The evens, I cannot.
This is a story about two grown men who are – apparently literally – unable to find each other’s cocks.
Aaron took his hand away from his cock. “Touch it then."
Jake tentatively reached out and pressed his palm flat against Aaron's stomach, his fingers fanning out then staying still, letting the heat soak into them. He was deathly afraid to move them any further. Aaron stayed still as well, unnaturally still for him, letting Jake simply touch him. The only thing moving either of them was Aaron's steady breathing as his stomach rose and fell slightly under Jake's hand.
"Beautiful,” Jake whispered. “The pictures could never hold you. This is mine; this is what I was trying to find."
"Now that it's found,” Aaron replied as his fingers combed through Jake's hair, “don't lose it again.”
Suggest alternative title for this book: How to Lose a Guy’s Cock in Five Years.
Thankfully they have a sassy straight woman (for this is what straight women are for) to help them find their knobs again.
I suppose I should see it as ... turnabout being fair play that after many years in which the only possible role for a gay person in the media was the desexualised, wrist-flopping best friend of a heroine ... that women are now the m/m equivalent of Grindr.
Helping gay men get laid since 2009.
But, look, this is not okay.
Firstly we can honestly get ourselves laid. We’ve been doing it for a long time now, and I think we’ve got it sussed.
And, secondly – women are not sexual intercourse mediation devices. If I need a friend to negotiate my shagging for me, I should not be having sex.
Now, I realise the role of women in m/m is difficult, and a Sassy Straight Woman is infinitely better than an One Dimensional Bitch Queen From Hell, but I genuinely believe it’s messed up that the default role of Valued Woman Person in m/m is ... love pimp to incompetent homosexuals.
Obviously I’m not a monolith but I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to genuinely value, admire and form friendships with women who have better things to do with their lives than facilitate my orgasms.
Anyway. God. This book. I don’t know what to say.
There’s nothing more alienating than humour you don’t find funny. I think this is supposed to amusing, but ...
... we were not amused.
And that’s not a criticism of the book, as such, it’s merely an incompatibility of temperament. Stuff like this:
"She's not going to get you fish, you know. She'll more than likely get you the chicken salad sandwich I always get on Tuesdays from the deli down on the corner."
"You eat the same thing every Tuesday?"
"And Wednesday and Thursday and Friday... do you see a pattern?"
"I think you and your Ho-Hos need to branch out more."
"And eat trout?"
"Maybe even bear."
"Yeah, uh-uh, I'm thinking ‘no’ on the bear."
"You gotta live dangerously, Mozart; there are only so few days each year bear is in season, you know."
"When exactly is bear season?"
"How the hell should I know? You're the one who reads Field and Stream, for chrissake."
"This conversation is going nowhere fast."
"It's not my fault you're a conversation killer."
"Is that in any way, shape, or form like a serial killer?"
Aaron grinned. “A little, only with slightly less body parts in your freezer."
"That's good, because then there would be no room for the bear."
I get what it’s trying to do... and I get that it’s meant to hint at the fundamental compatibility of these two nauseating manic pixie dream boys ... but to me ... it’s just trying so hard to be quirky that it comes across as excruciatingly lol!random, and leaves me wanting to punch myself in the face.
It’s like ... y’know that bit in Garden State where Natalie Portman all like makes Zack Wossname make a funny noise because nobody will ever have done that in that spot and it’ll be like totally unique and special, like a fucking goddamn snowflake? And with exactly zero conviction Nat does this weird wiggly dance thing that makes you feel actively embarrassed and uncomfortable, because it’s just so self-conscious, awkward, and trying-too-hardy, and you’re left shaking your head, being all like “oh girl, no.”
You know that bit?
This entire book is like that for me.
But here are some less personal things that I felt didn’t quite work. I guess for UST to be interesting to me it has to be Unresolved for what seems to be a plausible reason. Not just plot necessity, ineptitude and lack of basic communication skills.
I know there are plenty of readers who don’t enjoy their menz with even the faintest flicker of emotional intelligence or verbal competence because it’s the wrong sort of gay (and that's fine - taste is taste, is what it is) ... but I think even the most muscular and wang-focused human male can just about manage to grunt out “shall we bang?” Possibly while cupping himself if he’s concerned the message might not be, ahem, received.
And I’m totally fine, in principle, with “oh, it might damage our friendship” or “but I’m not sure he likes me back that way” or “I’m worried he’s not the right sort of person for me (BUT REALLY HE IS!)” which are the usual obstacles causing UST in friends-to-lovers type stories. But I need them to be embedded in something that feels like a genuine concern, or an understandable perception, otherwise you have a book in which the characters are just marking time until a certain number of pages have gone by, and they can bonk.
But the only thing keeping MPDB 1 and MPDB 2 apart is the fact the hobnob I just dipped in my tea probably has a more mature understanding of human relationships. So when MPDB 2 decides to move in with his boyfriend, this is an actual conversation that happens in the book.
As in a conversation between grownups, who presumably have voices and brains, and agency over their lives and actions:
"Jake. He didn't say a thing. He didn't argue. He didn't tell me ‘no, you can't'. He didn't say anything at all."
"What did you tell him, Aaron?” Alyson asked in a low voice."
I told him I said yes."
"Yes to what?"
"He didn't fight for me, Aly. I thought maybe he would."
"Goddammit, Aaron, tell me what the hell you're talking about. What did you say yes to and why isn't Jake talking to you?"
"Matt asked me to move in with him. Three nights ago. He told me he loved me and wanted me with him all the time because he missed me when I wasn't. No one has ever told me that; no one has ever wanted to be with me all the time."
"No one? You honestly believe that? What then do you call Jake calling you in the middle of the night because he needs to know you're there? What do you call him coming to your place when he barely goes anywhere at all because he knows you'll be there? What the hell is that if not missing you and wanting to be with you all the time?"
"I know, but he's never told me. He's never said the words like Matt did. I never know with him.”
So he’s not moving in with Matt because he wants to, or he thinks it won’t work with Jake, or even because he thinks Jake isn’t into him ... it’s because JAKE NEVER SAID THE WORDS.
And because passive aggressive emotional backmail is a wonderful reason to co-habit.
Also what the hairy balls is this “He didn't tell me ‘no, you can't'” nonsense? Since when did passing arbitrary judgement on what you can and cannot do with your life become a sought-after trait in a partner? And, yes, of course negotiating your mutual happiness is important and involves compromise, but ... specifically agreeing to do something in the hope that your partner will forbid it ... that is so completely deranged it’s honestly no wonder these men need a woman to guide their cocks together.
She probably has to tie their shoelaces as well.