Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Litmus Test"

My mind flashed recently for no particular reason on the 1982 Barry Levinson movie Diner – former High School buddies in the late 50’s shootin’ the breeze at their favorite eatery, relating to each other considerably more comfortably than they do to their female “significant others”.

I recall the Steve Guttenberg character’s willingness to go through with his impending nuptials only if his fiancée passes a test concerning his beloved Baltimore Colts.

There was also the newly married Daniel Stern berating his wife for her unimaginable indifference to his meticulously catalogued record collection.

These moments were knowingly funny, these vindictive “men-children” using their obsessions to torment the women they purportedly loved, and ironically, never realizing they were doing it.

Remembering the humorously accurate depictions of those moments put an appreciative smile on my face.  Dare I also say “a superior smile on my face”?  I dare.  But then, you will probably know where I am going.

What the heck.  I’m telling it anyway.

The entire history of my personal dating life would fit on a sliver of paper the size of a fortune cookie message and there would still be enough room left for the fortune.  A prominent regret in my life – I neglected to do anything to remember.

Once – just once – I agreed to a “blind date.”  I really liked the woman who set me up – I’d have been happy to date her – I believe she was married, but you know, just dinner and movie; then I’d take her right back to her husband.

I guess I drove then, because I recall arriving at this woman I never met’s house to pick her up.  I also recall being introduced to her parents, because she happened to be still living at home, not because they were checking me out for future marital consideration.  Of course, you never know about these things. 

Still, it felt kind of weird – being dutifully polite to a stranger’s parents.  I mean, it’s not like we were going to the Prom.  Or off on a skiing weekend where we’d be sharing a chalet. 

I was taking her to a movie.  I was new at this?  Did you have to meet a girl’s parents for that?

I didn’t... I didn’t… Look at me, I’m stammering on paper.

What I’m trying to say is, being a novice in such matters, and also entirely selfish, I gave not a moment’s thought to which movie my “blind date” might like to see.  Instead, I picked a film I wanted to see and simply invited her along.

The film I had selected was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Butch Cassidy was billed as a “comedy western.”  I liked comedies and I liked westerns.  Like my friend’s father said when he made his kids a dinner of potatoes and corn, both of which he knew they enjoyed,

“What could be bad?”

As it turns out, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of my favorite movies of all time.  The screenwriter, William Goldman – who won an Oscar for his efforts – apparently really knew westerns.  Every satirical barb at my admired genre hit the bull’s eye dead-on.  Tickling my tailor-made “funny bone” to the max.

Having been challenged to a gunfight by a card player who has accused him of cheating, Sundance, ignoring Butch’s encouragement that they go, insists that, “If he invites us to stay, then we’ll go.”  When he subsequently discovers Sundance’s identify and knowing that, “If I draw on you you’ll kill me”, the frightened card players does an immediate “one-eighty”, telling Sundance, “…stick around why don’t you?” to which Sundance instantly replies, “Thanks but we gotta be going?”  And they go.

Later, surrounded atop a mountain by an impressive “Super Posse” who’d tracked the outlaws over rocky terrain, down a waterbed and at night – which westerns have always explained is impossible – Cassidy evaluates their options.

BUTCH:  If we fight, they can stay right where they are and starve us out – or they could go for position and shoot us – or they could start a little rockslide and get us that way.  What else could they do?

SUNDANCE:  Well, they could surrender to us, but I don’t think we oughtta count on that.  

And finally, my favorite.

Escaping from town, Butch unties the “Superposse’s” horses from the hitching post, waving his arms wildly to incite them to scatter.  Rather than bolting away, the horses instead just stand there – something they never do in westerns.  Leading an incredulous Cassidy to observe,

“Somebody’s sure trained them.”

It goes without saying, I was having the time of my life, chortling and guffawing and at every satirical dig and comedic improbability.  I turn to my “blind date” for a confirming “Isn’t this wonderful!”…

And she is sitting there like a statue.  An unresponding Pillar of Salt.

Not a laugh, not a chuckle.  She absolutely despises this movie.  As it continues, it seems to be making her angry.

Immediately, I am thinking,


There will be no ensuing date.  I had been nice to her parents for nothing.

I am now retrospectively thinking…


Like the Steve Guttenberg character, forcing his fiancée to recite the lifetime passing statistics of Johnny Unitas?  Like the Daniel Stern character, berating his wife for never asking him what’s on the “flip-side” of one of his favorite records?  (“Hey Hey Hey.”)

Of course, there’s a distinction, right?  A sense of humor is essential.

“Essential”?  Does the Steve Guttenberg character not believe an intimate knowledge of the Baltimore Colts is “essential”?  Does the Daniel Stern character not believe carefully cataloguing all of his records is “essential”?

And I realize it’s a syndrome:  I superciliously deride, and then later discover,

“That’s me.”

Tell me something. 

Do you think it’s too late for me to ask her back out?


Wendy M. Grossman said...

My immediate advice is: Do not marry this woman. Lots of women - including this one - like BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. If your senses of humor mesh so little, you're doomed from the start.

As for DINER, although I liked the movie, a lot of those 1950s marriages ended up in divorce in the 1970s when the women got tired of being patronized, tested, yelled at, and "educated" by their husbands. I don't see it as a problem if a mate is obsessed with something; I don't even think it's unreasonable to be annoyed when someone fails to respect that obsession by putting things back in their correct places (says the woman who's kept her books and records alphabetized since she saw how libraries did it). I *do* think it's unreasonable if you fail to accord the same respect to your partner's interests, though. As I recall - it's a long time since I saw the movie - but ISTR that one of my reactions to it was great relief that I never had to live like the women of that period.


Fred from Scarborough said...

Thought ISTR was some kind of auto-complete/auto-correct word. Had to Google it. Completed a crossword lately that seemed to have everything correct but resulted in OTOH as a word and spent a half hour trying to figure what was wrong and then gave up and Googled it. Do these things meet the definition of an acronym or do they have a word of their own to describe them. Now my point about blind dates - they sometimes work. Went on a blind date to a UofT corn roast in 1968 - no corn, the corn buyer absconded with the funds - and now married for 47 years. We both thought the stealing of corn funds was funny. Of course if one of us had become angry ...

YEKIMI said...

Quit asking girls out when the last one I asked said "Not if I were the last thing on Earth." I said "Well, luckily I am not the last man on Earth". She said "I didn't say if you were the last man on Earth. I said the last THING on Earth." Never asked any girl out after that and that happened in the early 90s.

Jes said...

Earl, your instinct is spot-on. Definitely in the superior category!

Boyd said...

Yes, call her!

JED said...

There are some things that are essential and others that we may think are essential but aren't. I guess the secret to finding the right person is finding the real essentials and learning to live without the other "essentials".

My wife and I met at church, we're both amateur musicians and we both like The Three Stooges. But Cindy doesn't think The Natural is such a great movie (if I'm honest, I think I like it mostly for Randy Newman's score) and I don't like the Korean soap operas she watches on Netflix. But we've got the essentials covered.

Cindy once took a programming course just to get a feel for what I do at work. God did make little green apples.