Reality Truck


God does /But I don’t / God will / But I won’t /And that’s the difference /Between God and me. —Lyle Lovett

Valentine’s Day…and the air is already filled with bitterness…It’s not my favorite holiday, though the “manufactured” nature of it doesn’t bother me any more than that of say, Christmas… Presents are gooooood.

So that part’s fine by me.

And since I like giving presents far more than I like getting them, I think Valentine’s is a pretty equal opportunity holiday. I enjoy whipping up seven-course meals. And when I think of St. Valentine, Naked Lunch Hour also comes to mind. This year, I’m even throwing in a concert (tickets that is; I’m not performing... anymore).

So I really don’t see why guys have so much to complain about.

But obviously, there’s the dark side.

“February 15 is one of the busiest days in a divorce lawyer’s calendar,” says Diana Shepherd, Editorial Director of Divorce Magazine.

That’s according to this ListServe I’m on—presumably because I bought divorce books for Christmas gifts at (The recipients were already divorced—I was buying these for support, not as hints or anything.)

And here’s what amazon popped up under my personalized “prospective gift list:” Best of Real Sex; Best of Sex Bytes; Taxicab Confessions: Best of Vegas; High Art; Creative Conversation Starters for Couples; Taking Charge of Your Fertility; and 365 Manners Kids Should Know.

I’m just amused by the fact that amazon knows enough to take me from sex, to relationship, to infertility issues, to kids, all on one page.

It seems appropriate that Valentine’s Day usually falls somewhere around Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the penitent season for many of us.

Because I take all transgressions and oversights from the men in my life (platonic and otherwise) very, very, very hard.

I have two primary wingmen: good and evil.

The good one takes me to theology seminars, co-hosts parties with me, and screws in all my ceiling lightbulbs.

The evil one wakes me up at 4 in the morning so I can take him bowling and discuss his girlfriend problems before the alcohol wears off. He’s the one who addresses every guy I date (to his face) as Johnny New Guy (and then tells me later, “hey I LIKED that one; why’d you dump him?”) Sometimes he calls them “Johnny No-Chance.”

The good one got me the best of the Onion for my birthday, and skipped a mandatory work meeting to get to the celebratory dinner and concert…the evil one was a no-show. Whereupon I stopped speaking to him. For two months.

Because his absence really hurt my feelings. I hate holidays of any kind, and I only survive them by surrounding myself with as many distractions as possible. His no-show just took me right back to fourth grade. Whereupon I was suddenly transformed into....Tullio.

Tullio was the kid that the nuns forced everybody to invite to their parties. I’m sure they meant to be kind, but they weren’t doing him any favors. The other kids would (best case scenario): ignore him—or (worst case scenario): beat him up and call him “Fruity-O.” I never called him that, and I definitely never beat him up.

But I never forgot him either. Every time somebody leaves me out of the fun (intentionally or otherwise), I AM Tullio.

So when my evil wingman didn’t show up for the big night, I was hurt. And once he figured this out, his apology was profuse, and accompanied by a sincere commitment to make it up to me. (As I told him, “Sell ‘sorry’ somewhere else, Pal. I gotta see Penance. Remorse.”)

I think this is why Valentine’s Day is so close to Lent on the calendar. Denial and penance. He and I agreed on what have become known as the ceremonial Pancakes of Atonement, and we’re good. Now.

It’s the rare scenario that turns out that well.

I had a similar blowup with someone who didn’t invite me to his office Christmas party (despite his having been included in at least 37 social occasions that I’d hosted), and then couldn’t figure out why I was upset, much less bring himself to apologize.

I can think of LOTS of reasons I wasn’t invited: because he had another better date (fine); because he thought he could pick up a better date on-site (likely); and/or because he was embarrassed to be with me (devastating—here again, the ghost of Tullio).

So while I’m sure if I was Sister Catherine Regina, I could’ve yanked his ear and forced him into taking me along, I didn’t really want to go to a party where I’d be beaten up or called Fruity-O.

I was crushed. And found myself again in the position of hearing the immortal phrase all guys seem to believe is synonymous with an apology which is,“I’m not a mind-reader.” Funny... A. I didn’t HEAR a “SORRY” in that; and B. I don’t think anybody’s ever accused me of subtlety. The cause-and-effect simplicity of my temper is far from mysterious (though in fairness, not that many people know about my Tullio issues). You screw up, I disappear to lick my wounds. I don’t resurface till they’ve healed, or until someone’s made at least a token attempt at reparation.

Wake UP already. When people don’t say they’re sorry, it’s usually because they’re not. When anyone has to protest, “I DO care,” it’s a sure sign they dooooo NOT.

Still, there’s safety in numbers and I rarely move through life without a few spares. Volume heals. Many are called. Few are chosen. And only the penitent man shall pass.

“Forgiveness,” is a good thing. It does not, however, translate to “by all means: allow me to Bend Over. I think you’ll find it easier and more convenient to screw me over from this angle.” n

Reprint Ace 2001.