You may remember I lead a bitter, loveless life. You may even remember that I wrote a post praising Clint Eastwood from saving me from jerks and losers. That was a target I willingly painted on myself (October 2010 Elisabeth, where did you find the energy? The wit?), and was amused and horrified at the response.
What touched me at the time were the readers who commented (not just on the whole “real man” thing) but those who recognized the way cinema infuses our expectations of life and relationships. This was also something that embarrassed me, because I didn’t mean to suggest my basis of reality is a movie screen. Yet when you’re as into films as we are, I imagine that it is a sort of cross-pollination. We see ourselves on the screen, and the stories can bounce back and alter our own lives. Consciously or unconsciously, we’ve made a database of references that we stack up against our life, and vice versa. “That would never happen” / “That’s totally happened!” / “I wish that would happen!”
That’s a very long preamble to saying yes, movies have affected the way I view dating. I’m not influenced by romantic comedies and their meet-cutes, but the sort of ballsiness you find in your average film. Let’s look at my touchstone, Mr. Eastwood. There’s a throwaway scene in Every Which Way But Loose where he and Philo and Orville are in a bar, and they playfully argue about two girls who caught their eye. Philo wants the blonde, Orville the redhead. In due course, Philo swaggers up to buy the blonde a beer. He’s very cool about it, actually, but she shoots him down. She’s only there because she’s doing a sociology project on country music. So he slips his mom’s dentures into her soup in revenge. It’s a dick move, but considering his life choices, not surprising.
But everything before that – the casual way he walks up and says hi, want a beer? – is the scenario I expected of average male and female interactions. It’s echoed (sans dentures, usually with more success) in lots and lots of movies, leading me to believe it’s normal. Hell, I find it within my own family! Once, I asked my grandma how she met my grandpa, and she gave me a very similar story, only set in the glamorous 1930s. My grandparents were not Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, but they might as well have been from the witty repartee and airiness she described.
But that’s not the case anymore, if it ever was. Now every time I brush up against the opposite sex, it’s less Spencer-Tracy and more prelude to a horror film.
I dropped a bunch of business cards at Whole Foods. They seem to have burst forth from my wallet so that when I reached in to grab my iphone, they spilled out. I thought I’d picked them all up, but I had this feeling – this odd premonition – that I hadn’t. But so what? Logic would dictate a stray would get swept up with the litter. Right?
Wrong. Now, I probably should note that my business cards are geeky in nature. Dissuaded from using Wolverine, I instead illustrated it with this:
Yes, it’s Lara Croft. But I deliberately chose an image that didn’t show her tits or her trademark outfit because I didn’t want to send a sexy message. I wanted something just vague enough that it could be any character from a comic, movie, or video game. I was also amused it echoed a character shot in both Lethal Weapon and Magnum Force, but with a chick. It’s vibrant and unusual, and I thought nothing of it. I still don’t, though I’m contemplating dumping it.
A perverse stroke of destiny put my lost card in someone’s hands. Who’s? I’ll never know, but he sent me this:
The sender name is a mere three dots “…” The email handle (a quickie Hotmail setup, blurred out for privacy he doesn’t deserve) is, best that I can figure, a type of foreign modem cable. Maximum anonymity.
Anonymous emails aren’t new to me. I work on the Internet, so I’ve gotten a lot of them. I expect them to be spawned from the Internet and my work on it. It is absolutely shocking to have it result from Whole Foods, land of dreadlocks and patchouli. How did this card not end up in the trash? How is it possible that the one person to find it is the template of an Internet lurker, complete with anime smiles?
I fired back, though I stopped short of telling him to fuck off and die. Why respond? Curiosity — and the persistent belief that someone needs to inform these bundles of XY chromosomes that this behavior is unacceptable — compelled me.
It took me awhile to realize there was an attachment. I guess because the sight of anime smileys fill me with berserker rage. I scanned down tentatively imagining penises, bloody corpses, mutilated animals….
It’s a relief, but I don’t even know what it means. And what does he hope to accomplish? Obviously, he dreams of my love, but in an unhealthy and bizarre way. How can I reciprocate with someone who has all of my contact info (I’m quite grateful he limited this to email) but doesn’t share his own? Not even his name?
As I mentioned to someone on Twitter, it’s sort of like these guys think girls want mysterious bad boys, so they decide to become the ultimate bad guy: Ted Bundy.
I freely confess that this left me angry. It added to an already severe bout of depression because my personal life constantly fall into the hands of the strange. As I took to Twitter and Facebook to complain, I received a bizarre mix of responses — sympathy, laughter, slut shaming over the choice in graphic, remarks about the best place to drop a business card for a “better catch”, wonderment that I’d dared to have my contact information on a business card, and gentle reminders that I am a woman, and just need to expect that men act this way. Number one, no, I don’t. (That’s its own issue right there.) Number two, since when is the new normal? Why do so many men out there think sending anonymous notes, obscene texts, and dick photos is cool, acceptable, and worthy of sexual reward and admiration? My grandma didn’t have to worry about stalkers and roofies. Why do I? If much of our sexual behavior or taste actually does derive from media influence, as many critics and scientists claim, where does this stuff factor in? It’s pretty baffling.
I also find myself looping into that mentality and wondering what exactly I was angry or depressed about. What did I expect? Wasn’t there a glimmer of “Wouldn’t it be neat if someone really cool found my card?” With shame and guilt, I realize this is exactly what the movies have taught me. In a flash, I’d surreptitiously cast myself in a modern reworking of Cinderella where Bradley Cooper found my business card, Googled my name, and discovered we shared a healthy love of spaghetti westerns, XBOX, pug dogs, beer, and travel.
And is that so crazy? Is such a brief flutter really from the movies, or is it the sort of meeting that actually happens and is adapted into one? Real life does echo goofy movie plots, or vice versa. People meet in a variety of ways. I have an aunt and uncle who met in the hospital, for heaven’s sake. That’s the sort of thing a screenwriter makes into a Meg Ryan movie. In fact, I’m pretty sure that is a Meg Ryan movie.
(Let me hasten to add I don’t actually, in a million years, think Cooper is at my Whole Foods or in my league. I’m not delusional. It’s a rom-com movie pitch. And a damn good one. Call me, Hollywood!)
And deep down, I have to admit that Dinosaur Boy up there probably had the exact same idea. He found geeky Cinderella’s shoe, so to speak, and he thought she would be so flattered by his anime smiles that she would invite him over to play video games, or watch Quentin Tarantino movies, or Pokemon. I bet he imagined me as Manic Pixie Dream Girl Natalie Portman.
Too bad life ain’t like the movies, though.