Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day

Female readers of Der Viator Blog, I suspect, desperately want to know what I did for Valentine's Day. It's true that I can woo a woman as easily with my actions as with my mellifluous words.  Ever the romantic and not inattentive to affairs of the heart, I splurged and took my wife to Dairy Queen. I tore into an Oreo blizzard, while she availed herself of a raspberry Arctic Rush, what with her diet and all. Between slurps I ruminated on the materialistic, greed-driven society in which we live and that foists upon us poor saps a Valentine's Day or some such contrived occasion, all for the purpose of lining the pockets of Hallmark Card execs, restaurant capitalists, and florist fat cats. I'm not sure if she appreciated my diatribe, but I wanted to remind her that I can be quite passionate about stuff, a plus with women according to The Oprah Magazine.

I'm just kidding about Dairy Queen. I guess I find it difficult to discuss my love life without making a joke.  Heck, I still can't talk about Jack, my pet frog when I was in elementary school.  I loved that little guy, at least until he peed on my hand, at which time I tossed him into the drainage ditch across the street from my house.  He landed on a clump of grass, but I think a rattle snake eventually got him.  Wow.  I've never shared this before, not with real people anyway.  I have an imaginary friend named Justin Timberlake, not to be confused with the singer.  I would tell him my deepest desires and fears all the time.  I guess if I can talk about Jack, then I can talk about Valentine's Day.

So my wife and I get in the car, right?  I'm going to take her to a restaurant and a movie.   I give her three choices for dining and she says to me that I should just decide.  Then she recounts to me a conversation she had with a female co-worker about the man taking charge in situations like this.  Evidently she told her friend that I had planned the whole evening and the friend thought that my proactive approach was romantic.  Taking charge.  Well if that don't beat all!  She wants me be a man, call the shots, set the agenda, huh?  I told her that it just doesn't work like that.  I can't push a button and all of a sudden be her knight in shining armor.  Excuse me if I find it a challenge to get out of the obsequious mode and pusillanimous demeanor that she's meticulously created for me.  Women of today have written the script for us, all we stupid men need to do is read our lines.  (That's what I tell Justin Timberlake all the time, anyway--again, not the real singer...)  It all started in our first year of marriage when she'd lay out clothes for me on the bed each day.  My brown-in-back and yellow-in-front sensibility didn't quite meet her high-falutin standards, and she quickly showed who's boss.  Since then I've learned not to stray far, and she keeps a tight leash.  And now I'm supposed to be Fabio, ravish pher like the cover of a Harlequin romance, and tell her what we're doing?

We ended up going to a Mexican restaurant, which was no surprise to her.  The way it works is that I stuff my piehole with chips and salsa whilst she prattles on about my ineptitude.  Is it a wonder that I'm craving a strawberry margarita with extra tequila by this time?  I need something to drown my sorrows.  Problem is, by the time I get the drink, my sorrows, to quote Bono from a U2 song, have learned how to swim.  In fact, when I returned to my margarita from the restroom, these sorrows, like lifeguards with too much time on their hands, had already taught new sorrows to swim and now they're all splashing around having a gay old time.  Fortunately for me, my wife knew our waitress, a former student of hers, and so the tongue lashing I received was less virulent than usual; my wife didn't want to come across as overbearing.  But enough with the romantic dinner!  Let me skip to the movie.

We went to the fancy, upscale theater to see "A Single Man" starring Colin Firth. My wife loves him, largely because of his portrayal as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.   For weeks I went around the house talking in a British accent, wearing a black trenchcoat, and pretending to be sensitive, not so much out of jealousy but to demonstrate how ludicrous was her attraction to fops and dandies.  My sullen brow and wistful expression made Lord Byron look like Howdy Doody by comparison.  All my efforts were to no avail, however, as my wife would trot off to the next Colin Firth film, prancing and whinnying like a horse before quenching her wanton thirst at the trough of his thespian prowess.

The movie's based on a Christopher Isherwood novel about a gay English professor named George Falconer who teaches English literature at a California university in 1962. His partner of 16 years dies in a car crash, and he must suffer this loss alone and in excruciating silence (though his platonic girlfriend played by Julianne Moore commiserates with him). I had been wanting to see the film, intrigued as I was with the idea of portraying a person who outwardly seems fine but who is absolutely devastated and destroyed on the inside.  Similarly, Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem "Richard Cory" about an enigmatic man who commits suicide took ahold of my imagination when I read it as a teen.  The Colin Firth film, I think, gives a touching portrait of two men in love without--and this is key for me--indulging in any sex scenes. Also, had it dealt with, say, gays in the military, I wouldn't watch it, because I don't like movies that engage in social engineering or have a political agenda.  "A Single Guy," on the other hand, is an attempt to explore the emotional depths of human nature.  It's more about art for art's sake, and the highly stylized film evokes, at least for me, the early Sixties, in the protagonist's thick-rimmed glasses, the furniture, the clothing, the brownish and grey tones that weave through the frames, and a large mural advertisement for the film Psycho that forms the backdrop to one scene.

While I wouldn't rank this movie as great and the ending is a bit problematic for me, I was quite touched by the portrayal.  In fact, while my wife was salivating over Colin Firth, I was smitten--dare I say it--by another character in the story, a young college student whose lithe body, firm buttocks, compassionate heart, and delicious blue eyes got me going.  The young man seemed to take an interest in the professor, and at first I presumed he merely wanted to bed his teacher; but in the end he comes across, as my perspicacious wife pointed out, as a kind of guardian angel (if not a sentinel standing watch), who saves the bereaving man from a worse fate.  Keep in mind I'm a heterosexual. I'm not saying that, like George Costanza in Seinfield, "it moved," though it did move, but in the opposite direction, as I spilled coffee on my lap during the opening credits and, in yet another Costanza moment, I experienced shrinkage.

Plus, any sensuality that I was experiencing was ruined when my wife, with her legs slung over the seat in front of her like she owned the place, let loose a fart and she had the indecency of informing me of this fact. Not cool, but I admit I'm not one to cast the first stone. Besides, it's my fault for recommending that she get the chimichanga, rice and beans platter.  But how is that supposed to put me in a romantic mood, I ask you?  And to think: I had refrained from picking my nose in public the whole evening, more in an inane attempt to preserve the semblance of civility and decorum--something my wife had instilled in me, ironically--than because of any moral scruples on my part.  I would like to add, though, that if it had been me with the gaseous emission--and it usually is--I would have timed the fart with my lover's smacking of the popcorn and thereby provide a diversion, especially on Valentine's Day when one is trying to create a certain ambiance.

But seriously, my wife is wonderful and were it not for her (and my kids too), I have the suspicion that I would have given up the ghost years ago, or at any rate coaxed out the ghost with my henchmen, Johnny Smith and Baby Face Wesson.  After the movie we had a relaxing time together, drinking wine and listening to Justin Timberlake, the real one this time.  I'm a lucky man to have met and married a woman like my wife.  I have no complaints, except one, and it can easily be rectified by avoiding Mexican food.