Sunday, October 23, 2005

Last of a dying breed – Musings from an endangered species vol. 1

Hi modern society, hipsters, various folks from the intelligentsia, I have a confession for you all. I’m a romantic. Not in the academic sense either (because I know some of you—especially you there, at the bar—may confuse me with a long dead poet or dead composer) but in the literal, often considered trite, enjoys-the-movie-Say Anything sense of the term.

Oh sure, I realize the downfalls to this character trait (or flaw, depending on your viewpoint of life) and I compensate by being quite the cynical jackass many hours of the day. But deep down I still believe in the thrill, the joy, the irrationality of the Grand Romantic Gesture.

And that’s where Chuck Klosterman got it wrong in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. Once you go blaming John Cusack romantic comedies for presenting society with an unrealistic view of love, and worse, refer to it as “fake love” you’ve both kind of doomed yourself to a state of perpetual unfulfillment (____________[1]) you also missed the point of something like the boombox scene in Say Anything. Or even the underrated “my number’s in this Gabriel Garcia Marquez book / pick a floor in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel elevator” sequence in Serendipity.

Call me overly optimistic (hey, it beats getting call “asshole”), but I think women in general may love fairytale endings, they also are smart enough to both differentiate between fantasyland[2] and their own lives[3]. They know that getting that “happily ever after” is going to take some work.

Us crazy romantics just feel that standing in her yard playing her favorite song makes that journey to happily ever after far more worth it than just settling down, popping out kids, and doing your best to wrap up “maritals” in time for Sportscenter—assuming your sex life is even that active.

Before I get accused of gender bias (and the gender bias police are walking outside my window as I type this, in their non-gender specific colored sweatsuits) women can hold the boomboxes too, and we guys can be just as accused of not appreciating the guts it takes for these gestures.

And sometimes we’re just clueless.

But I’ll admit at sometimes being a romantic is a very masochistic thing. Because the one thing you don’t see too often in the movies is when the Grand Romantic Gesture doesn’t work. And the truly romantic (or demented) gets up from the canvass, and tries harder the next time.

Case in point, last summer there was a girl I had dated off and on for a while and, against some of my friends’ advice, I wanted this off and on pattern to move to a steady “on” pattern[4]. Clearly to me, this was a case where going out to the bars and then hooking up afterwards wasn’t going to work[5], so I set up something nice and fancy: we would see that great, romantic classic Casablanca, at that great, romantic classic theatre, The Fox—this part I told her in advance, also with the note that we’d dress up for the event, which she loved because it gave her an excuse to go shopping[6]--but also after this, the plan was then to go grab drinks at the Sundial (for those not familiar with downtown Atlanta who don’t feel like clicking on the link, it’s a rotating bar with great views some 70 stories up.) Sadly the night ended with me leaving the Sundial without her—without going into specifics, it sucked.

It really, really, really sucked.


And here’s where the masochist part comes in: a little more than a month later we’re back at the Fox on my birthday. But this time there’s no drama, two days later I try to drop by her work with a book she’d been unable to find, and wound up on the back porch of her parents’ house talking with her folks while she goes on about me to them. And in the long run, even though we’re not together and “off and on” is still the best phrase I could think of to describe or relationship, moments like that made it worth it. There’s euphoria in these kinds of moments I’d compare to hardcore drug use/addiction if that hadn’t been done over and over (often in bad cockrock songs) already.

There’s no risk when you say, “it’s not worth it”, but there’s no reward either.

Ok, lecture over. I promise the next one will be funnier. If not I’ll surprise you with something grandly romantic when you least expect it.

[1] Though I’m contractually obligated to leave this blank space here so you can insert your own variation on the classic “exceptions for the ladies in the audience who get ‘filled’” joke. Me, I feel above such lowbrow shenanigans.

[2] Meaning in this essay “the world where fairy tales and such take place” and not that store you buy your adult novelties and lubricants. Pervo.

[3] Excepting, of course, any real life princesses that read this blog. (And by that I mean folks like Princess Grace of Monaco—who I have a sneaking suspicion is now married and has been for some time but is the only princess I can think of—and not just girls who were called “princess” by their dads.

[4] Cynical relationship half-truism: women say they want guys who want to commit, but they usually mean by this “a guy that doesn’t want to settle down and commit that I can convince to settle down and commit” and guys looking for commitment are generally doomed. Note: this is identified as a half-truth so I don’t barraged with feedback and emails telling me how wrong my generalization is. But it does happen a lot—sometimes to me—and I feel the need to vent.

[5] I give this as an example because it happens in Athens I’d say more than couples going to movies. Conventional dating just doesn’t seem to happen a lot in this town, and I remember both being confused at coming up with actual date ideas after graduation and occasionally confusing some still-in-college girls if a “fancy” date was proposed. There, see, I can use the word proposed without fear ladies.

[6] Which I know makes her sound like a stereotypical clotheshorse, so in the interest of fair reporting I list some of her great characteristics here: She was a very compassionate animal lover—her dog was a former stray and despite a busy schedule of 16 course hours and 20+ bartending she found time to volunteer at the Humane Society, she was quite a talented writer who really should’ve written more for the paper, she cheered both louder and better during a Georgia football game than any other girl I knew—and also edited the sports section of her old school’s paper, and I’d go on, but hopefully you get the idea.

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