IS LIFE A CRAP SHOOT ? Should We Play the Cards We’re Dealt ?

| June 8, 2012 | Comments (0)

A friend of a friend, a beautiful young woman, well-educated, successfully employed, socially an A-lister, recently married in a storybook wedding that took place in New Delhi, India. The groom, also in his early 30s, is a Harvard Medical School graduate and has movie-star good looks. The ceremony unfolded over four days with one party and fete following another. In grand South Asian style. The groom’s father is a general in the Indian Army where pomp and circumstance are a daily routine. His uniform changes and head dresses were the stuff of a Merchant and Ivory film.

How did this fabulous young couple – she of the blue eyes and blondest of blonde tresses and he a Ramon Navarro knock-off – meet ? On Facebook. How else! These days electronic introductions are no longer “back alley” as they were once considered. There was a time when “advertising”  yourself was the domain of smarmy losers, resorted to by desperate loners who had no alternative but the lonely hearts want ads : SWF seeks SWM w/B (Single White Female seeks Single White Male with Benefits).

Today it’s cool and more than acceptable to join social networks, to “friend” (and sometime be “de-friended”!) in a global social flow that brings together folks like our dashing sub-continental medico and his peaches and cream all-american bride. Well done !

Electronic hook-ups do not always have happy endings, however.  Another friend, a pretty, shy librarian slightly over forty who had rarely been kissed in her life, let alone seriously messed with, saving her “love” for Mr. Right who had not yet come along, struck up an acquaintanceship on the internet with a sensitive violinist from Amsterdam. For months, messages flew from New York City to Tulip Town. As their rapport crescendo-ed, photographs were exhanged, love poems  written. It came to pass that Heather could not sleep at night until her Dutch soul mate had “tucked her in” with a bedtime phone call. With air fares cheap and both of them gainfully employed in jobs paying generous salaries, the long-distance lovers  agreed it was only a matter of time until they met.

On the night of their first “anniversary”, the date they had discovered each other on, Gerd called Heather. By prior agreement they both had flutes of champagne in hand and raised their glasses in a toast to a year of loving friendship. Midway through the call  Gerd placed the phone on his music rack, picked up  his violin and played Rachmanioff’s Moonlight Sonata for Heather. Tears of joy welled up in her eyes as the love song’s strains reached out to her over the phone. She vowed to fly to him the following weekend.

As planned, Heather flew to Holland, arriving in Amsterdam shortly after dawn broke. Pressed against the barrier in the airport arrival hall, Gerd waved to her,  clutching a bouquet of lillies of the valley, Heather’s favorite flower. As she approached her long-distance lover Heather  registered a jolt of surprise – indeed a shock – perceiving that Gerd was short, very short. Standing in her three-inch heels, Heather at 5′ 10″ in her stocking feet, rose to over 6′ soaring over her miniscule violinst who must have been no taller than 5’4″. As they embraced her chin cleared the top of his head and she found herself bending down as though  she were greeting a child.

In over more than a year of fervent, intimate and what they  both thought were all-encompassing communications – they had confided in each other about everything under the sun from Heather’s hate for her father to Gerd’s fear of infinity – the question of their specific physical dimensions had never been discussed or revealed.  In scores of photographs they had ample chance to perceive each other as  attractive and engaging. Heather had assured herself after her closest friend cautioned her against falling in love with a picture, that photographs don’t lie. In addition to a handsome face, Gerd was a well-built man. She was especially fond of his image posing with the Matterhorn in the background, wearing leiderhosen. Another shot of him on the beach at Majorca was down right sexy. On reflection though, Heather realized as she bent down to receive Gerd’s welcome kiss, that NONE of his pictures had been taken with other people in view, affording her no way of comparing his stature to others. An educated, worldly, compassionate, big-hearted woman, Heather had nothing against physical irregularities, abnormalities. After all, what counted in a relationship was the love generated by non-physical considerations. She had learned that only too well growing up in an unhappy household with parents who constantly fought, having nothing whatsoever in common, nothing to share. And they had both been Hollywood handsome and beautiful. Physical beauty, she had concluded early in her childhood, was even less than skin-deep. Being beautiful was down right deceiving. Still, walking with Gerd by her side, Heather had the feeling of having fetched a child from play school. Although they were nearly the same age – well, she WAS a couple years older – she felt absolutely ancient next  to her mini-paramour.

