fiona McGier said...

Sometimes men are silent because they really can't access their own emotions. My late Dad was like that. So I don't like to read about men who are unable to say the words in their hearts. I married my husband because he could "talk on the same level that women do"...about feelings. He still does that damn "man" thing trying to solve my problems when I talk about them, but I've taught him over the years to just nod and say, "There, there, dear" at those times. I can solve my own problems, thank you. Just listen and empathize.

heavenisabookstore said...

I married and divorced a man who couldn't and wouldn't show his feelings and it was awful now I love a man who is unafraid to be loving and affectionate and return my eighth text and call of the day with he still loves me. I couldn't ask for more!

Kathleen said...

You gave us something to think about, Becca.

My father was a tender and kind man. He cried when he watched a sad movie. However, if he got really angry he would curse like a truck driver.

I like a man who has the courage to show his feelings. I think men in general have come a long way in learning how to express themselves. It's okay to cry. As long as they don't cry over everything. lol

Margaret Tanner said...

I don't mind how tough a man appears on the outside, it is what is going on his his heart that matters to me.



Leah St. James said...

Great blog, Becca. It really made me think.

I don't necessarily see the alpha male as someone who can't express emotion. Maybe that's the reality more often than not, but if I'm reading a romance, I need to believe the hero loves the heroine. And I need to believe that eventually she'll believe it too. (Did that make sense?!) ;-) She needs to feel loved, regardless of the "mechanism" used to express that love.

I know women who are married to men who won't/can't show their love, and for these women, it's a lonely and cold existence.

Thanks for the great post!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I was once married to a man who told me several times a day he loved me. 'Course he told other woman that, too. Sigh (a lot of pain in that sigh, ladies). Now I'm married to a man who rarely says he loves me, but shows me continuously in little and big ways. Like the time he came home with a bouquet of pink TULIPS, just all pleased with himself, "I remembered that you like pink roses best." I just smiled and kissed him. Roses...tulips...who cared? He thought of me and that's what really mattered.

Anonymous said...

My 1st husband wasn't very vocal about it. In fact I always had to say it first. Which annoyed me. lol But he grew up in our Midwest tradition and his dad never SAID those words, but always SHOWED them.

My wonderful husband now tells me AND shows me all the time. I We fit like chocolate and peanut butter in a bite-sized cup. I like him better. :-)


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