As usual, if anyone has suggestions, requests, or dedications, feel free to post them on the Comments Board. Also, for the uninitiated, here's where to go for all the background you need on this epic quest, http://www.pajiba.com/cannonball-read.htm . Once more, special thanks to Brian Prisco for allowing me, and all the others, to participate in this clusterfuck of literary wonderment. I’ll also throw out there that February 14th marks the start of the “Miss Lonelyhearts Stomps a Child 5K”. Rules and details are at the following link: (http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/5k-miss-lonelyhearts-stomps-a-child/)
To sign up, evaluate tallies, and generally glimpse the madness that is The Cannonball Read, start here: http://gospelaccordingtoprisco.wordpress.com/choose-your-weapon-the-combatants/ Who knows? You might just get your review published on Pajiba!
“There were no winners, and there was nobody who could seize the moral high ground. And then one day, maybe even one day in May, it stopped. We woke up in the morning, went to a bar or a party or onto the Internet, and somebody there liked us, and married us, and there was a new dawn of peace, prosperity, and babies.”
- Nick Hornby
Admit it, this does not sound like a typical book aimed at a male audience. If anything, on first glance it sounds like exactly the same type of book women take to the beach with them and gossip about endlessly, only to see it made into a movie that they’ll drag their significant others to. (I’m looking in your direction, "He’s Just Not That Into You".) Well, you’d be wrong. Totally, unequivocally wrong. This is the men’s answer to those types of books. At times hysterical, at times heartbreaking, and at times heartwarming; Things I’ve Learned from Women Who’ve Dumped Me is as educational as it is human. It’s also really, really funny.
After a brief foreword from Ben’s mom extolling his being “ a real catch”, author Nick Hornby opens the book with an introduction relating the dating habits of men to a World War II soldier’s mentality. We’re crazy, we’re cocksure, and sometimes we’re just plain stupid; but we’re not easily put down and we always comeback for more. Our emails go from crazy instabilities in our relationships to playdates and “date nights”. All of a sudden, everything changes, and while some would look at it as boring, when you look back on all those instabilities in proper detail you realize you’re perfectly fine where you are. You’re still crazy though, just in a more refined and domesticated way.
The mix of the stories in this book is very well proportioned; for every seriously heartrending story about how things didn’t turn out the way you wanted (“She Wasn’t The One”) you’ve got a tender story about learning to accept who you really are and what you really want from a mate (Dan Savage’s “I Am A Gay Man” is one of the standouts of this whole book.). We get postmortems of all different types of relationships from various notable figures. Stephen Colbert’s wife isn’t sure the public should be reading the truth about Mr. Colbert’s love life, so his entry is heavily redacted. Patton Oswalt helps us remember that while your wife might nag and get moody, she’s nothing compared to that stripper you dated way back when. Secret admirers, flaky girls who forgot that you had a dinner date at 8, unrequited loves, and a very interesting incident involving a cat, are all included in this anthology.
I’ve been surprised by the number of my friends who have said, “Oh, I saw that book at the store. I meant to pick it up, but I didn’t.” Do it. Don’t even think (and I’m not just shilling here, if I knew of this book’s existence I would have bought it). This is probably one of the quickest reads you’ll have this year, and that’s only because books like this tend to breeze by. Anthologies, especially fun ones like this, are always easy to read because you can read it in blocks or in several big sitdowns. Plus, the stories are not terribly long, so you’ll find yourself muttering to yourself, “Eh, why not one more”? I think the biggest compliment I can pay this book is something I’ve heard my girlfriend say about some books she’s really liked…it spoke to me. I found a personal message in this book, something I could take away with me. I found myself relating to so many of the stories in this book, and it was refreshing to know that while there’s many different people out there in the world, there’s just certain things that hurt us all the same. We all have some of the same awkward scenarios in our repertoire, and we tell their stories to those we know and love. It’s these stories that remind us how wonderful it is when you’ve truly found someone you love and can settle down with.
Both helpful to men who’ve been dumped and are still bouncing back onto the dating scene, or to the husband of ten years that’s just starting to entertain the question “Why did I get married?”, this is a funny, human book. One last thing, this book really made me think about my own past relationships, as I’ve been know to do. If you don't mind, I'd leave you with an unofficial 47th lesson (there’s 46 lessons and “Notes Towards a Unified Theory of Dumping”) from my own interesting past.
(For those of you who do mind and are looking for what the next book will be, it’s Run For Your Life by James Patterson with Michael Ledwidge.)
(Unofficial) Lesson 47: Take Five, or “Some Bridges Burn Themselves, Some Burn Other Bridges For You”
Back in my carefree days of high school’s freshman year, I dated a younger girl. My best friend’s younger sister had a really cute friend, Krista, and somehow we fell into dating one another. We only ever went on one date, which interestingly enough was going to see the remake of “Psycho”. Being the suave, debonair man of mystery that I was, I naturally failed to even put my arm around her without feeling a little awkward. (That “suave, debonair…” bit has a tiny disclaimer next to it that should read “in my mind”.)