As a practical person – Heather always described herself to others as a “solution-oriented woman” – she concluded the first step she must take was to lose the shoes, the high-heel shoes and stick to flats. Luckily, anticipating lots of strolls and romantic walks along Amsterdam’s atmospheric canals, Heather had packed a pair of sensible walking sneakers. Then there was her hair. Her tresses were Heather’s crowning  glory; she took pride in arranging her raven locks in various coiffures. Today her hair had been creatively combed into a pompadour that added at least two inches to her height. That would have to go forthwith !

Excusing herself, Heather ducked into the ladies restroom removing her flats from her valise. Addressing herself in the toilet’s mirror, she applied a dampened comb to her hair hoping to flatten it a couple of inches. Perversely, the wetness seemed to encourage her curls to spring to an even higher wave. Angry at herself and her hair, Heather transmitted her dark mood to Gerd who lapsed into silence as they boarded the bus for town.

In an attempt to add levity to what had become a grouchy first encounter, Gerd nervously essayed a joke, a Dutch version “Why did the chicken cross the road ?” When Heather looked down at him in uncomprehending silence, he emitted a high-pitched laugh bordering on a shriek. Turning her head away from him to mask her disappointment, Heather realized that not only did she have a very short boyfriend, she had a counter-tenor giggler on her hands. During their endless phone chats, Heather thought she knew her violinist from head to toe. He had hummed melodies to her, spoken sweet words, but never had he laughed a full-bodied laugh which in his case amounted to a girlish titter. Turning her gaze back to him as the bus reached  the center of the city, Heather resolved that she could love Gerd in spite of these special “characteristics.” In fact, she told herself, his giggle and his stumpy shortness could, with time, grow to be loveable traits, things that she could make fun of silently, quietly to herself as new ways to love him.

But then there was the reeking halitosis. Not until they sat next to each other in the bus and began conversing at close range was Heather struck by the rancid smell that  emerged from Gerd’s mouth with each syllable he spoke. She laughed to herself while recoiling with disgust, thinking of her father’s statement when confronted with a stupid person: “Everytime he opens his mouth, he subtracts from the sum total of human knowledge.” In Gerd’s case she decided that: “Everytime he opens his mouth he adds to the pollution of the environment.” Ashamed of her nasty black humor, she knew there must be products one could buy, perscription remedies that could be obtained that would address his horrid lizard’s breath.

Finally, there was what developed to be Gerd’s near psychopathic shyness. Whether it was her height that  intimidated him or her scarcely concealed grimace when he uttered foul-smelling words that were meant to be sweet nothings, Gerd virtually ceased speaking. Luckily, Amsterdam was a city of many sights. With map and guidebook in hand Heather attacked the canals, the museums and the royal palace returning to the flat as late as she could. Sensing her mood, Gerd said that, unfortunately, pressing work had emerged at the office. He begged her permission to leave her on her own during the day to which she readily assented.

On her final morning in Amsterdam Heather breathed a sigh of relief as she packed for the flight back to New York. Luckily Gerd inhabited a commodious flat with two bedrooms and she had moved to the guestroom after the first night, saying that he snored. Actually Gerd did not snore, but how was he to know that. Insisting that he not bother to see her to the airport, Heather boarded the bus alone for her flight back to the Big Apple. Their parting gesture was a rather clumsy buddy-hug followed by one of those bone-crushing hand shakes that Americans of a certain are wont to give.

On her return, Heather threw herself into her New York City routine. She enrolled in several fitness classes at her gym and spent long hours at the office. Finally, after a week, realizing she must email Gerd, she messaged him thanking him for his hospitality. He replied with a one-liner saying he hoped that she had enjoyed Amsterdam.  They never communicated again.

Three months later Heather married a colleague she had been working with for fifteen years, but had scarcely ever noticed. They worked two cubicles from each other, but had never exchanged more than cursory good morning greetings. Marvin was quiet and plain and very tall. He had a low voice and those few times when he was moved by something amusing, he had a deep, resonating laugh that spoke to Heather after all those years of ignoring him. Marvin was not particularly clever or creative. When he proposed to Heather, they were standing at the office copy machine. Not bothering to cease his copying tasks as he stammered out, “Will you marry me?”, his face flashed green as the copy machine light scanned each page that was printing.

But Marvin was a bass-baritone and stood 6’3 in his stocking feet. Perhaps the clincher was his Listerine-fresh breath.

We play the cards we’re dealt, even if it’s a stacked deck.



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