A Valentine, Red; A Kettle, Black: An Essay

One of the books that on my nightstand is Welcome to the Monkey House, which is a collection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut.  Last year, July specifically, the book was removed from storage, and the first page that was opened to designated the story that was to be read.  WTTMH was picked up again the other night, but the book was started at the beginning, and tackling a couple stories each night would put my body at ease before falling asleep.

This post contains excerpts from the short story, “Miss Temptation,” which was written in 1956.

The writing here is straying from the normal post.  It’s an essay.  It’s facetious.  There are parts.  The number of words is just under 3300, and you’ve been warned.

The important thing is that much of this is true, it’s a bit on the sarcastic side, and my opinion stands about Valentine’s Day being an illegitimate holiday.  There is a believe in love, not fake holidays.

(The day is actually celebrate a Saint.  Yes, that’s completely ignored now.)

—   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —

Eros, Eros Bo-Beros…

—   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —

There is no intention with trying to progress with celebrating the media holiday that is Valentine’s Day, because it has always been felt–on a personal level, which people agree with–that if you love someone enough, you’ll remind them on a regular basis (if not daily or every-other-day) that you do.  

Oh, Christopher, but it’s awfully nice to have that one special day to celebrate with that person. 

(That statement has been uttered to me before and more than once to defend Valentine’s Day.)

Yes, it is nice, but there is this thing called an anniversary that comes along once a year as well, which should be celebrated on a grand scale.  There are many anniversaries that a couple can have, which (generously) give multiple reasons to celebrate.  The concept of the anniversary is to have that one special day for the two of you, a day that  may be is inevitably shared and celebrated with others but not everyone else.  Simply going all-out on Valentines Day (as an excuse) instead of your actual anniversary is the equivalent of saying that that you’re a great Catholic when you only go to church Christmas, Palm Sunday, and and Easter.  

The single people, regardless of anything, will still be single.

Regardless of single-hood, don’t piss and moan about it.  It’s not your fault this day isn’t so great, and blame it on media.  If you are in love, don’t be ridiculous about it.  The potential is there for both parties to bring it upon themselves, and no one should be that person wearing the T-shirt of the band that you’re going to see.

Metaphor-ed that.  Boom.

Yes, I’m passionate about this anti-Valentines-Day and pro-love-all-the-time replacement acknowledgement.

It’s appropriate to disagree with Valentines Day and those winged demons flying around shooting arrows at people.  Phil and I, while at improv practice one night, had an awesome scene about cupid and the creature’s target.  It turned into a stand-off.  My role was cupid, who was overly protective and obsessive about this guy getting the girl of his dreams, and Phil kept taking the arrows out of him and began trying to swat me.

(See!  This is the fun you miss out on by not trying or attending improv classes/shows.)

Note:  You know that this so-called holiday will have gotten out of hand when the malls set up Cupid Stations.  These cupid stations would work the same fashion as Santa and the Easter Bunny.  The exception is that adults can sit on the lap of cupid, asking to be set up with their significant other, relaying their criteria.  Photographs with Cupid may be purchased with the application of an extra fee, and taxes are not included in the price.

image

—   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —

Malicious Love: Boys Throw Rocks and Girls Have Cooties

—   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —

“What about love?”

Ah, that song.  It’s easy to be anti-Valentine’s-Day.  Some pushing against it is appropriate, but it can get out of hand.  The holiday is all about love, and you cannot hate on love.

Oh, and a Saint.  (How quickly it’s forgotten.)

In his story, “Miss Temptation,” Vonnegut has outlined the concept of a romantic comedy.  His humor has that of an English appeal–dry and honest.  We meet Susanna, and she is as colorful and friendly as the story begins.  We meet Fuller down the line and after another gentleman and a cat, and Fuller is a serviceman who returns from the war; after his introduction the tone of the story changes.  His entrance into the scene is signified with a shrill squeal, or a record scratching if a modern allusion is needed.   He’s an ass to her, spiteful, and there really is no legitimate reason as to why.

Well, insecurity is being one blatant reason.  Regardless, his being mean continues to the following page:

image

This random act of cruelty does not go unnoticed, and it affects Susanna significantly to encourage her to spontaneously leave.  Fuller cannot retract his statement, his choice of words, or his tone.  The truth comes out eventually, and he prevents her from leaving.  No, there are no spoilers, but save my mentioning Vonnegut creating a romantic comedy; the happy ending is expected from earlier in the post.  The ending-ending is not and will not be explained, so please do not fret.

Love is tough, but love should not be cruel.  Life is cruel and the trials that a couple, any couple, goes through are cruel.  A relationship takes work, understanding, and communication of all things.

However, starting off, relationships shouldn’t begin on a blatant and miserable note.

