Back again, and here we’re jumping right away into the second part of Mike’s Dating Guide (be sure to check out Part 1 right here).
I’ve been emailed some pretty good ideas for future columns, so keep your eyes peeled. As always, feel free to email me with your own thoughts, ideas, criticisms, methods of improving girth, or whatever else tickles your fancy (no n00dz please, unless you’re a fine woman whose name happens to be Monica Bellucci).
Anywho, let’s get to it…
The Cinephobe’s Guide to Dating
By Mike Skerritt (Johanthan Banks is my hero)
Member since 5/15/03
Legal Researcher in Washington, DC
In the dating game, the cinephobe plays the tougher position. She’s more often pursued and therefore pushed to be more selective, yet with a never-ending onslaught of suitors, it becomes more difficult to discern one from the next. Cinephiles prove notoriously tricky to spot because they look like Average Joe. If Average Joe wore Star Trek underoos. Thus, an unassuming girl may not realize she’s saddled a cinephile until it’s too late.
Fear not. The Cinephile’s Guide to Dating comes complete with a second part made especially for her, the poor, joyless, uncultured cinephobe.
Rules For the Cinephobe
12.) Get used to obscure references. Cinephiles tend to bond and compete with one another through their knowledge of obscure movie quotes and facts. Over the years this produces a hardwired obscure movie reference vocabulary through which they tend to communicate, so ingrained that it becomes an involuntary response when they meet attractive strangers (i.e., you), get nervous (i.e., talk to you), and try to impress them (i.e., date you). Because of this proclivity, there will be times when you won’t know what he’s talking about. (It’s okay, most people haven’t seen The Wicker Man.) Take heart. In fact, you can take it as a sign that he’s nervous being around you, which should be flattering. Just go with it while you’re feeling him out. If he laughs, you laugh. Unless he’s laughing at a midget joke. Midgets are not funny.
11.) Imagine videos are shoes. Every cinephile relationship has one, that first defining trip to the video store. You go in unwittingly and come out two hours later wondering what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into. Why did he take so long? Why did he refuse to buy that movie he wanted because the case was nicked? Why did he argue with the sales clerk about Godard’s intentions? Who the hell is Godard anyway? Try to keep in mind that no doubt you have your own weaknesses when it comes to shopping, whether shoes or clothes or housewares, and they seem just as foreign to him as DVDs do to you. In fact, it might be best to suggest shopping for these items at the same time. If all else fails, if you must accompany him to the movie store again, seek out the other cinephile widows there. They should be congregating around the last copy of Maid in Manhattan. They will offer you advice and support.
10.) Consider him a huge free agent signing for trivia games. By nature, cinephiles pay attention to details. Who else would notice that the director of The Boy Who Could Fly played The Shape in the original Halloween? That kind of ability to register minutia also lends itself to other subjects like literature, music, art, history—subjects given to quizzing in trivia games. With a cinephile as your teammate, you will demolish anyone and everyone who dares bring up how a game of Trivial Pursuit might be fun. Just make sure that he keeps his trash talking to a minimum if you’re teaming up against your parents. The Girlfriend’s dad still gives me grief for my “Norway’s chief export is petroleum” victory dance.
9.) Bring comfortable shoes. Those four inch heels may look cute in the mirror, but when you’re waiting in line for four hours to get seats for Star Wars, they don’t seem like such a good idea. Do yourself a favor and bring comfortable shoes. While you’re at it, it might be a good idea to bring a big purse, one that will fit the Mike & Ike’s, Reese’s Pieces and Sour Patch Kids he bought for two bucks at CVS to bring into the theater. You can’t call him a diabetic, but you can call him a smart spender.
8a.) The (Person A) is NOT (Person B) Rule. While’s he’s spouting Obscure Reference #4,569, you might be tempted to throw out one of your own. Be careful. Like the green traffic light says, proceed with caution. Let’s say you and your cinephile sweetie are watching Sweet Home Alabama (because the night before you watched THX-1138). He mentions how great Fred Ward was in Tremors. You, in your haste to impress him at his own game, respond with how great Josh Lucas was in The Punisher. Uh-oh. You can tell the mistake by the look on his face. Josh Lucas is NOT Thomas Jane, you see. They’re both fine actors indeed, but clearly not the same person. Any idiot could see that. Why don’t you just go—um, sorry.
8b.) The “That guy from [crappy movie/show]” Rule. There will be times when you recognize a face you see in a movie your cinephile suggests watching, someone you’ve seen in something else. If you make such a connection, you might be tempted to regale him with a movie reference of your own. Again, exercise caution. This is a slightly more difficult variation on its counterpart, because in this case your comparison might factually be correct, but that won’t make it apropos. Let’s say you and your cinephile sweetie are now watching Full Metal Jacket (because the night before you watched Ten Things I Hate About You). While watching Vincent D’Onofrio’s Private Pyle eat his fateful doughnut, you realize you’ve seen the actor before, and in a fit of joy you say, “Hey, it’s that guy from Law & Order!” Well, yes, I suppose it is, but you’re watching a Stanley Kubrick film, not some crappy TV show. The cinephile will not appreciate this. He may mock you, call you names. He may leave and take his ham and pineapple pizza with him. You will fully deserve this. (Just kidding. It’s not that big a deal. Not really.)
7.) Titanic sucked. Seriously, it sucked. Stop saying how much you loved it. Stop saying it was Leo’s best performance. And while we’re at it, stop calling him Leo. Do you know him? If you went up to him on the street and said, “Hey, Leo!”, would he answer you? Would he say, “Hey, long time no speak! How ya been? Let’s go get a Frappucino™! We can go in my Prius!” Do you own a Prius? Are you environmentally friendly? What about that Styrofoam coffee cup you just threw away? Let’s just change the subject.
