Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Rulez

A while ago, I mentioned how I broke some key rules when I courted Karen. My faux pas didn't trash our budding romance, and may have even helped things along. For me, that proves something: there are no rules. Rules are bullshit. At least, they were in 1982 when I came a-courting, and I can't believe things are any better today. But wouldn't it be nice if there were rules? What could be better than a universally agreed-upon code of behavior to ensure that no one would be humiliated, ever again? Or is it unnatural for men to think about the rules when we're used to thinking with our jewels? Sorry. Still in Carrie Bradshaw mode. Not long after I'd hooked up with Karen, I flew to New York City to interview for Cornell's graduate school and Einstein's med school. The worst of winter had passed. Manhattan was cold, wet, but not arctic, so when I arrived early that evening, I decided to see a bit of the town. I pulled on my Ludwig von Beethoven sweatshirt and started walking. I'd made it three or four blocks when something unusual happened. The sort of thing that our Kahlifohnian prejudices say should never happen in NYC: I struck up a conversation with a stranger. As I passed a coffee shop, some old dude on the other side of the glass saw my sweatshirt, pointed at it, pointed at himself, and grinned like he was my long lost uncle who'd raised me from a pup. What the hell, I thought. I stopped, went into the coffee shop, and sat down at his table. His name was Jean Verdi -- "Verdi, just like the composer, and I see your shirt -- you're a musician, no?" All because I had on the Ludwig sweatshirt my sister had given me sometime in the last two years. But I didn't know jack about music, so our conversation turned to something all guys can talk about, regardless of their age difference (and he must have had at least forty years on me): women. Jean was a French expatriate who had been in the States about ten years. He may have been an old dude, but he was a handsome and vigorous old dude. I wouldn't have been surprised to see him hitting on forty-year-old women. From the way he talked, he'd been doing plenty of hitting, not much catching. Jean was a lonely old dude. "I don't know what the rules are here," he said. "I don't think there are any rules. Not like France. Not like France at all." Over the next hour or more, he told me about the French rules, and I began to understand why your average Frenchman got more nook in one week than I'd had in a lifetime*. To be continued. D. *Mind you, this was 1983. No one had heard of AIDS; herpes was the big scary bastard back then. Also, I'd wager Jean was remembering back to the France of the 50s and 60s. So what's the point? I'm writing about the memory of a memory, a social reality hazed over by the passage of time and filtered through two unique (okay, odd) minds. It's fantasy. It's the Rulez.