Monday, August 12, 2002

Doomed Love or Summer of Rejection

I'm smitten with the girl next door and the only person that knows will be leaving in a week. Think I'm not a wreck? By all indications the girl next door doesn't even know I exist, other than the few polite innocent "hellos" we've exchanged and the other day when she stuck her chest inches from my face (hooya!). It begs the question "how can one survive unrequited smittenness(?) (smittenery?) without having a helping ear to lean on?"

Actually I've developed a nice little friendship with the only one I've shared my smitten secret with. I've probably talked with my confidante more than I've talked with anyone (that isn't feline or that I haven't paid to listen) in say the past decade or so. We've worked on a secret plan to arrange "chance" encounters with the girl next door but my friend now wants nothing to do with the scheme since she thinks the girl I'm smitten with is bad news and will only end up breaking my heart (further).

My friend has endured an uneventful summer before her senior year at that prestigious school, Duke University home of the fightin' Blue Devils and preppy rich kids. Doesn't sound like it's been much of a summer for her (she's dubbed it "the summer of rejection" a reflection of missed connections with various friends) and on top of being slightly bored she has had to put up with sitting next to me day after day. One thing we do have in common is a love of movies and loads and loads of free time on our hands.

Personally I've detected a certain unintentionally persistent theme running in the movies I have chosen to watch this summer and it hasn't been a deliberate decision. Many of the movies have a mentor type relationship involved between a lost young person and an embittered older person. There was Ghost World, Scent of a Woman (hooya!!), and Celebrity (great my life, wildly careening out of control as it is, has somehow become a Woody Allen film). The last movie to fall into this pattern is the mostly entertaining Tadpole that the 21-year-old Duke senior and I chose to see as we went out on our first "date."

The movie is about precocious and passionate 15-year-old Oscar (Aaron Sanford) who speaks fluent French, thinks Voltaire is a stitch, and who is terribly smitten with the person who would probably top the list of the people you shouldn't be smitten with- his stepmother Eve (Sigourney Weaver) because she has great hands. Oscar ends up sorta accidentally sleeping with Eve's best friend Diane (Bebe Neuwirth) and then all hell breaks loose. But not really. One of the oddest things about an odd movie is that no one (particularly Oscar's father played by John Ritter) seems all that alarmed that a 40 year-old-woman has had sex with a minor. Reverse the genders involved and the Christian Coalition (are they still around or are they simply mainstream America these days?) would have been calling for heads.

My "date" said she thought the underlying theme of the movie had to do with "doomed love." Sometimes we're simply attracted to disaster. We fall in love literally with the last person on earth that would be good for us or that there is a smidgen of a chance for a successful relationship. That's why there are so many broken hearts (or broken livers as Oscar and Eve would say) in this world. Can't say I disagree.

"Doesn't try to please me, doesn't even tease me/And she never sees me glance her way/And I though I'm heart sore, the girl next door/Affection for me won't display/I just adore her so I can't ignore her, the girl next door"

Tadpole harkens back to the ultimate coming of age film The Graduate not only with its story of a serious young man being seduced by an older woman he doesn't especially like- but also with the use of Simon and Garfunkel songs- this time a cover of perhaps my favorite S & G tune- "The Only Living Boy in New York." The fact that the filmmakers used that song rather than better known Simon efforts created an immediate fondness for me with the movie. The song is about leaving friends behind (it chronicles Simon's reading of his breakup with Artie) and I played it over and over my freshman year of college as feelings of homesickness intermingled with feelings of a lack of replacements for old friendships.

Nearly 20 years later I've enjoyed a summer getting to know the youth of America, having a long lost sense of fun restored while reflecting upon how far I have come (and not come) from all those years ago. I was a wee lad when I discovered that I was a hopeless romantic. Back then that meant thinking with my heart and idealizing the unattainable; now it means that there is no hope that I'll ever grow up to be anything different. The soon to be Duke grad will set the world afire. She's much brighter than I'am (she got a 1300 on her SAT; I almost broke triple digits.) I'm glad I got to know her and I'm sure if pressed she'd say the feeling was mutual. Hooya!!! The girl next door likely will never know what she missed.

No comments: