Thursday, February 14, 2008
Love, 2008 Style
It’s Valentine’s Day and the thoughts of a red-blooded American baby-boomer male naturally turn to…television.
When I was fighting my way through puberty, one of my regular Friday night activities was to watch the show Love, American Style. OK, so I wasn’t exactly fighting my way through; the whole boy-girl thing was for the most part a spectator sport for me.
The plot lines of the sketches on Love, American Style were usually pretty far-fetched and sometimes downright unbelievable. I remember one in which a man who had a nice head of hair decided to test his fiancée’s love for him. He donned a skin wig and then put a regular wig on over that. Then, he told his fiancée that he had something he had to tell her—and he removed the top wig to reveal the bare head underneath. She was just fine with his baldness. So, at the end of the episode, we saw the fellow gazing into a mirror and saying that he realized he had done a dumb thing and so he would now have to do another dumb thing every day for the rest of his life—as he shaved his head.
I remember another one in which a man and woman had what was implied to be a passionate relationship. They were, shall we say, affectionate. But the woman had one rule—she would not take her gloves off. No one was going to see her hands except her future husband, whoever that turned out to be. The situation was driving the man crazy. Even though the woman made the rest of herself available to him, he spent all of his time lusting after her hands, which she would not let him see! I’m not sure that I remember the ending, but I have a vague recollection of the fellow giving her an engagement ring so she’d have to take her glove off to don the ring.
I wonder what a show called Love, 2008 Style would look like.
Episode One: Love and the Rebate Check
In this episode, our couple is sitting at a table, piles of credit card bills before them. They are discussing what they can do. They talk about negotiating with the credit card companies, consulting a credit counseling agency, asking their parents for a loan, taking out another credit card with a lower interest rate and transferring their balances to that card, or declaring bankruptcy.
He gets up to check the mail. He returns waving their $1200 IRS rebate check just as a news story comes on talking about how important the role of the consumer is in pulling the nation out of recession. They look at each other, their eyes ablaze. “It’s a sign from heaven,” he says, and they rush out the door to spend their check on more stuff they don’t need.
The laugh track kicks in.
Episode Two: Love Below the Belt
This episode is set in a university biology lab where cutting-edge research is being done on the biological basis of human emotions. The beautiful research professor, who looks amazingly like Raquel Welch in her prime, looks up from her notes at her research assistant, who is ten years her junior and looks amazingly like any number of young male soap opera actors.
“This can’t be right,” she murmurs (seductively, it goes without saying).
“What?” he replies, somewhere between awkwardly and dreamily.
“Well, as you know,” she answers, “the ancient Hebrews thought that the emotions were centered in the gut.”
He nods, cleverly masking the fact that he has no idea what she is talking about.
“But, as you also know, medical science has long believed that our emotions are actually centered in our brains.”
He nods more fervently, because he has read about that somewhere, and daringly speaks what is on his mind: “So?”
“So,” Dr. Raquel replies, “our research reveals something much different from that.”
“Do tell,” he says, winking—or twitching; it’s hard to tell.
“Our research,” she says, standing up, proves that while almost all of the emotions are centered in the brain, one—and only one—is centered somewhere else.”
“What—I mean which—I mean where—oh, you know what I mean” he almost asks.
“Love,” she says. “Love is centered neither in the gut nor in the brain—it is found only in the genitals!” as she flings herself upon him.
Beakers and test tubes and probably very dangerous chemicals fly everywhere as they crash onto the very cold-looking metal table while Dr. Raquel screams, “Research! Must do more research!”
The laugh track kicks in.
Episode Three: Love at Dawn, at Noon, and at Midnight
They meet in college or high school or kindergarten or on a blind date or at work or at church. They fall in love.
Probably and hopefully there is some lust involved but it is not the predominant power in what draws them together. They feel a common cause, a common calling, a common desire to give to and nurture the other.
They are alike and they are different. They complement each other and vex each other. They pledge to do the best they can and to do it with God’s help. Together, they try to make a living and to make a difference. They struggle. They succeed. They fail. They try again.
They make love with passion, with kindness, with tenderness, and with the deep and awe-inspiring sense that in so doing they are joining much more than their bodies.
In all things and in every way, they are faithful.
They have children or they don’t have children. If they have children, they raise them the best way they can. They hold them close and let them go. If they don’t have children of their own, they are kind and helpful to other people’s children.
They are healthy and they are sick. They have fun and they have worries. Sometimes they feel closer to one another than at other times, but all the time they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are there for one another.
They pray. They worship. They believe and they doubt.
Sometimes they hold on with a firm grip and sometimes they hold on by their fingernails, but always they hold on to God and to each other.
One day one of them dies. The other one cries for a very long time and then gets up to live out of necessity— and out of respect for the life they lived together.
Then one day the other one dies.
There is no laugh track.
But all along there is laughter—and there are tears. All along there is love that places the highest value where it belongs—not on possessions, although they try hard to make their own way and to enjoy some of the pleasures of life, and not on sex, although they nurture that part of their relationship and celebrate it for the good gift it is—but on loving God, loving each other, and loving others. They honor God, they honor each other, and they honor their commitments. They live in love and they die in love.
Such love is still possible and still available, under God, even in 2008.
It might make for boring television, but it makes for a wonderful life.