Friday, January 22, 2010

The Boyfriend Brigade

Last weekend, I was out with a friend, decompressing from a dinner with friends, when I started whining. "I want a boyfriend, I want a boyfriend," I snivelled. This girl-move is so attractive that several young men immediately leapt before me and prostrated themselves on the dirty Bistro patio, shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!" Ladies magazines of the world, take note. Steepling my fingers and raising one eyebrow, I performed a visual inspection of the candidates and chose according to height, weight, depth, presumed overlapping interest in music, a caring soul (which can be detected by pore size, for the underinformed) and the ability to carry on semi-coherent conversation with my parents. Having made my selection, we celebrated with grilled cheese sandwiches and are now engaged to be wed.

Oof. No. When am I going to learn that saying something doesn't make it so? Remember that whole "I'm going to be a triathlete" fiasco? Yeah, saying that led to jack squat. I can't even raise one eyebrow.

But this is an interesting moment for me, because it's been a long while since I've felt like dating anyone. A quick primer in My So-Called Dating Life: three ex-boyfriends, one monster heartbreak 2.5 years ago, much kissing, and loads of squeamishness re: commitment. That monster heartbreak shook me like an Etch-A-Sketch, leaving me, as the French say, totally fucked vis-a-vis the love. It's taken me a long-ass time to come back into the fold; not only was I skittish about having a boyfriend, I was peevish about not having one. That's a lot of ish to deal with.

I'm not going to turn this into an advertisement for myself - if I was desperate, I would take out one of those back-page ads in the NOW magazine - but just the realization that I even wanted to hang out with someone, partner-wise, was kind of a big one. I'm not going to be jumping on the next man's shadow I see, but feeling like the vise around the part of the heart that governs romance (is that the ventricle? Probably not) has loosed is one of great relief.

So. Now I face a quandary. I feel picklish about wanting a boyfriend, because I feel like one of those characters in a rom-com that gazes wistfully out a rain-streaked window while dreaming of something - someone - that may never come. I mean, at the ripe old age of 26, is weird to feel like a romantic washout?

Not to get all Sex And The City on people, what with the stupid rhetorical questions and so on, but how does this work? Dating is complicated (and understatements are fun!), and unfortunately, I'm actually getting old enough that a statistically significant number of "the good ones" are shacked up with loves of their own. And, like, more power to them - the good ones get snagged so early precisely because they're good guys. I used to believe one of those crazy corollaries. You know the tune, so sing along: because I hadn't been snapped up like this morning's fish, I was somehow riddled with flaws and 100% unloveable. Sigh.

The truth is, I might be overly picky and kind of neurotic, but I'm not an asshole. I was holding out on dating because, for whatever reason, I wasn't ready. Maybe it was the heartbreak. Maybe I was too young to really commit to someone. Maybe I needed to get a little more grounded. Maybe I needed to work the phrase "pitching woo" into my dating vocabulary. (I totally said "pitching woo" tonight and felt awesomely retro.) Maybe it's a melange, a blend of all these things and more. Whatever it was, I feel like I'm over it. Bring on the boyfriends: I'm ready for you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lynch Mob

After re-reading for, like, the zillionth time the essay David Foster Wallace wrote about David Lynch, I finally bit the bullet and watched some. Aside from the Wallace piece, and general pop-culture rumblings about Lynch being A Weird Guy, the only thing I knew about D.Lyn was from a friend who had watched Blue Velvet a few years back and absolutely despised it. Which, as Wallace points out in his essay, isn't an uncommon reaction to the Lynch oeuvre, since his movies are bizarre and upsetting and just plain old hard-to-understand.

I decided to start with what's unquestionably Lynch's most family-friendly offering, the 1990 show Twin Peaks. Since it was a network television show way before Law and Order was broadcasting mutilated breast implants, Twin Peaks has a quaintness to it. It's almost strangely wholesome, even though "bad girl" Laura Palmer snorted blow and worked at a brothel. The strangest elements come from strange juxtapositions and unsettling moments - hospital food that looks like mustard, for example, or a characters blue-and-red sunglasses that look like those 1950s 3D movie glasses. Neither gets an explanation, which, as Wallace explained, is pretty much a David Lynch trademark: strange subterranean rumblings and mechanical clankings, incongruous character motifs, grotesque and unusual looking characters, which apparently are Lynch's stock in trade.

I like it. Special Agent Dale Cooper, played by the straight-shooting Kyle MacLachlan, is kind of hilarious in his squareness, and the sultry, sexy girls are erotic in a very 1950s way - lots of sweaters with conical bosoms, even some saddle shoes thrown in the mix. Lara Flynn Boyle, who later became one of the Skeletors on The Practice was practically curvy; Sherilyn Fenn, who went on to pose for Playboy, is delicious.

The show is unquestionably weird, but the weirdness generally springs from the kind of place that most art comes from: people are constantly furrowing their brow and sighing "I could do that" about most modern/abstract art, but the fact is, they don't. Lynch's odd moments spring from that same well; when he has a high schooler breakdance out of frame in the pilot episode, it's funny and weird and honest at the same time, because high school kids do weird shit all the time, and to depict them as automatonic droids whose only function is to advance the plot would be selling them out. His odd moments feel true. They seem to reflect the kind of oddness that real people deal with during the day-to-day.

Twin Peaks is, before all other things, a soap opera. It's got that whole who-killed-Laura-Palmer element, but the mystery fades into the background ase characters fall in and out of love, beat each other up, have visions, and rely on characters named th things like "The Log Lady" to give them guidance. To be honest, it's kind of like a miles-better version of that sudsy guilty pleasure Passions, which used possessions and talking puppets as major plot points and which was like a daytime Lynch-lite show.

Having raced through a season of TP in about ten minutes, I'm now way more interested in seeing films like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, because I know they're going to be weird in a really specific way. I can handle weird and bizarre and incongruous; I can handle Lynchian. Ultimately, real life is Lynchian: weird, coincidental, dangerous, and not quite what it seems.