While reading a William Blake poem about love, I was reminded of a few conversations I overheard during the build-up and after-shocks of Valentine’s Day. Some comments impressed me, and some horrified me, and some brought back life-altering experiences. A few comments brought me hope of one day having a successful relationship, while others took that hope and dragged it over the Salt Flats behind a truck.
WOMEN ARE NEVER LOVE-SICK PUPPIES
Though lacking in flair and panache,
Sally’s beau spent the bulk of his cash
To procure, for her, flowers.
Sadly, their floral powers
Served only to give her a rash.
“So, like, yesterday, I’m at work, right? And I’m just sitting there at my desk, taking calls, and then this HUGE bouquet of flowers gets delivered, I mean, at least a hundred roses, right? So I look at the card, and it says ‘To [Cindy]: Happy Valentine’s Day.’ And I’m all, ‘Oh, great, thanks, jerk.’ I mean, he didn’t even bother to write anything special on the card at all, and there were so many flowers, I couldn’t even carry them out to my car. I had to get one of my bosses to help me, and ohmygosh, it was so embarrassing, and I was so ticked off at him. Guys are such jerks.”
“I KNOW! Like, my husband comes home with a big box of chocolates and a necklace, and two tickets to see Rascal Flats, and he thinks he’s so amazing and impressive, but I know all he wanted was for me to make out with him. So I was just, like, “Thanks, hon.” And then I went back to doing my homework. Hah! When are guys going to start being original? I mean, what is this, the 1950’s? I swear, sometimes, I’m married to a caveman. How primitive can you be?”
I sat on the exercise bike, mouth like a trout’s, my legs robotically and slowly pumping, as I listened to the two women on the treadmills behind me. This was the point in my life where I realized that, when a man tries to impress a girl, it’s a bit like watching an elephant try to roll pennies into little cardboard bank tubes.
I didn’t even know what to think, how to go on. Was this the mindset of all women? Sweat poured down my brow, the brunt of it no longer stemming from physical exertion.
Was I doomed to blunder aimlessly through the Sahara of indifferent women? Would I be forever bobbing in the Sea of the Tactless, arms and legs paddling frantically, gasping for breath, and only breaking the surface long enough to suck down enough air to prolong my swimming anguish?
And what would happen when I did come to be attached to one of these women? Would I be stuck forever, rolling the Stone of Offerings up the Hill of the Unsatisfied and the Disappointed?
I have since come to the conclusion that men are not as inherently evil as generally perceived. Sure, we start the wars, pillage the villages, and corrupt the governments, but I am reasonably sure that never, not once, in the history of our, or any, modern civilization, has a man asked a woman to drive across town to get him a strawberry-kiwi Slushie from, you know, that one green convenience store, by the church-thing, and then make her take it back and get him a new one because it was too melty and it was from the wrong place anyway. It’s by the church-thing, darnit! And there’s a stoplight by one of the corners. Just go get it!
Once, when trying to impress a prospective feminine companion, I spent days preparing for a certain date. I had my clothes laid out two days before, fully meeting my ironing quota for an entire year. I showered twice every day that week, scouring every possible surface with the sharp, tangy goodness of Irish Spring.
My truck, though practical and loveable, like an old dog, was accented by a full length dent down the right side, a scar spawned from the combination of a late night, a crowded parking lot, and a bumper that (I swear) jumped a full foot out from a hunkering Volvo. I knew that no father would approve of this blemished vehicle, so I had prepared in advance to take my mother’s car, which was nearly as good as the day it was purchased, and had seen about as much action as an NFL kicker.
Options for the construction of the Supreme Date coursed through my head all week long. This diner would be a great place to eat, but the proletarian atmosphere might project a Philistine shadow on my character. This spot would be gorgeous at any time of day, but its isolated nature might lend to suggestive undertones, causing me to be blacklisted. That cologne would certainly mask any traces of immaturity, yet it could give me, as my brother put it, “old-man stink.”
I worried, fretted, fussed, re-ironed, day-dreamed, sweated, stuffed myself silly, went a day and a half without eating, shot free throws, ironed again, and found myself arriving home from school on that blissful, horrid Friday, with only four hours till launch. I showered again, scrubbing so hard I lost calluses. I then changed into my pristine, carefully selected outfit, and lay down, width-wise, across my bed, my head brushing up against the wall and the soles of my feet flat on the ground. I lay there, with my arms folded limply across my stomach, and stared at patterns in the ceiling for the full three hours, glancing at the clock every five minutes.
About an hour before my pubescent ritual was to begin, my daydreams were coming to a roaring climax. I had just single-handedly whipped every comrade of an invading Bolshevik regiment, all while holding her swooning form cradled in my left arm. After carrying her calmly away from their shattered carcasses, and following my gentle revival of her fainted figure, we gazed intently into each other’s eyes, moving heartrendingly closer and closer, until…
The phone rang.
“Hey….Yeah! I’m way excited!...No! I’m great, uh, how are….Yeah…Oh…Your friend just…No! Well, that’s too bad…Oh, uh huh…That’s awesome, you’re a great friend to go be with her after tha…Yeah, tell her I’m sorry about Brent…Hmm, I guess I see why she had to let him go like that…Ok…Have fun at the bowling alley! I’ll, uh, I’ll see you in, uh, yeah, chemistry…Monday…No, it’s okay! Really! I’ll talk to you later…Ok, bye…Bye...”
I sat there on the edge of my bed, hunched over, staring at the left toe of my shoe, the phone held limply in my upturned right hand, draped over the side of the mattress. I spent another hour in reflection, silently going over my good old mental checklist of personal character flaws and odd-looking physical features. I spent extra time checking “lack of abs” and “spontaneous wit deficiency,” just to make the process of recognizing my own gross ineptness more painful.
Two hours later, I was devouring an entire 5-Buck pizza and a quart of Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby at Brent’s house, watching Bruce Willis make human wall paintings out of anybody who didn’t appreciate him, and discussing the finer attributes any quality 2-guard needed to win in the league these days. Brent didn’t look much better off than I did, but we both held it in like troopers, spackling the holes in our emotional sheetrock with plaster of Almond Joy. Neither of us mentioned our grievous wounds, and neither of us planned to.
Later on, after Bruce left us in a trail of broken glass and glory, we were surprised to find that a romantic comedy had accidentally worked its way onto the screen. “Do you want to change it?” “No…whatever…if you want to…” “Uh, it’s cool…I like anything Tom Hanks is in…” “You want some more cream soda and taquitos?”
The funniest part is, after that excruciatingly tortuous night, I kept asking girls on dates. Like a true addict, I felt that the pain never truly stacked up against the infrequent pleasures. And I’m still asking girls on dates! But that’s just how it has to be.
I’m going to keep on being a love-sick puppy.
I’m going to continue accepting “too much homework” as a worthy excuse for date-cancellations.
I’m going to persist in meeting half-smiling mothers and swollen-chested, all-knowing fathers.
I’m going to have many more awkward doorstep scenes where I grossly overestimate how much she really did enjoy the date.
I’m going to have a few where I grossly underestimate her, too.
You know what? I’ll bet even Bruce Willis and Tom Hanks don’t know what’s going on.