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The Schoolyard

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Love.  It starts young.  We’ve all dismissed it.

And that thing that you do when mouths of two people connect… for an extended amount of time… Gross.

In our individual battles, resistance against the attraction of blooming adoration (we don’t use love at such a young age, but we use paper valentines instead).  When it comes to the other 364 days of the year, or adoration for one another is shown by slander and shoving.  Now, if we were to actually shove a girl (or anyone for that matter) on the playground, we guys would be in deep doo-doo.  Instead, our annoyance tactics involved poking, flicking, tugging hair, and spontaneous games of Tag.  Pestering would be persistent, to the point where the object of affection would tell on the pursuer.

Let’s take a look at an example, shall we?  This true story, kidding you not, parallels the characters in “Miss Temptation.”  The characters will only be referred to by the first letter of their names.

For a middle school day trip, we visited the beloved Beaver Lake Nature Center in Baldwinsville, New York.  This was seventh grade, keep in mind, a time when the hormones were revving up.  J and S were both in our group, which was chaperoned by my mom (she deserves an award for being one of the most dedicated parent chaperons in my years in the West Genesee School District.  My mom plays a role in the story, but otherwise her being mentioned would happen regardless; as she was the coolest chaperon, everyone would beg to be in her group.

 Our eighth grade trip to Darien Lake would justify that, when people were scribbling their names on the piece of paper with her name on it, creating their own lines when the spots were all filled.  In sixth grade, on a chorus trip to Toronto for Phantom of the Opera, a buddy of mine since Kindergarten or first grade (Joe) bought a shirt that read:  “I want to be like Barbie.  That bitch has everything.”   This incident was under my mom’s “supervision.”

So J and S were in the group, which was comprised of two separate close-knit friends, and these two groups of friend were justifiably separated  into The Boys and The Girls.  My crush was in our group, but associating my shy history:  nothing was said to her.  However, throughout the trip J kept pestering S, who turned to the chaperon for advise.  J has always had a great sense of humor, and the rest of us guys always encouraged him.  S eventually took my mother aside, complaining that J would not stop pestering her and leaving her alone.

My mom’s response:  “It’s because he likes you.”

S’s response was of utter disgust.

Years later, J and S marry.  A couple months ago, this lovely couple have their first child.

Mind. Blown.

Mind. Blown.

There really is no surprise about J and S’s situation.  This love story is a great example, and it one of the many stories that keep us all going, staying positive.  It’s a privilege to witness it firsthand.  It’s a story to forever be told.  At my buddy Dan’s surprise party on Saturday, my mom reiterated the story to S’s brother, who found it perfectly fitting.

Everyone is happy for them.

The people who aren’t… well, they have something nasty headed for them.  Must I remind you:  celebrate love not emotions brought on by fake holidays and marketing schemes.

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Underestimating

—   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —

The truth hits Fuller hard.  He never had a chance with a girl like Susanna, so taking his frustration out unconventionally and inappropriately did happen.   Everything came to a head, and Susanna retaliates with passion.  There is a method to this short story, specifically in reference to the segments found in photographs planted here.

image

Analyzing this relationship isn’t going to really amount to much, but Susanna tells him off.  The argument, her putting Fuller in his place, gets juicy and insightful about halfway down the page.  Vonnegut had been rooting for this girl the entire story, and this shift explains it.

—   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —

Falling

—   —   —   —   —   —   —   —   —

What is the appeal of that person?  What is that initial appeal, and how is it pinpointed?  It’s not noticed immediately, but that aspect is reflected upon.  The end result is kicking oneself, or attempting to.

Even though we may have experience, we cannot judge or determine when, how, and who we fall for.  It could be instantaneous.  It could take time.  You may run into an old friend later down the road and a love could develop.

Alcohol consumption could yield delusional love, and it could end disastrously in a variety of ways.

Cheating (this is my opinion) is completely unnecessary and unforgivable.  Infidelity is a great way to end your relationship quickly.  Just because you’re finding someone attractive, that moment can be taken as a sense of self-reflection.  Take time.  If this new person is the one you are to be with, end your current one before pursuing the new interest.  Taking time to breathe and think about pretty much anything for this matter can help guide you in a better direction; maybe this spontaneous love is simply a distraction that can be pushed away, and the one you are currently with is the one you actually truly love and is your soul mate.

Life is cruel because it causes us to believe things we don’t believe; hence, the cruelty.  You can only keep yourself in check.

However, getting back on topic:  it’s the desired and unfettered love that occurs in the waking hours, when sober, when unattached and with a blank-slated mind.  What causes it?  What gives it the right to generate the genius thought of this is it in our brains?  How can feelings of adoration immediately skip the Crush Phase?