She was pretty damn cool though, buying me a copy of Jerry Springer’s autobiography on a whim (which is a pretty good read, if you ever get the chance), and for my birthday I returned home from my after school Newspaper meeting to see a card wedged in the front door. It contained a card with an actual kiss imprint on the inside, and a “boyfriend” keychain. (I actually have that keychain taped to the inside of the Springer book.) Sadly, we didn’t last too long. Age was probably the determining factor, or maybe my “suave and mysterious” nature. (That disclaimer still applies.) Whatever the case, she had dumped me for a man her age, and I was left pining.
That happens to be where the real story begins, which is months after we broke up. She tried to set me up, again through my best friend’s sister, with a friend of hers. Katherine seemed nice enough: slightly geeky with two equally geeky brothers, kinda pretty, and most importantly to me at the time – she was interested in me. All that other stuff was nice, but the fact that she liked me and considered even being in the same room with me was quite flattering at the time. What was more flattering at the time was the fact that I found myself in a more physically emboldened relationship with her, despite the fact that her brothers would always have to accompany us to the movies. (They’d accommodate us by sitting several rows away from us.) It was because of her that I went to see “Dude Where’s My Car” in its whirlwind theatrical release, and it’s because of her that I learned it wasn’t they type of movie you had to watch closely. I’d never made out in a movie theater before that day, and for a teenager it’s like a glimpse of heaven. (Or, if you’re lucky, a hint of cleavage.)
What should have been the end all, know all signal towards the decline of our relationship came that Christmas when we exchanged gifts. I was working at K-Mart at the time, and to be a nice, upstanding gent I bought her this really nice necklace I saw at work. Three rings, with tiny diamonds in them, it was beautiful. I went through all that thought and a fair amount of money (it was on sale, so I snatched it up quickly), and what did you think I was rewarded with on Christmas? That’s right…candy canes. Two giant candy canes, and nothing else. Now, I don’t consider myself that greedy of a person, but I would assume that when you’re getting someone you’ve been going out with something for Christmas, you’d put more thought into it than “I knew you like candy canes, so here you go”! If she presented them in a romantic way, maybe did a little fan dance or something dirty with them, I would have been more appreciative. But all I got was a shopping bag with two thick candy canes. It’s almost as if she was trying to tell me, “Go fuck yourself”.
Shortly after a successful (read: lame) date out to her Youth Group’s karaoke get together, I had received a message from Krista. (If I’m not mistaken, it was through my best friend’s sister again. She really does deserve a medal for all of this.) She told me that Katherine was going to dump me in the very near future. I was gobsmacked, seeing as there was nothing that would betray her intention to drop me. Well, except for the candy cane bit, but I didn’t really see it as such. Whatever the case, I was put into that age old scenario: If you knew something big was going to happen, how would you handle it? Me…I did absolutely nothing. I wasn’t going t act on something I wasn’t sure was true or not. However, I did start preparing myself for the inevitability of the situation, and I think it was this that saved me in the end.
It was extremely fitting that our final date was to see the film “Vertical Limit”, seeing as that’s exactly where our relationship was at the time. We got to the theater, sat down, and I was listening to the in house radio station which happened to be playing a song that perfectly suited my mood. It was “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, (The shortened five minute version mind you, not the full song or the anniversary reunion live version.) which was only on the Loews Radio Network because it was in promotion of Ken Burns’ jazz documentary that was on PBS at the time. It was calm, it was smooth, it was comforting. I knew I was in control of the situation, because I knew she was going to kick me to the curb at any moment, and I didn’t have to be hurt. I got that out of the way a long time before.
We went through the make out motions, again not really having to pay attention to the movie seeing as it sucked, and before I knew it the date was over. Her father drove me back to my house, and right at my doorstep she said it. I don’t remember what “it” is, I just remembered it was the signal we were through. She walked away, towards her father’s car, and it was at that moment that I said what I had to say: “I knew.” At that point, I truly did feel suave and mysterious.
Now, this last part is open to interpretation and conjecture. Think of it as the “In Search Of…” portion of the story, seeing as I never received confirmation, but never had a reason to doubt this actually happened. Shortly after getting rid of me, Katherine started dating an older guy (who was of driving age) from her high school. Apparently, Krista got wind of what had transpired, and proceeded to bitch slap Katherine in public view. When I received this news from (you guessed it) my best friend’s sister, I was even more flattered than I could ever imagine. An ex-girlfriend bitch slapped another ex-girlfriend because I was wronged. How awesome was that?
Usually when a relationship ends, you burn a bridge. You burn that bridge that was your love and affection, and it smoulders. I’ve never been the one to strike the first match, and in the case of Katherine, I never struck a match. I just walked off the bridge calmly, and let that stupid bridge be what it was. If this story is to be believed, which I’d like to think it can be, Krista didn’t merely strike a match…she used a flamethrower to incinerate said bridge. Big time. I really should email her this and say, “Thanks for this, by the way. Whether you really did this or not, it means a lot to me that the story’s there to tell”. Ex’s can be a curse, but sometimes they can be a blessing. I would learn that lesson again later on in my life, but I’ve already told that story. However, ask me sometime about the theater girl I used to have a crush on. Now THAT is an interesting story…
Next Time: (as previously stated) Run for Your Life by James Patterson with Michael Ledwidge