6.) The Old School. The following is a non-exhaustive list of people and movies that most definitely do not attend the Old School: Alicia Silverstone, Trainspotting, Scream, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Forrest Gump, Quentin Tarantino, The Little Mermaid, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Julia Roberts, Swingers, The Blair Witch Project, Adam Sandler, The Usual Suspects, American Pie, Johnny Depp, Braveheart, American Beauty, and on and on. Burt Lancaster would’ve eaten all of these for breakfast and complained two hours later about being hungry again. Then he would’ve had massive heartburn. It’s not that these things have no value—on the contrary, most are quite good, some are flat out great—but to call them “old school” does a disservice to all those that came before and the cinephile will see that as a slap in the face. The “old school” tag, like genius, gay, and fo’ shizzle, is thrown around far too casually these days.
5.) There is such a thing as overrated and underrated. You don’t know how easy you’ve got it. You’re allowed the black and white distinction of simply liking a movie or not liking it. You don’t have to defend your movie tastes to an entire legion of discerning galoots just waiting to pass feast-or-famine judgment on you. Cinephiles, just to tread water in such territory, must have their fingers on the pulse of fandom, and they tend to bond with those individuals who share their tastes in what they find overrated or underrated. When he says, “Magnolia is so underrated,” he’s not just filling the silence between bites of Cheetos, he’s looking for a certain kind of response from you. Now you’ll know what to say, depending on how you want the relationship to proceed.
4.) The Oscar Experience. Perhaps no aspect of the cinephile-cinephobe relationship mirrors the male-female dynamic at large better than the Oscar experience. Men have long decried the propensity of women to change their minds on a dime, often at odds with their own convictions. For the cinephile, the Oscars offer their own form of revenge. Throughout the course of the year, you will hear him remark about the possibility, nay, the probability, nay, the certainty, of various films and performances being nominated for Oscars. As winter approaches and studios begin ushering their tuxedo releases into theaters, you will hear him strategize endlessly about which races will be hotly contested and how voting will surely skew. When the national critics’ boards begin handing out their awards, he will groan with displeasure or squeal with delight given how they align with his own Oscar forecast, but in any event he will claim foreknowledge of such honors. Come one early February morning, you will wake up to notice a change in your cinephile. He will be yelling at the TV. He will use words like “useless” and “stupid” and “worthless.” He will stir you from your sleep to tell you what idiots people he’s never met are, and over the next hour he will try to convince you how meaningless such awards are anyway. You will ask him why he didn’t say this the night before, even the month before, and he will say you just don’t understand. In the next weeks he will resign himself to the nominees at hand and enter at least three dozen online Oscar pickoff contests. You may have to eat meals at the coffee table because he’s commandeered your kitchen table with several graphs, charts and snarky pundit articles. In March, he will ask you to clear a certain Sunday evening for “pizza, a few friends and the Oscars,” and when that Sunday arrives, he will look strangely nervous, like he did when he first asked you out. You will ask what all the fuss is about for something so meaningless. This will make him laugh (though he will not answer). Soon the fanfare will come up, the host will run through a usual assortment of bad jokes (he will find many of them hilarious), and last year’s winner of Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role will announce this year’s winner of Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. It will not be who he had picked. This will anger him. He will spew profanities and once again disparage the entire process. This will happen many times over the next four and a half hours, until finally, once the credits have rolled, he will turn off the TV and tell you you’re lucky you don’t have to put up with this shit.
3.) The Slur Rule. As with any marginalized group, you need to be one to insult one. Most cinephiles happily call themselves geeks. They use it endearingly as a term of affection. However, if this term were lobbed over from a non-geek, particularly a loved one, it would lose its affectionate tone and may in fact remind him of certain unsavory memories of youth. I’m sure you have memories you’d rather forget (we all have “first time I shaved my legs” stories). Let him keep his geek childhood safely repressed. (Note: This will not pose a problem if you’re Catholic.)
2.) The Bright Side of the Dark Theater. As lascivious addictions go, movies are far down on the list, somewhere between gummi bears and collecting Rainbow Brite lunchboxes. They’re not sports, so you won’t become a football widow five months a year. They’re not gambling, so you won’t ever have to wonder where the kids’ college fund went or why he’s constantly showing up to dinner at the Olive Garden with fresh bruises. They’re not drugs, so you won’t get any phone calls at 3 a.m. and wonder what “Prisión de Tijuana” on the caller ID means. Movies, in the end, are a relatively harmless pursuit, just as trivial as you always thought they were. At the very least, consider yourself lucky that his addiction is something you can experience together, as a couple. Be happy he’s not a seppuku junkie.
1.) It’s okay if he cares. No matter how insignificant a movie might seem to you, if he cares about it then you should know it’s for a very personal reason. Maybe he bonded with his emotionally distant father over it. Maybe it reminds him of a lost pet. Maybe it keeps him from answering the voices in his head. The incessantly whispering voices. Whatever the reason, the point is that there exists a strong emotional connection, and that is not something to be trivialized. You want him to accept every imperfect piece of you. He wants the same. You may not understand how a grown man can weep when an old guy hits a baseball into some light bulbs (and if you don’t then you need to see a cardiologist, stat), but wipe his tears and tell him you understand anyway. Over time, that just might become true.
As with any relationship, simplicity is key. Don’t overanalyze your partner’s insane, borderline creepy addiction to all things cinema (or complete lack thereof). As a wise sage once wrote, Descartes I think, or maybe Kenny Loggins, just be willing to meet your partner halfway. A little effort goes a long way.
Remember this and a predictable, formulaic, clichéd, melodramatic ending may be in your future. This one the cinephile won’t mind so much.