Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"Earlo's Reliable Litlte Helper"

Once I was single. 

Twice when I was single, I had dates.

The second one’s somewhat of an exaggeration.  But it is an embarrassingly miniscule “somewhat.” 

In those days – and who knows, maybe still – men asked women out on dates.  Which gave women the optional alternative to say, “No.”  Who the heck wants to risk that? 

So I rarely ever asked. 

Once, around age 13, while pledging a high school fraternity – I was a “Legacy” from my older brother; otherwise, I would have never gotten involved.  (I know “You get jackets.”  But I already had a jacket.) – I called up a girl, at pretty much random, and in a trembling voice-changing falsetto, asked her if she would like to attend a fraternity party with me. 

It was the first time I had ever asked a girl out on a date.  She kindly replied that she’d like to, but she had a Bar Mitzvah to attend that evening. 

I hung up and never called anyone else for ten years.

I know men generally have (on aggregate) more physical and in later life, economic power than women, but the available punishing “Power of No” should not be dismissingly ignored.  I am not blaming women – it was just the way things were set up, and who knows, maybe predominantly still are – but to the “Sensitively Challenged”, even a polite “I’ve got a Bar Mitzvah that evening” turndown can sound resoundingly like,  

“You?  Never!”

This in no way balances the books.  But it deserves an acknowledging entry.       

One of my “fingers of one hand” number of dates was a traditional “set-up.”  A close female friend asked me if I wanted to go out with someone, and I unenthusiastically replied, “Okay.”  Although hardly excited by this “pig-in-a-poke” prospect, with the “Yay or Nay” ball, as it were, in my court, I had at least eluded the dreaded,
direct “Turn-down.”  Besides, if I had said “No”, I’d be rejecting my ostensibly thoughtful female friend.  And what did she do to deserve that?

Besides meddling in my highly protected personal loneliness.

We went out to a movie.

Which, finally, if you were wondering, being confused by the title, is what today’s offering is about.  Earlo’s “Essential Little Helper” –

The starkly revelatory moviegoing arena.

Here’s the thing:

The selected movie you attend tells you all you need to know about the person sitting beside you.  Meaning the one you came in with and most likely bought tickets for, not the one sitting on the other side.  They’re somebody else’s problem.  I had sufficient troubles of my own. 

I am sitting in the movies with someone somebody else believed was a “match.”

I don’t remember who picked it.  I probably did, because I really wanted to see it.  The movie was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  A “cowboy comedy”?  It was quintessentially up my alley.  Conventional Wisdom?  Butch and Sundance was indisputably hilarious.

My “Blind Date” for the evening




They recently swabbed some goo from inside of my nose, and sent the procured sample out to be tested.  It turned out I had a bacterial infection.

People’s reactions to movies provide an equally accurate diagnosis.

I never saw that humorless woman again. 

On a second occasion – I am chronicling (virtually) all of my dates in one post so as not to bother either of us with them again – I love Neil Simon and I adore Bruce Jay Friedman.  Neil Simon, adapting a Bruce Jay Friedman short story called The Heartbreak Kid into a movie?

That is unquestionably “Count me in!”

I am, once again, there with a date. 

The Heartbreak Kid (recently remade with Ben Stiller, but I passed) tackles darkly uncomfortable terrain with edgy, comedic intentions.  Its provocative “What if…?” hypothesis:

“What if you meet the proverbial ‘Girl of your Dreams’ while on your honeymoon with the woman you have recently just married?”

It is imaginable that lurking insidiously in the unconscious of at least some newly wedded men – and who knows, maybe newly wedded women as well – is this “One chance in a million but still possible” nightmare scenario: 

You get married for life.  And then immediately encounter “The One.”

In this case, the new bride is stereotypically Jewish (complete with errant egg salad ensnared in her ethnically ringletty hair.)  The mythical “One” he meets on the honeymoon getaway is a radiantly dazzling Cybil Shepherd.  (Read:  Iconically Gentile.) 

My date for the evening is Jewish, although uniquely, and appealingly, herself.

The film’s dramatic crescendo – the man abandoning his “newly united” for the unattainable “Nordic Princess” – is achingly uncomfortable.  More so in the film version than in Friedman’s original short story, which, with the advantage of being seven pages long, sidesteps the inevitable “yucky parts.”  When fully extended to “movie length”, a purely imagined “Theoretical” plays out considerably more hurtfully. 

Though, as a man – even, shamefully, a Jewish man – I was unaware of how hurtfully.

At one point, my evening’s companion abruptly excuses herself.  It is only later, upon leaving the theater, that she reports that she had exited into the lobby and ferociously berated the manager, screaming,

“Why do you show such terrible movies!!!”

Message, concerning what I took as an allegorical comedy, loud-and-clearly received. 

It was not going to work out.  (As it eventually did not.)

Movies cost more than they used to.  But for learning what you essentially need to know about someone who might ultimately matter,

They are a revealing and determinative bargain.

(Though you should sneak in your own more reasonably priced popcorn.)


Pidgy Gordon said...

So true! I was thinking about your review of "The Post" after we went to see it...lines around the block, to our surprise, but there aren't a lot of movies for grown-ups to see around here at 4:30pm. Although everyone else in the theatre seemed to be enjoying themselves, your buddy and I kept poking each other, rolling our eyes and guessing the next lines/scenes. We fell in love 50 years ago, when, as friends, we discovered that we were the only two people on the planet who didn't like "Man of La Mancha"!

Re: "The Post". I find if I'm easily distracted by minor details, then someone is screwing up. For example, and these are not spoiler alerts, by any means, Bradley's little girl is selling lemonade for 25-50 cents during a tension-filled sequence of cutting and pasting at his house. At the end of the day, she walks into the shot flipping through a very thick stack of paper bills. Huh? Was anybody surprised when that young kid running through the streets to get the envelope to the Times ASAP, ran in front of traffic and almost got hit? I'm not spoiling anything here...Joan Cusack did it so much better in "Broadcast News" so why bother, Steven?
Also, Meryl is portraying a wealthy woman with an extensive 70's wardrobe, including a silk caftan, something I'd be happy to wear in my 70's, but she only wears one pair of thick, gold earrings with every outfit! And she never, ever carries a purse, even when she drops by McNamara's house. Where are her house keys? ID? Maybe he lives next door...but that doesn't excuse the decades of movies directed by men where the women go purseless in every scene. #where'smypurse?

Rebecca said...

I *loved* Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid soooo much!!! I also enjoyed The Sting, but the former is iconic.