--female main character who is older and single
--absolutely no love interests, romance or sex
--no swearing, graphic violence, etc.
I have very little sympathy with the person making this request -- it seems to bar a great deal of the human condition from art -- but a good deal of sympathy for the person doing a hard job trying to help her. So. Chime in if you have any ideas.
As regards yesterday's poll: eight minutes. Eight. Those few of you who bet on my continuing sanity on this subject: thanks, but, um, that's not something you should rely on particularly much.
And there's a comment I made in the comments section that probably deserves a moment of explication: orbitalmechanic told me I was cute, and I tried my standard, by now thoroughly failed response to that: "I'm not cute, I used to be a physicist." It was, as I noted, much pithier when it was a growled, "I'm not cute, I'm a physicist." It was no more effective but a great deal more important to me.
See..."cute" is not the same as "pretty" or "attractive" or "hot," or, on the other side of the cute spectrum, "charming" or "fun." None of those other words has quite the same ring to it. And when you're a young, female physicist, often "you're so cute," means something friendly and innocuous...but a substantial percentage of the time, it means, "I don't believe you can handle the math and/or the soldering." People who think you're cute aren't always dismissing you and your capacity to do the work -- but sometimes they are. Often enough to be disturbing. So I developed a knee-jerk reaction to "cute" pretty fast -- more or less upon first contact. (Which was college. Nobody in high school thought I was cute anywhere along the pretty-to-charming spectrum. I promise. I was terrifying, not cute. I got used to that.) (Now I can be both! Yay, adult world!) (Ahem. Sorry.)
And I use "cute" myself sometimes, and never to question someone's competence. I use it of big hulking males whose ability to do linear algebra I have never doubted. In fact, in the personality side of things, the "charming" side, the man who taught my Modern, Math Methods, Quantum, and Nuke courses was just so cute. He had these Inspector Gadget arms, and when he demonstrated rotation over 4Pi with his coffee cup, it was just the cutest thing. I still smile at the cute thinking of Tom doing that. This is not the "ooh baby baby" cute, this is the "awwww" cute. But it's "awww, the way he does physics is so cute," not "awww, he thinks he can do physics!"
Tom wasn't a young woman, he was a middle-aged guy. If someone told him he was cute, they were not going to attempt to take lab implements away from him on his own project and smile condescendingly if he explained how they were using them wrong. No one was going to corner him to try to cop a feel when they were supposed to be discussing results of the last data set if he was cute. No one's girlfriend was going to have to hear a careful explanation about how, no, really, she's a valuable lab partner and not just cute lab decor.
And deliberately attempting to be neither pretty nor charming nor any of the other things cute sometimes means did not seem like the way to go either. So: railing against the cute. Even when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt -- as I know with orbitalmechanic -- that there was nothing of the sort in it.
And the thing is, I don't live there any more. I am not Marissa Lingen, Girl Physicist, on a daily basis (though she still pokes her nose out sometimes). Most editors and agents have no idea whether I am cute in any sense of the word, and if they do, it's not a big deal, either way. Either way, they're not going to pick up a story of mine and say, "Oh, she's cute/not cute," and reject the story unread. Whatever gender problems the field may or may not have -- and we can argue about that somewhere else and at another time, please -- cuteness is not at the center of them. If I hear someone calling me cute for a particular comment or behavior, or telling me I look cute in whatever I'm wearing, there is not even the slightest hint of "too bad you can't plot your way out of a paper bag," in it. Nobody even has to fight that implication, because as far as I can tell, it's just not there.
So, the knee: I need to get it to stop jerking. I know that. But that's why it does.