The Crush Phase is that schoolboy liking of a girl, and he won’t admit it.  Yes, this was just touched upon.  The boy then antagonizes the girl, and he is completely blind as to why.  Maybe he does, and/or he’s just stupid.

Love does make us stupid.  We just don’t like to admit it.

That one moment, however… wow.  That phase or daze still hits us at whatever age we are at, whenever we are single and we don’t expect it.  Being single, our mind is clear; we’re confused about our thinking nothing, but it’s a clean slate nonetheless.  The phase returns repeatedly, but it disguises itself into a matured sense of feeling; this admiration is the reasoning and reminder why you want and why you still are with that person.

With this is person you can go big with on those anniversaries.

You remember why you fell for them.  Gamers who do not see the light of day or the lamp lights of night life–it’s like reaching a checkpoint and your game can be saved.

As a guy speaking on the topic of women, there is just something about this opposite sex that is really intriguing or not so much.  There is no certainty to the number of seconds that it takes for a woman to decide whether or not you’re good to go, good enough for (just) sex, or that they are simply not interested.  Women have better intuition.  We guys have to actually take the time to talk and get to know her before actually making a decision about anything.  It’s a process and it takes more than buying her a drink from at the distance where you are standing and across the bar.

People say you shouldn’t judge a book (person in this case) by its cover, but we all do.  A girl needs to find you attractive to give you the time of day, and likewise for us guys.  It’s all about presentation:  your face, your stature, what you’re wearing, how you’re walking and how you’re sitting, etc.  Some guys like the scantily clad, and some of us like the classic looks.  The next step is speaking:  articulate or not?  Eye contact:  yea or nay?  Writing can be next to display written communication and the art (grasp) of proper grammar and spelling.  (The frequent use of abbreviations is can be a good or bad sign depending on your preferences.) 

Then comes the date, and hopefully a second and third and so-forth all the way to marriage.

Then there are the ones who cause the world to stop.  The special ones who cause your jaw to drop and your eyes to refocus.  The ones that make you question your purpose and existence.

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Chance, Choice, Coincidence

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The next step is taking that chance.  All opportunities are different.  The other day, a girl who was eavesdropping on a conversation between a friend and I acknowledged my being a great friend.  A buddy of mine has been going through tremendous stress with life and his relationship, and it is a pleasure that he can rely on me to give him solid advice and confidence boosts.  It’s been cleared with him that my reference can be utilized to only a certain extent.  There is so much that can be said since this isn’t my relationship and experiencing the relationship firsthand is impossible.  A pause had to be initiated, however.  Suppose he takes my actual words and uses my answers in response to her questions as his own .  If she breaks it off with him, I’m going to feel awful; it’s not fair to put me in that uncomfortable place.  Plus, it will look worse for him since he was disclosing private information to his friends.

Regardless, this girl complimented me and we talked for a little bit.  Did I make a move?  As usual:  no.  The facts of job searching on top of living with parents to avoid blowing money on rent are still not the best confidence boosters.  On my part, the previous sentence is a downright stupid thing to assume,because this situation is definitely not forever.

I’m also a bit of a pretty boy in the sense that I like to dress artsy and fashionable, and my wearing red pants probably did not work in my favor.  She probably thought I was gay.  It was told to me by a few men and women that I could pull the red pants off, but those who don’t know me will assume my preferences.  You can see the outfit on Twitter, but not my twitter feed (haha); you can also see the cute girl in the background.

Also, she made a phone call to what sounded like a boyfriend.

Yes, that is also a stupid thing to assume (again) on my part.

Upon leaving, I forgot my coffee, so I had to go back to the seat.  Embarassing.

Yes, De Niro!  You win!

That’s classic me.  It’s only appropriate to use the first person with the chance stories since it would be ineffective speaking for anyone else.  Those scenarios are for the creative Nonfiction anecdotes.  The other stories to define a Classic Christopher moment involve me not picking up what she’s putting down and walking away, or just psyching myself to the point where I do not talk to her.

I’m like Will Smith’s character in Hitch.  My assisting others works well, but heeding my own advice is difficult.

Head banging

So the daydreaming suffices for now.  Nicknames are designated.  Some of the more recent classics:  Cute Barista, The Brooklynite, and Pipedream to name a few.  A maybe is told to myself, but it’s shaken off.  The daydreaming and wondering stops, and everything is able to be passed on.  I call my interests, as different as they all are, The Elite, because (in similar fashion to Fuller’s thinking) I would never have a chance with any of these women.  Or so I think.

I’m probably choosing to be a coward in the grand scheme of things, but that self-diagnosis is for another time.

