(Please note: I notice that overnight, I lost a couple of followers with this post. Before you read on, you need to know that it is rife with “poetic license” and mainly concerns who I was in another life.
I find Southerners charming and amiable; I love Jesus(!) and I also prize a good sense of humour and a belief system in a man. Above all, in my adulthood, I do not hold spelling OR grammar against anyone.)
I didn’t ask for much when it came to dating: a passably good-looking guy, a bit of courtesy and the ability to speak the English language were really all I wanted. Okay, maybe that’s stretching the truth just a tad, but I was never one of those, “What kind of car do you drive?” or “What are your career-goals?” or “I love your suit, is it Yves St. Laurent?” kind of girls. With me, the nitty-gritty was something like this:
Who do you listen to? What do you like to eat? What’s your favourite movie? Who are you reading? Simple. Right? Not really.
You would think that criteria like the aforementioned would be very easy to meet, but not so. You see, finding the passably good-looking guy, who treated a girl right – that’s right, opened the door for me, opened the car door for me, pulled out my chair in a restaurant. Wait a minute, let’s just back that up. Since I’ve pulled out that dirty word “restaurant”, let me just say, that grabbing a Big Mac and fries through the car window, or a hot dog from a street-vendor, or EVEN a gigantic carton of popcorn at the movies, is NOT going out for a meal. To quote Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death, “Ya get me, pal?”
My long-standing gripe about my dating years was that so many young men just never wanted to go out for dinner. Real dinner–service with a menu, napkins and candles kind of dinner. What was that about? They could afford to go to concerts, sporting events, ski-trips and even travel abroad, but they could not stump for a fine-dining experience.
I could overlook the absence of haute cuisine. I could ignore the forgetting to open my door, I could even take my contact lenses out and pretend a less than passable guy was God’s gift, BUT I could not condone bad grammar, lazy language and in some instances (say, in a lovely letter expressing his adoration of my person) poor spelling!
I’m not a snob, BUT when it comes to the English language, I’m a stickler for the right words, the right form and the right placement of letters of the alphabet. Blame my father! He drilled in to me the necessity of erudition and adherence to correct verbiage. Sometimes I wish I weren’t such a purist. It never went down well with anyone I met – male or female. The thing is, I’m also not the most tactful of people. I’m one to jump in with these sorts of comments: “You liked THAT movie?” Ugh! I really can’t stand so-and-so, or “That director really is awful; I haven’t seen anything of his I like!” My husband has trained me, rather like a clever parrot, to hold my tongue in these instances. He knows my preferences and fortunately can anticipate my reactions. We have developed that wonderful communication that long-standing partners have. You know, the quick, frozen-eyed glare, or a good nudge in the ribs at the dinner table? We’ve got that down to a science, thank goodness.
When it comes to English, however, I find it very difficult to hold my tongue. There are words and phrases that have become commonplace by virtue of their everyday usage (despite their corruption of the real ones) that make me cringe. I’m not going to short-list them for you, because I don’t want to offend anyone (I’m dying to put them out there, but I won’t).
In the dating life of my youth, I was not so kind, UNLESS, I was dealing with a (to my mind) gorgeous, nitwit whose mouth I wanted to shut, not with words, but with my own smackers. Then, I would overlook the frailties of his expressions for the greater good.
However, the average fella who could not enunciate his words and rather slovenly drawled them out (lessin’ he waz frum the South), would be packin’ his bags before the night was over. Another thing that was intolerable to me, was ignorance. Ignorance of the world of literature, or the arts or history was like a big ink-stamp on the forehead that read “FAILED” like some sort of Quality Control designation.
I had the opportunity to vet a number of men in my younger life. Not finding the man of my dreams by the time I was 27, I resorted to newspaper ads and telephone dating before I met my husband. It was like having a second job. I spent the better part of my weeknights screening calls and reading scores of responses to my ad in the local “Pennysaver”. I had letters from self-proclaimed sociopaths, Jesus-
freaks look-alikes, and bikers. I would have given them a second look if only they could spell!
I also had the great good fortune to be “set up” by “friends”. It is amazing how someone you think knows you really turns out to have no idea what you are about. Take a peek at a blind date my room-mate and friend of 3 years duration coordinated for me:
I’m pacing back and forth between the two front windows of my parents’ bungalow. Waiting for the unknown “great guy” to make his appearance on my driveway. Is that him in the Camaro? Nope. Is this him in the little Honda? Nope. Is this him in the monster truck? You betcha!
I open the front door and step onto the driveway, hesitantly. (Please let him at least be the cowboy type with some good hair, I whisper under my breath). No such luck. Coming round the front of the Hemi is a rail-thin, mustachioed (think Salvador Dali) receding hair-lined gringo in stone-washed denim (not the good kind) with a matching bomber jacket. Hot, he is not, BUT I am still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Until. Until he opens his mouth and it’s just all wrong. Very basic, one-syllable sort of stuff, not conducive to a refined chat at all.
We go to a restaurant in a big mall under very bright lights that do nothing to enhance his appearance (or mine, for that matter). We attempt to have an intelligent conversation. I have to give him credit. He really tries. He puts up a valiant fight, until somehow the conversation swings around to classical music. How we get there, I’ll never know, but it really is the “kiss of death” for him. When he tells me (rather cockily, I might add) his favourite classical musician is “Bizzet”, I nearly snort my decaf right through my nostrils and onto his cheesecake. Game over. Take me home now, buddy. It’s a losing battle. You are DUN!
Do you know my girlfriend actually had the nerve to ask “How’d it go?” as if she really believed it could have gone swimmingly and we were going to pick out the rings on our next date. I have always thought I’ve been pretty good at revealing who I am to the people around me. Obviously, I was mistaken.
And so, I went back to my original checklist of criteria for the man who was good enough for me and I stuck to it. I didn’t get married until I was nigh on 33, BUT I’m pleased to report, he’s courteous, can speak, read and write and bonus: he’s a looker too.
I did have a backup plan and this time the quote is from Shakespeare: Says Hamlet to Ophelia: “Get thee to a nunnery!” (I hear those sisters are really well-read.)