V-Day or Love's Labor Lost

06:00 February 09, 2016
By: Phil LaMancusa

Once upon a time there was a woman of a certain age, smart and sensible, that, while munching pralines, considered it time to (maybe) get married, settle down, buy a car, write a book; you know, a renovated house, double-wide stroller, rescue-puppy, organic-shopping future. What can you say? It happens. Her name: Valerie.

She was deeply in love with a man named Will; he made her laugh, they danced in the moonlight, made sweet love under the stars. But, Will couldn’t be predicted or corralled; with so many directions to choose from, his attention couldn’t fully focus on one. He couldn’t keep a job for very long; not that he was ever lazy or disliked. It was just that he would get distracted and decide to do something else, like help a friend build a boat or volunteer at a shelter. He excelled in academia yet completed few courses. When class was in session, he was more than likely off watching the river or listening to crickets.  He was the eternal child, a young Pan, and she wanted to hold him fast, settle him down, be his Wendy; but that would have meant that Will would have to grow up; she knew that if he did mature she would lose the man/child that she loved – by him becoming something that he was not – at the cost of his happiness and freedom.

She met Robert at a company picnic. He was the opposite of Will; he worked as a finance broker, had a great education and bright future. He was politically correct and active in community affairs. He wanted a wife, children and everything that came with it; security, responsibility and hard work. He brought her to meet his parents who fell in love with her and accepted her into the family circle without reservations. Robert took her to theater, society gatherings and restaurants of high regard. They spent weekends at his parent’s country cabin. He adored her and told her so often.  He wanted to plan a spring wedding and a honeymoon abroad floating down the Seine, sipping champagne and making love. He called her his goddess and soul mate. She was ever reminding herself that he was financially stable, serious and practical; he was also good-looking and fit.  He was as different from Will as night and day, and she was at odds as to whom she would rather spend the rest of her life with.

And then there was Jill. Street smart, wise-cracking, gum-chewing, baseball-slugging, platinum-hued crew-cut Jill. Tall, slender, take-charge persona with a ‘don’t-screw-with-me’ attitude and smooth caramel colored skin; she was also head over heels in love with Val. Jill worked in real estate, she made beaucoup bucks selling houses and condos to fools who had too much money and would soon be parted from it. Together they went out at night to clubs, slammed shots, smoked cigarettes and dissed male bipeds with abandon.  They dressed each other, danced together and had even kissed once. Jill had told her that they could make a perfect permanent couple if Val could only "loosen up" and let things happen between them. Valerie was conflicted but flattered.

In fact, being the center of attraction to three, yes THREE, special people made her feel like a princess in a fairy tale; she felt conspicuous in her attractiveness, graceful, luminous… alive.  “Unfortunately,” she mused “they all like spinach and artichoke dip.”  Valerie had been to a drunken high school party in her early teens where after a point the only thing that she remembered was throwing up huge quantities of bits and pieces of spinach and artichoke dip. Ever after, just the mention of the stuff was enough to turn her stomach. AND, they (all three) were “forever ordering the friggin’ crap wherever they went!

Even so, on Valentine's when all three proposed marriage, it wasn’t easy to decide. First of all Will wanted them to hop freighter to Amsterdam, buy a mini-bus and go hook up with gypsies, pick grapes in France, figs in Spain, run weed to GIs in Kabul. He told her how he pictured her in peasant dresses by some forest firelight dancing barefoot while breastfeeding their children. 

Robert told her that they would marry at Grace Episcopal, he had chosen the bridesmaids' dresses; they’d move into a high-rise condo in the city and build their little getaway place in the "woods" right next to “Mum’s and Da’s.” Robert had already picked out their children’s names, sexes and schools. He was going to make sure that everything in their lives would be nothing less than perfect.

Jill’s offer was the most tempting: buy some property in South Beach, open a gay night club and spend the rest of their lives “like them dudes from Birdcage!” Val was tempted, she was sorely tempted; thoughts of children, sanctuary and security fled.  So did the gypsy lifestyle, gallivanting and roughing it. “I’m not attracted to living with dirty feet and bathing outdoors; I’m also not cut out for life in a gilded cage”. However – she decided – a permanent decadent lifestyle was something that could surely float her boat.

She mused into the night and into the wee hours, got a few hours sleep, packed a bag and left a note for her roommate “Dear Sal, – been great – sell, keep, or give my stuff away; rent’s paid until the first. I’m outta here!”  And that she was.

What happened to Val? She moved (by herself) to New Orleans and lived happily ever after. Happy Valentine's, y’all! 

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