On Valentine's Day, my husband sent me flowers.
He didn't send them because it was Valentine's Day, which we'd celebrated the weekend before. He sent them because, earlier that day, I'd been on a roller coaster ride with a potential agent that ended in a confidence-shaking rejection. So my husband sent me flowers.
These, "You got this and I believe in you" flowers meant more to me than "I love you" flowers could.
This is a hard blog to frame. Woman have played the role of "supportive" for so long that it seems like it's written into the job requirement: cook dinners and rub feet and say uplifting things. So should men really get a bravo when they rise to the same standards? Yeah. First, because I believe in positive reinforcement. And second, because when both people in the equation are supportive, that's where the magic happens.
Supportive Men Are Sexy
I thought my latest book, The Billionaire's Prince, was going to be about strong women. It derived from the concept: What if the billionaire CEO was a woman? I wanted my female lead to take control and ultimately be the person who swoops in to save the day. But since I write cisgendered, hetero romance novels, I needed the man to be "manly." I needed him to be sexy and strong, but in a way that didn't impede on my heroine's strength.
The book became an exploration of the behaviors of supportive men as much as it was about strong women. I realized that the way for him to be strong and sexy was to accept her strength as a matter of course, for him to lean into and on her strength, and ultimately that one of his strengths -- and one way that made him immensely sexy -- was how much he enjoyed hers.
Men, take note.
Supportive men are Active
Chris Pine in the role of Steve Trevor in the "Wonder Woman" movie did an astonishing job playing the role of the strong, sexy!!!! supportive man. It's easy to think of support as passive, a rah-rahing from the sidelines while the other person does all the work. But Pine is lockstep with our (yes, we've claimed her) Gal Gadot all the way. He's attracted to her, overwhelmed by her, worried for her. He pulls her back when she insults a general and marvels at her when she enjoys ice cream. But never once does he doubt her abilities. He's the one who tells his burly compatriots to place a platform on their backs so they can fling her into battle.
Watching Chris Pine in that role gave me hope for the future of story telling. Watching Chris Pine in that role made me sad for how rare we see that type of man.
Supportive men are complicated
The movie "Hidden Figures" -- which tells the story of three African-American female mathematicians who helped the U.S. win the space race -- does an incredible job of exploring too many unknown stories. One piece I noticed was how the husbands reacted to their incredibly smart wives.
Aldis Hodge plays the husband of Mary Jackson, NASA's first black female engineer. In the beginning of the movie, he is critical of his wife's efforts to be the first black woman in white-only classes. He is afraid for her. Ultimately, though, he supports her. Hodge says about his character:
"He supported his wife — supported her in a very avant-garde way given the time frame. This is the '60s, so I loved what he represented and what they represented."
Support doesn't come instantly or easily. It's earned, learned, and taught. Even the character of Col. Jim Johnson, played by Mahershala Ali, missteps wildly in this awesome scene before he goes on to become the supportive husband of physicist and mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson.
supportive men are rare
I've become a big fan of The Wicked Wallflowers Club podcast, which showcases big-name romance writers and explores why the genre is awesome. More than once, authors have mentioned how they don't feel supported by their partners or families, how their husbands don't "get" what they're doing.
This makes me sad. It also makes me deeply appreciate of what I have and reminds me not to take it for granted. My mom reads and comments on all my books on Wattpad. My brothers share my stories on their social media profiles.
But most importantly for the day-to-day Angelina who sits down and slaves at this writing thing every day, my husband believes in my writing every day. He's believed in every story, he's cheered on every query and request for full, and he's commiserated with every rejection. In December, when an agent asked for a full manuscript before I was quite ready, he spent a weekend editing it while I frantically wrote the end.
He is not perfect in all things, and I wouldn't want him to be because that's waaaaay too much pressure. But in this, this active, sexy, and complicated support of my writing, he has been perfect.
So while this is an ode to supportive men, I guess it's also a little bit of an ode to him.
Happy Valentine's Day, my love.