So once I got home from the UK, I started to research loveshyness. It isn't an Official Disorder, so some of the information out there is sketchy. I had two main resources: 1. There really is a loveshy forum online. Some of it was pretty confronting - there are a lot of very unhappy people on there, and sometimes I felt kinda creepy, reading their posts without responding to any of them. But it was very interesting - a lot of Nick's opinions and experiences were inspired by those guys.
2. A book by Dr. Brian G. Gilmartin. Dr Gilmartin did some amazing research interviewing loveshy men, and found some really weird correlations - like that loveshy guys are more likely to have a dairy allergy, enjoy citrus fruits, listen to classical music etc. They also almost exclusively pined for sweet, small-breasted pretty girls with long, brown hair - a very romantic and sweet fantasy, unlike the big-breasted blonde bombshells that we usually associate with male fantasies. Dr Gilmartin has some really interesting theories about what causes loveshyness. For example, he says that genetic research performed in Nazi Germany found that strong, athletic boys generally had confident, happy mothers. Boys with anxious or depressed mothers received less testosterone in the womb, and as a result grew up more timid. Because of this timidity, they were often ostracised from their peers at a very young age, which created a vicious cycle of anxiety and rejection, that just got worse and worse as the boys grew older.* The second half of Dr Gilmartin's book focusses on treatment, and wanders into some very strange territory featuring ESP and reincarnation, which is perhaps why it never received more scientific attention.
So after that I did a lot more reading about anxiety disorders and treatment. Most of what I was reading was incredibly dark, and I started to wonder... how on earth was I ever going to write a funny book about this very serious condition, without totally trivialising it?
More on that tomorrow.
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*I think it's important to note that this research was all done 30-odd years ago, so many of the men interviewed would have been born in the 1950s. I hope that society has somewhat moved on from then, and that shy boys find it a little easier.