Enough with the chuckling folks. Typical Male Obliviousness -- TMO -- is a very real thing that we writers need to concerned about when writing a male romantic character (it can also be rendered as Typical Main Character Obliviousness, but we're talking about male characters right now).
Now, I wasn't going to do a second post on romance from the male perspective, but the first one garnered such a good response that I figured it would be silly to not compose a follow up.
The primary symptom of TMO is that the man does not notice the woman who's at his side through thick and thin, be she his coworker, best friend, secretary, best friend's younger sister (Harry Potter anyone?), etc. And they definitely won't notice that said woman is helplessly hopelessly deeply madly in love with them (brownie points to whoever guesses which movie I stole that last bit from).
TMO (or TMCO) can be played for dramatic (or comedic) effect in pretty much every genre. Whether it's the fantasy story that has the best female friend coming along on the quest, the sci-fi tale where the brilliant female anthropologist discovers the aliens' secrets and helps the male diplomat initiate first contact, or even the western where the schoolteacher helps the sheriff save the town.
The only qualification you need for a case of TMO is that the guy doesn't realize the girl has feelings for him. You can also use this for dramatic effect when the TMO falls away and the guy realizes how much the girl really does mean to him. This seems to happen a lot where the girl's about to leave forever and the guy stops her at the airport/train station/bus stop where he confesses the feelings he didn't realize he had. Then they kiss and everyone lives happily ever after.
How can you reliably imitate TMO in your fiction? It's relatively easy, believe it or not. Step one is to consider how observant your male character is (if the answer is "not much at all," then you're in the clear). Step two is to think how subtle your female character is, and make your male character's observation skills inversely related to that (i.e. the more subtle she is, the less observant he is). The funniest examples of TMO are, in my opinion, the ones that have the male character be a genuinely caring person but still oblivious to how much the female character wants him.
An important book to read if you want to get the full psychological reasoning behind TMO is You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Communication by Deborah Tannen. The existence of TMO, you'll find, is because of these differing communication styles, which are important to render accurately in fiction. Well, not so much accurately as believably (there are some people in our lives who no one would believe could exist if they were a fictional character).
Are there any examples of TMO (or TMCO) in your own work? Do you think I'm stereotyping men too much? I welcome your thoughts, loyal readers.
NOTE: An answer to Julie's question on the original Romance post -- the thing that annoys me the most is the bad boy with a heart of gold. It's unfortunate that so many women now believe they can change the bad boys in their lives to become good men, when more often than not that ends up not happening.