Tuesday, February 01, 2005

February's Last Laugh

In an ongoing dubious public service to those of you without ready access to Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine, I present my column from the February issue. It's worth noting that it was written before Time did its cover story on the "twixters", the 20-somethings who are living at home, mooching off their parents, and yes, hopping from mate to mate. It's not exactly the topic of my column, but I'll give myself credit for being relatively close. Anyway:

Valentine’s Day is this month, a fact not lost on at least three major industries:

1) The jewelry companies, who produce TV commercials suggesting there’s no better way for men to spend the money they were going to deposit in their IRAs than on multi-carat diamond earrings for their wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, mothers-in-law, or the girl that serves them coffee. “Come on,” these ads imply. “The 15-second, oh-my-God, Trading Spaces-reveal-scene reaction you’ll get on Valentine’s Day will more than make up for the 75 times you’ve left the toilet seat up this year. Besides, you weren’t really going to contribute to your IRA.” Here, they have a point. More than one man has been on his way to the post office with his IRA contribution when he’s been shanghaied by a more tempting offer, such as a sale on Doritos. Also;

2) The greeting card industry, which is there to step in when your diamond earring budget suddenly dwindles from $500 to $2.75. And;

3) News magazines, which trot out long cover stories about the latest trends in love.

Recently, we’ve learned that “dating” is passé among today’s high school and college students, having been replaced by something called “hooking up.” From what I gather, hooking up is a somewhat spontaneous, commitment-free, pulse-racing, bra strap-fumbling dash to intimacy. I have no real idea whether folks in northern Arizona are engaged in this, but judging from our close proximity to California and the WB network dramas set there, I would imagine the phenomenon has made it this far. The articles I’ve read generally take a tone somewhere between alarmist and condescending, in the popular “You Won’t Believe What These Kids Are Doing Today” genre.

I’d be condescending, too, except that when I look back on the history of my love life, what it could have used was some spontaneity. Picking up a phone would have been a good start. When I was a senior in high school, I was head-over-heels in, say, like-like, with a girl who -- it seemed -- had similar feelings for me. Prom was approaching, and it seemed like I should ask her. So what was my strategy? I spent three weeks’ worth of evenings feeling my blood pressure climb, picking up the phone, and dialing the first six digits of her phone number, then chickening out. (Seventeen years later, I still remember her phone number.) It seems my problem was more about ‘hanging up’ than ‘hooking up’.

Of course, by senior year, I had been clueless about love for some time. Looking back, it now strikes me that there was probably an ulterior motive for the girls who wrote phone numbers in my high school yearbooks. At the time, I figured it was for purely informational reasons. My first date – in eighth grade – was with a girl who quit waiting and asked me out. Hooking up, indeed.

But that’s all in the past. My more recent love life has been far more successful, featuring a wife and everything. Which reminds me – I need to do some Valentine’s Day shopping. I’m thinking Doritos. Cool Ranch.

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