I went on a date the night before last," reports Fetiche Nouvelle, "a fix-up arranged by a lady I work with."
I know, or think I know, two things about her: she has a sense of style and a way with words. Generally, I would presume that this particular combination of attributes would be enough to bowl over almost any of us here in Guyville, but not this time:
It wasn't successful. I dressed nicely, I tried to be agreeable and charming, he was on time, well groomed, and perfectly courteous. There was nothing really wrong with either of us, but our conversation just didn't work.
Now I think of myself as an acceptable conversationalist, perhaps a smidgen above that; I'm fairly hygienic, scarcely if ever late, and rude only when severely provoked. Just the same, I know about "just didn't work": the last person I met on a blind date as distinguished from someone I met on a road trip, which really doesn't qualify as "dating" spent her next few days hurriedly moving out of town, lest she hear from me again. (She didn't.) And I gave out with an exaggerated sigh, which is a lot easier to do when you don't have an audience, and applied some wood filler to a chipped area of the headboard, the logical inverse of carving a notch.
And actually, this is all I had any reason to expect:
[S]ince we no longer reproach ourselves for failing to conform to absolute ethical precepts, we beat ourselves with the stick of psychological insight. When it comes to love, we reject the distinction between moral and immoral for the distinction between "genuine" and "superficial". We're too understanding to condemn our actions; we condemn our motives instead. Having freed ourselves from a code of behaviour, we submit to a code of motivation to achieve the sense of shame and anxiety that our elders acquired by less sophisticated means. We rejected their religious morality because it set man against his instincts, weighted him down with a burden of guilt for sins which were in fact the workings of natural laws. Yet we still atone for the creation: we think of ourselves as failures, rather than renounce our belief in the possibility of perfection. We hang on to the hope of eternal love by denying even its temporary validity. It's less painful to think "I'm shallow", "She's self-centred", "We couldn't communicate", "It was all just physical", then to accept the simple fact that love is a passing sensation, for reasons beyond our control and even beyond our own personalities.
Except, of course, that being infuriatingly introspective and all, else I'd never be able to quote that with a straight face, I have to allow for the possibility that the "simple fact" may be nothing of the kind, and that therefore I should be reproaching myself for failing to conform to absolute ethical precepts. Never do I lack sticks with which to beat myself.
Matters of the absolute, as a matter of personal policy, I tend to refer to the Man Upstairs, but Fetiche apparently already has Him pegged:
God created this entire universe specifically to give rise to you. More than that, He sent His Son to take human form and suffer death by torture for your sake. (For mine too, so no more wisecracks about Asian drivers!) How much more worthy could anyone be?
To which I reply: I am grateful for blessings received, for they are substantial and (mostly) ongoing. I've lost a few people along the way I would rather not have lost, but I am not inclined to dispute the divine will. For exactly the same reason, though, I have to consider the possibility that I'm left out of the romantic loop, not so much because I'm undeserving every last one of us knows someone who shouldn't be allowed out of the basement, let alone on an actual date but because it has been determined that I can't deal with this sort of thing, and God, in His wisdom, sees fit to let me wallow in the shallow end of the Slough of Despond, sparing two people this particular indignity with a single (non)act. Should this truly be the case, and admittedly I don't expect to have it verified in my lifetime, it's a stance I have to admire for sheer lack of wastefulness.
Besides, I don't even have a headboard anymore.
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Copyright © 2008 by Charles G. Hill