something is wrong with me
June, 2003

" ...there's something mystical about his face,
like he sprung up- giggling -from behind a toadstool in Tolkien's forest."

Something strange has happened to me. Last night I dreamed that I was in
McDonald's buying Clay Aiken a Happy Meal. He was holding my hand.
He said he'd rather have a quarter pounder, super-sized. 
I woke in a sweat, giggling

Don't ask. It's probably only because I'm supposed to be on a diet. I'm also trying to go vegetarian because I don't want to become an even madder cow than I already am.
I blame it on the fact that I saw the Rolling Stone Cover and turned into a blithering mass of jelly for the better part of Father's Day. I was in such a fog over how much they sexed up Clay, I could barely concentrate on hubby's special day. I forgot to call my elderly father. Bad, bad, bad. And I have to admit I liked the feeling. Reluctantly, maybe, but I liked it. How did that boy do it? 

He had a lot of help. But the boy is using his own stuff after all. The stuff God gave him.

I'm supposed to be a writer. I have my first romance novel coming out in the fall, another that is being considered by a very respected agent, another that is almost complete and ready to be shopped around. They are books about tall, dark and handsome heros, dangerous men who do daring things, the current trend, of course. Alpha, macho men: Cops pretending to deal drugs, a hired thief who works for Scotland Yard, even a wild midnight disc jockey. They could teach Dr. Ruth a thing or two about sex. They started early. No one confuses their sexuality. Or debates it.

They aren't boys. They don't giggle and or make faces. They are very wary of kids and they do not have a bevy of female roommates. Actually they don't trust women all that much. They are estranged from their families. They don't attend church or wear bracelets to remind them to do things Jesus' way. They might sing in the shower, but off-key. I used to like my heros cold and cynical and bruised by life.

Maybe brutal.

Okay, that's what I thought women wanted. Sue me. I was brought up on Arnold movies.

Why, then, am I obsessed all of a sudden with a bouncy red-headed twenty-four-year-old? Why is my forty year old sister doing the same thing? Her colleagues at school, too. My eighteen and sixteen year old daughters, who claim to love the Vines and the Hives and the White Stripes, are drooling over his voice? My daughter's physics and chemistry teacher made cutouts of his face and hers to demonstrate how atoms react to each other in nuclear explosions. The boys in the class groaned. The girls squealed and pounded their desks.

The writers on one of my list groups love him–some are N.Y. Times best selling authors. Everyone from sixty to twenty has an opinion about Clay. Usually the opinion that I as a fan want to hear, but always tempered with: He's not my usual type. Or there's something mystical about his face, like he sprung up- giggling -from behind a toadstool in Tolkien's forest.


One of these women is a respected psychologist. She gets giddy!

I don't know what it is. Maybe it was seeing him go from geek to hunk. We feel we possess him. Like Prometheus molded clay into human form and stole fire to give it life, we did the same with our Clay. Some of us voted, if we could. We bought his CD. We told him what to wear through message boards. He heeded our call and gave us Grease. He did it despite the crap he knew he'd take from the Hydra. And when the sh-t hit the fan he took it in the gut like a major dude. Wow.

So, we created him, in a way. And we feel we created beauty. But the beauty was always there all along. And the grace under fire. And that is so hero-like. 

Yet, he's still his own man. And we like that, too.

Now we are reaping the benefits, saying to ourselves that we are proved right. Clay is innocent male beauty. He's grace. He's class. And now he's sexy as hell. Rolling Stone will make him a star. That's kind of scary for some and exciting for others. We can't help but talk about it. Some of us feel enormously guilty peering at his tummy. 

Okay, not that guilty.

On that Rolling Stone cover he qualifies as a classic rock hunk, in that skinny, narrow-hipped, wide shouldered seventies rock star way. Like Mick and Bowie and Robert Plant. And those who followed. He has an elfin, girly face, gorgeous hair and sultry eyes. Are they blue or green? My fellow Clay-lovers and I could muse on that for hours. I have spent hours peering at a tiny picture on a computer screen at a tiny bit of hip bone until I am ashamed of myself.

Okay, not that ashamed.

All the while men look at him and shake their heads. He is not macho. He's not cool. But then my husband doesn't understand why I have a thing for Adrien Brody these days, either.

I'll have to continue to mull this over and probably will for a long time. I love the guy. He's my new hero. If it's okay for Demi Moore to have a go at Ashton, it's okay to like Clay. Yet, as I watch him bloom and grow as an artist into an icon, I can't help but feel a little sad, like I'm losing that elfin, skinny creature who stepped into the light from behind that toadstool. I'm hoping he never becomes one of those self-possessed and cynical stereotypes that the media–-and so-called writers like myself--have tried to perpetuate on the women of the world.

He won't let them do that, I tell myself. He's still Clay. The boy who squeals over barbeque and adores his mom.

There's a funny little look on Clay's face on that Rolling Stone cover. A look that says that he's not quite sure about this. Or maybe it's just him teasing us. Maybe he was sure of that sexuality, his allure, all along. Just led us through a merry dance until we found it out for ourselves. Made us believe that we'd given life to it.

I know one thing. The cynical heros I create are about to change, thanks to Clay Aiken. Don't know if the N.Y. editors who seem to think they know what the readers want will go for it. I hope to heck they read Rolling Stone. I hope Clay becomes romantic lead in a movie.

Thanks to Clay, our society's rather jaded icons are going to have to move over and make some room. How very nice. Thanks, Rolling Stone. Thanks to the girl who was brave enough to post that cover and got flack for it. You are too cool. 

who  writes contemporary women's fiction as B.G. McCarthy.


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