Mars and Venus 1 (Heteronormative BS, I know)

Ok. Let’s back up. The email said, and I quote verbatim:

‘Where are we going Saturday night, oh boyfriend of mine?’

A simple question, no? Yet, lurking within that apparently innocent inquiry was a trap — a veritable nest of vipers, poised to strike at the very heart of our nascent relationship. These metaphorical snakes remained calm and coiled for some time, patiently waiting for their opportunity to strike, and expose the differences between and the contradictions entre nous. I knew they were there, but tried to ignore their menacing presence, content to amble along the well-trodden path to regret and ruin led by the usual force of nature.

I looked at the text carefully, inspecting it for any sign of concealed malice, as though it was a landmine, or letter bomb. I felt a twinge of suspicion, and experienced an unsettling premonition: I saw fault lines on the pristine landscape begin to creak and crack, threatening to move the earth and give birth to a colossal crater.

I decided, foolishly as it turned out, to take the question at face value. After all, she’d used an affectionate appellation to address me, and the locution implied that she expected me to make the call. Fair enough, then.

‘What about a Movie?’ I provided two or three scintillating options.

‘Nooooo!! I don’t want to be locked up in front of a (giant) TV anymore!!!!’

Obviously, an emphatic negative response — the extra ‘o’s’ in the word ‘no’ mimicked the anguish cry of someone who’d been asked to take a large enema up the ass, or something equally distasteful. And the multiple, dagger-like exclamation marks underscored the seriousness of the rejection.

Ok. Take 2. What about the theatre? Perhaps she wanted something a bit more uptown, something with a bit of class? On reflection, suggesting a trip to that most august of institutions was pretty dumb, even by my standards. Most nights in the theatre are shit, believe me, I know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I digress, and you don’t want to get me started on the topic of how dreary most theatre is, but it’s important to note that I’d received a very good recommendation on the brilliance of the particular production I’d suggested. Long story short, I’d provided another option. Big tick for me, no?

This time I received a qualified rebuff, a kind of explanatory note, which reasonably outlined why a trip to the playhouse was not an option. This time she decided to give me a prompt.

‘Dinner somewhere nice would be ok, at least I can shift around in my seat.’

I baulked a little at the word ‘ok’. It implied that there was some option I was missing. What the fuck could be more romantic than a quiet dinner for two? Obviously, staring at people pretending to be other people was not remotely appealing. Think, fool! Electrical impulses moved around my brain at lightening speed, and my synapses strained and struggled with the problem. Shit, how difficult can this be? I’d been given a prompt. Then, suddenly — Light bulb flash!’

Easy. I knew just the place, a quiet curry house that served a killer Rogan Josh. I hit reply with assurance and confidence. Open Sesame! Third time lucky!

Success, I thought, was assured since the message contained the omnipresent ‘xx’, which functioned as a reassuring modifier of sorts. In this context, the graphic kiss said, ‘yes, I know I’m busting your balls, but I still like you.’

As it turned out, the cock crowed, and I was denied thrice, damn it!

This time, she provided a more effusive retort, prefaced with a ‘don’t-take-this the-wrong way’ smiley symbol:

‘I’m sure there are times when it would be easier for us to pick things to do, if I was more like you, or you were more like me.  But we are different people, and it’s lovely what each of us can ‘give’ the other. Being different people, of course, we like different places, things to do etc. You like going to the footy and I like window-shopping. I like fancy schmancy restaurants and you like more casual eateries.’

This wasn’t ordinary Mars and Venus bullshit, but, rather, a candid insinuation that I’m cheap — ‘casual fucking restaurants, indeed!’ Give me a break, sister! I’ll have you know that the curry house in question is a most refined establishment that serves mouth-watering delicacies fit for the palettes of princes (and princesses, of all hues, and religious persuasions).

Yes, we are different people, and yes, we like to do different things. No argument there. However, and this is a really big, however, why the fuck didn’t she just come out say what she wanted to do!!!

Notice the overuse of exclamation marks, friends?

I have a theory, of course. It’s based on extensive observation of certain personality types (girly girls), and please rest assured that I’m not making any grand claims about all women here (just the few I’ve known who, let it be said, display certain consistent behaviors). Ok, having dispensed with the politically correct caveats, here goes.

Some women expect men to make decisions about where to go and what to do. However, they really just want to see if you can read their minds. You make the call, but they won’t consent to jack shit unless it conforms to some preordained fantasy of what constitutes a romantic night on the town, and Saturday night is, as I’ve been told by more than one woman whose body (and mind) I wanted to explore, is the night for lovers! Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they’ll give you more than one shot.

It’s a kind of test, I guess, but I hate exams, and I loathe guessing games. I think love the woman, so I suck it up, draw a deep, deep, breath, exhale slowly, and look for a suitably ‘Fancy Schmancy’ restaurant on my phone.

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Mad Men Finale — Don Draper and Steve Jobs

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OK, here’s my take on the Mad Men finale. I’ve never been wholly enthusiastic about this show. For me, it started slow, reached a peak with Lane Pryce’s suicide in season 5, and then drifted towards its surprisingly satisfying climax. Despite several misgivings about the uneven quality of the writing, Mad Men always did enough to hold my attention without ever attaining the gravity and quality of The Sopranos, or The Wire. Nonetheless, as an obsessive student of the decade of my birth, the 1960s, I’ve always been drawn to the show’s alternative view of that tumultuous period in history. Mad Men confirmed that even during the height of the counter culture, ‘the business of America,’ as Calvin Coolidge once observed, ‘is business.’ In the fictional world created by Matthew Weiner, the hippie counterculture, and the civil rights movement did little to distract the Madison Avenue suits from their core activity, which was to accumulate vast sums of money with little regard for ethics. For me, the finale’s greatest achievement lay in its elegant demonstration of capitalism’s ability to appropriate and submit everything to the logic of the commodity.

Don’s apparent embrace of Zen in the final moments of the show suggests that his beatific smile may not have as much to do with spiritual enlightenment as with getting back his advertising mojo. Indeed, the final image of Don Draper is initially incongruous with the development of his character’s persona over the course of seven long seasons. The fiercely intelligent, alcoholic, womanizer with a traumatic past appears to have transformed into a New Age sap, but then there’s the sound of the Zen bell. Don smiles, and the most iconic commercial in the history of advertising — the Hilltop Coke Commercial — displaces his blissful visage intimating that he’s attained advertising nirvana. The Hilltop ad depicts a mélange of beautiful young people representing all hues and races linking arms, and singing ‘in perfect harmony.’ And so, perhaps Don finds an ingenious way to use the counter-cultural creed of peace and love to sell product.

Apparently, AMC screened the trailer for the new Steve Jobs biopic during the broadcast. I thought of Jobs as the credits rolled, unaware of his presence in transmission, since he, more than anyone else, found a way to unite hippie ideals with commerce. Apple computers represent the apotheosis of the unholy union of counter-culture sensibility with capitalism. So, Mad Men ended on a literal, figurative and creative high, or maybe it didn’t, for there is always the remote possibility that Don remained on that strange Californian mountaintop amongst the damaged hippies and the towering trees.

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