It doesn’t matter who we are, what gender, but there is a distinct division about those who believe in fate, coincidence and heeding the signs, and the remainder and small portion of the dreamers actually follow through with seeking their story true.  The rest of us twiddle our fingers, and the majority of us laugh at those with their heads in the clouds.  Possibly, if this small population of people do follow signs or coincidences or whatever, they’ll meet the person of their dreams who is (a) the complete opposite, or (b) has the same mentality.

It’s easy to say that you want to live your life like a movie or you don’t.  The majority won’t be criticized for the latter decision (a.k.a. the norm).

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The Art of Foolishness

or

Delusional Lack of Confidence

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Do we put ourselves in categories?  Do we put ourselves in situations or do the situations simply present themselves?  This teams with coincidence and fate, which may not pertain to some believers.  Sometimes we care too much and get carried away, and this turning point can branch off into Crazyville or a different path where there are so many tree branches available that you won’t have to slap sense into yourself, saving the poking annoyance of Nature.

We work ourselves up, seek advice, and tiptoe around the relationship.  We want excel and put our good feet forward, but this may result in backlash due to an act of being/trying too much, or whatever you do could get you laid.  There isn’t an instance where we don’t want to be romantic.  Well, some of us simply don’t want to be romantic.  The scenarios we develop in our heads sound goofy and too-good-to-be-true, and the point of coming down hard on confidence occurs.  It–whatever it is–will not work; this is dumb and there is no confidence behind it.

The confidence was there at the beginning of the process.  It’s still there, waiting, tapping its foot and waiting for you.

A point could occur where you could put yourself into a hole because nothing you do can be good enough.  But that’s when you’re with the other person.  The point of this essay can’t really cover that.

However, we work ourselves up to the point where we say to hell with the possibility.  The choices are to either get scared or pass everything off.  It’s taking flight, and the potential is no longer there.  You’ll approach, you’ll smile and she’ll smile back, while she anticipates you taking notice you will open your mouth and second guess yourself before smoothly walking away, and she is left wondering what turned you away from her.  By smooth, it’s meant to describe the step-by-step process, not your being smooth.

Just trust and listen to your gut.  Most of the time, your gut is right.  If you’re uncomfortable, you’ll only have to do more seemingly uncomfortable things in the future.  Most of them will be redundant if you don’t try.  The worst that will be said, No, thank you.  Or maybe just, No.  It doesn’t matter; try and try again.  You can build your immune system, you can build your confidence.

That jaw dropping, eye focusing process?  It’s a result of that aura of confidence that is noticed when an object of attraction walks by.

Be calm. Stay confident.  Be patient.

Be yourself.

And say, Fuck it.  Start by saying hello.

11 thoughts on “A Valentine, Red; A Kettle, Black: An Essay

  1. Pingback: When Life Should Have Sunk In (Part 1) | The Infinite Abyss(es)

  2. Pingback: The Ideal Lover | An Upturned Soul

  3. Good post, Chris. This married man is pro-Valentine’s Day and also pro-Every Day. When you are with the right person, the proper actions and words and behavior comes quite naturally. You know you have found the right one when you feel like you’re at your best and then you realize you’re not even trying. It just happens naturally around the right one. Have a good weekend, friend.

    • Thanks, Mark! You’re a great guy, and you probably do treat Karen very well. 🙂 She is a lucky gal!

      That’s absolutely true. I’ve done things on Valentine’s Day in the past, things which had gone unappreciated. Knowing me, I’ll definitely cave (eventually) on this day when the right person is met, but I will stay true to showing her regular consideration.

      By the way, how about them Orange? Did you watch the game, holler, and jump high into the air with your arms outstretched at that last shot?

  4. Interesting essay combined with Vonnegut’s work. You have a lot of great ideas for good relationships. It seems that, if you don’t mind me saying, you’re one of the good ones, a good catch. And btw, I can’t stand valentines day and please tell me they don’t really have Cupid stations now?!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Deanna.

      No Cupid Stations… yet. I say we go into business together. You and your husband can set up and manage the European Cupid Stations, and I can run the American ones.

      Again, great post today! Amazing what 100 words can say.

      • Haha! Cupid stations…..just saying it elicits a cringe. 🙂 I also meant to say I really liked the photos of the book along the way.

        Thanks! It is and it always changes my story which is fun! Have you tried it?

      • Oh, yes. The cringe makes it that much better. Hahaha.

        I think I am going to create a follow up post: Thoughts From A Cupid Station.

        Thank you again for the compliments. You’re too kind. 🙂

        No, I haven’t tried it yet. Curiosity is definitely sparking, igniting in my mind. I’ll pump out the random fiction on here, the poems as well, but I’ve been trying to finish some longer pieces for publication. Being too picky about these pieces is counterproductive, however.

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