Jillian Godsil tries to figure out how other men and women talk to beautiful people.
Michael Fassbender is the latest overnight success in the film business. His authentic and critically acclaimed role as hunger striker Bobby Sands in Hunger (2008), notched him up to a series of high profile roles in equally high profile films, making him one of the most bankable actors today. From Jane Eyre to Inglorious Bastards, his screen presence has grown in stature, while his role in Shame, directed by his old Hunger partner, Steve McQueen and featuring explicit sexual scenes, has earned him credits in a slightly different direction. At the Golden Globes ceremony earlier this year, George Clooney thanked Fassbender for taking over his responsibility for full frontal nudity in film in general, and Shame in particular, and went on to say he believed Mr. Fassbender could play golf with hands behind his back. Ever since, a lot of jokes and tributes to Mr Fassbender’s best supporting member have continued around the globe.
At the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTAs) in Dublin, I recently met with Michael Fassbender and was rendered speechless.
Ah, the sounds of silence. There have been a few. I remember a tutorial on the origins of the Spanish Civil War. I had prepared and researched the topic but had not managed to write a concluding paper. As my patient, and also handsome professor (maybe there is a trend) gently prompted me for the main cities in Spain, all I could think of was the party-fuelled and package-filled Spanish resorts of Magaluf and Torresmolinos. None of which may have existed even as hamlets in the ‘30s. My professor took pity on me and took the tutorial.
The start of my finals in university. The opening question on my first English paper was utterly incomprehensible. My brain emptied of all words and I stared, goldfish-like, at the paper for a full five minutes until secondary resources took over. Sense, words and knowledge came tumbling back into my brain, like a returning wave, and washed over me and my exam rictus.
By the campfire in Montana, while on a cattle drive and resting one evening. I was listening to an erudite and learned old cowboy. He had survived car crashes, plane crashes, helicopter crashes, even horse wrecks. I listened to his stories and my mind just stopped. It was as though he had opened my head like a boiled egg and poured his wondrous stories straight in: soothing and calming, I had no need for words.
A final equestrian trek in South Africa. Our group had to half-swim on horseback in deep water before scrambling onto partially flooded banks, where we had to canter along the game fence. All the while, the heavy hippos called loudly to our left, splashing solidly in water only feet away. My mouth stopped then too, but it could have been a combination of fear, the noise of the hippos, and water crashing over us as we cantered. I may have laughed, crazy as a loon, as I held on for dear life—but no words formed in my sheer joyful terror.
Scuba diving in Fiji on my honeymoon. We sat on the edge of a tiny motor boat, my new husband and I, with two silent Fijians. At the signal, for words were not used, we put in our mouth pieces and fell backwards into the water. Splashing and deep watery sounds rushed past my ears as we submerged into the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. I could not speak, of course, and dared not even think. In the lost and semi-dark light, we trailed our guide down to the reef, bubbles of air floating upward in place of words. At 60 feet down, the sea was too heavy for me. Making the ‘up signal’ and far from all right, I excused myself and returned to the boat. Spluttering and coughing as I scrambled on board, I tried to find words to describe how I felt and failed.
Ah, meeting Mr Fassbender. At the crowded smoking area in the cold outside the function room, where the glamorous gathered to smoke, I found myself at his elbow. He was happily chatting with a circle of people, some of whom were at my table. I paused, I listened, and when no suitable break in conversation could be found, I tugged his sleeve like a child.
He turned and smiled at me, and I said that I just wanted to say hello. He smiled some more and so did I, but my mind was empty of all words, adjectives, capitals, nouns, tenses, commas, and just any punctuation in general.
Instead, I had this overwhelming image of his phallus. It was the metaphorical size of the elephant in the room, pun intended. As words failed me, the image grew and grew in importance and stature. It was palpable between us as my brain grew this impediment to speech. Finally, he asked my name and I stammered it, but then excused myself, blushing.
So this is my question. Men, by many accounts, are prone to see women—especially attractive women—by the sum of their body parts. I have read repeatedly and have been told ad nauseum that men see not the face, but the rack, not the smile, but the legs. They have an advanced peripheral visual acuity which allows them to view the body parts, without necessarily allowing the eyes to drift too obviously.
With such sensitivity, how on earth do men make sensible conversation when presented with a beautiful woman? Or have I answered my own question thinking about the generations of tongue-tied would-be suitors in this world.
Girding my metaphorical loins to counter Mr. Fassbender’s imagined ones, I returned to the scene of my speechlessness and requested a photograph. He kindly obliged. I was still incapable of coherent, elegant or intelligent conversation, so I finished off by asking Mr. Fassbender if he would launch my book. Maybe I wanted to prolong the conversation, maybe I wanted to let him know there lurked a brain behind my inane grinning, and definitely I wanted some legitimate way of contacting him again so I could ask him to play the lead in the film version. He agreed before legging it in the opposite direction at high speed. He must have known the silent ones are the most deadly, taking his rapid leave before my motor skills returned and I could summon up new and more fanciful requests. A dance, a date, or marriage perhaps?
So having being in the place of awe where my entire being had been focused on the unmentioned phallus of Mr. Fassbender, I must reluctantly applaud you men. Genetically predisposed to dissecting women into genital titillation, I wonder how you can function at all in the presence of a beautiful woman.
If I had stayed any longer, I fear that the old Beverly Brothers’ line would have made an appearance. “If I said you have a beautiful body, Mr. Fassbender, would you hold it against me?”
However, having since regained my capacity for words (as you’ve just read), I now just wait for Mr. Fassbender’s availability to launch my novel, aptly entitled Running out of Road. Maybe the next time we might even have a conversation.