February 9, 2011 in Valentine's Day Love Contest
Gus Kahn, “I’m Through With Love”
This Valentine’s Day chez moi, there will be no turtle-doving, no pitching of woo, and definitely no gettin’ jiggy wid it. I’m taking a break from the more romantic afflictions affections. But why, Dieter, why (you may ask) have you chosen to stay on the sidelines this time around? I’ll tell you. It’s because I have the worst instincts ever in this field.
It used to be lushes. I could spot a lush from miles away, and attach myself like one of those parasites that fastens itself to the bellies of sharks and nibbles on the leftovers while giving the shark a full dermatological treatment. This may have something to do with the fact that my father was a terrible lush. Freudians, discuss amongst yourselves. These kinds of relationships never, ever have happy endings.
Then I got wise: I started picking them well BEFORE they started problem drink or drugging. We’d chug along just fine for a while, and I’d think, “This time I’ve FINALLY changed the pattern.” Then suddenly after five or ten years he’d be in the ER at 2 a.m. having overdosed on something, or start drinking martinis at 10 a.m., just to wake himself up a little. But since one is already emotionally attached, there’s a kind of hope that he’s learned his lesson, and we can go back to the way we were. Only it is not going to go back to the way we were. Barbra knows. If we had the chance to do it all again, would we? No. Could we? No.
My mother, though, is the queen of all this. Her one significant romantic escapade after divorcing my father the lush when I was five, involved an engagement to the anesthesiologist at the local hospital in the rural Georgia town where she was then living (this is when I was in college). Naturally the engagement created opportunities for other family members to pull me over at family functions and whisper “How do you feel about y’mama marrying . . .” and then the rest wasn’t even whispered, just mouthed, “A JEW?”
Well, of course I was fine with my mother marrying a Jew, and didn’t even feel compelled to ask, “And how do you feel about my having fucked . . .” mouthing now, “TWO BLACK GUYS THIS PAST WEEKEND?” Although I did want to ask.
Now the rest of this story is a little complicated, but I think I can manage it without requiring a chart. Her immorato—let’s call him Tevye—had two small, adorable children from a previous marriage. He’d first started dating “Emma Bovary” when he was a med student at UPenn, and she was married to “Tony Soprano.” So, Tony found out about Tevye and Emma, and did what any well-meaning jealous husband would do: he hired a hit-man to shoot Emma in the face. So Emma gets shot in the face, but somehow survives, and Tony goes to jail, and she and Tevye get married and have two, small adorable children that Tevye positively dotes on. Unfortunately, the marriage starts to go south.
This is where my mother comes in. There’s a vicious custody battle going on, the kids are living with Tevye and my mother is suddenly hiding tattered paperback copies of The Story of O in her desk, which brings up possibilities I refuse even to consider to this day. The engagement is announced, the anti-Semites debate whether or not to burn a cross on Tevye’s lawn, and her two sons decide that getting regularly laid would without question do her a world of good, even if we don’t want to think about the business in any level of detail.
Then, my mother (wisely, I think) having gotten rid of her own two kids whom she didn’t so much enjoy, decides that bringing on two MORE small children and doing it again is probably not the best idea. So she breaks off the engagement. And just in time! Because Tevye is still fighting for custody of his kids. Can you guess what happens next? If you guessed that Tevye got caught trying to hire a hitman to shoot his ex-wife in the face, you’d be right. He’s currently serving a very long jail sentence.
Now, out of all of us, it would seem that Emma would have the most incentive to retire from the battle of the sexes while there’s still some of her face left. On the other hand, it would also seem that my mother might want to do some questioning about her own choice of romantic partners, but being deeply committed to avoiding all self-reflection, she has chosen instead to completely retire from sex, about which she is now sharply expressive using a variety of strong, unpleasant vocalizations that never quite resolve into words.
And occasionally asking me, “Haven’t you learned your lesson yet?”
So that leaves me. I’m not quite ready to leave the field yet forever yet, but dammit, I want to figure this out before someone shoots me in the face. I don’t want to have to worry whether the ex’s second hand meth smoke is harming the dog’s lungs. I’d rather be alone than to drag around another one of these losers, trying to give mini-etiquette lessons before I can introduce him to anyone.
So perhaps next year, you’ll find me back in the game, cruising the geriatric wards again, or latched on to Jimmy Franco’s arm at the Tony Awards. But for now, I’ll probably just watch Hope Floats again and promise myself that this won’t last forever, whether that’s true or not.