Thursday, February 24, 2005

...Living a Sitcom Cliché

My most common gripe when watching a TV show or movie is the lack of realism. Nothing can more quickly take me out of the plot and cause me to lose my ability to enjoy what I’m viewing than having to suspend my normal brain function and sense of logic to try to justify something on screen that I just can’t buy as possibly occurring in real life.

This can take shape in many forms. I understand that with some genres, like science fiction, you sort of have to be able to accept a certain alternative reality, and I’m ok with that. I can accept a universe in which there exists a Superman. A universe where a person is able to completely conceal his identity simply by throwing on a pair of glasses? Now that’s just dumb. It just seems like lazy writing to me.

Being married, I have to watch my share of romantic comedies. I don’t hate them on principle like some guys do, but was immediately taken out of “Maid in Manhattan” when the Jennifer Lopez character was shown to live in a very respectable, quite nice house on the salary of a hotel maid. Maybe if the movie had taken place on Mars. In New York, I don’t think so. I liked both the book and movie versions of “Mystic River”, but was upset that an otherwise gripping story was ruined at the end by one of those ridiculous, highly unbelievable scenarios where the police “just happen” to conveniently show up at the exact right place at the exact right time to catch the killers the split second before they were about to perpetuate yet another horrific crime.Don’t even get me started on car chase scenes that in real life would end up with fatalities in the dozens or at the very least a traffic ticket for the characters involved. Or any TV show or movie based in Los Angeles where the characters are able to find free, available parking right in front on whatever business establishment they are looking to frequent.

I’ve always felt a certain sense of superiority because of my refusal to just shut off my brain and accept the most implausible scenarios in TV and movie plots. But occasionally I will experience an event that makes me realize that perhaps I am the one who is foolish and that situations I’ve always passed of as the most ridiculous of sitcom clichés can very easily occur in real life.

My friend Hannah used to work in the marketing department of Macy’s. Her whole job more or less consisted of helping to put on Macy’s Passport, an annual charity fashion show that raises money for HIV/AIDS research. A benefit of having a friend who was so intimately involved with putting the show together: Free tickets not only for the show itself, but also to the exclusive dinner before the show where top local restaurants offered several menu samplings that would have otherwise cost a small fortune and, most appealing of all, a pass to the invitation only post-show after-party at the Hollywood Athletic Club. Let’s see - free gourmet food, free liquor and the chance to party with a bunch of models. Tough decision.

Hannah provided me and my friend Scott with two tickets each, so there were four of us altogether. Scott and I had been (and still are) good friends since college, where he was the president of my fraternity the year I pledged. I think one of the reasons my friendship with Scott has endured over the years – from college to nearly 4 years of living together as roommates in my mid-late 20s through being each others respective best men at our weddings which occurred 6 months apart – is because we’ve always had different taste in women. Our friendship has never been threatened by our falling for the same woman. My interest in women tends to be from the neck up while his tends to be from the neck down.

Since that statement can be taken more than one way, I should specify that Scott tends to be the type who is more interested in what a woman’s body looks like than in what her face looks like, which has often resulted in him dating very in-shape women whose bodies didn’t contain an ounce of unnecessary fat, but who weren’t anything special in the face. I guess you could call him a Classic Butterface (But Her Face) Man. Alternatively, I’ve always found that a stunning, beautiful face can make me easily forgive imperfections on a woman’s body.

Because of our differing tastes, I looked at it as simply par for the course when, at the afterparty the night of the show, I returned from a visit to the bar to find Scott out on the dance floor with, in my opinion, a rather hideous-looking Asian woman who, to her credit, had a pretty amazing, tight little body. I just credited it to his preference for a good body over a pretty face combined with a particularly bad case of beer goggles (we all had done a pretty good job of taking full advantage of the “free drinks” situation). And since I had in the past seen both of our other friends who were with us that night, Leo and Manoje, cavort around with women who were less than beautiful, I found it to be a bit hypocritical for the two of them to be laughing so hysterically and uncontrollable at Scott. Those in glass houses…

Both Leo and Manoje appeared to be quite shocked at my rather stoic reaction to Scott’s dancing with a fugly girl. It should be noted here that when I say, “dancing” I’m not speaking of moving to the music in a rhythmic fashion in the same general vicinity of one another, or going by Catholic school rules of staying a yardstick distance apart. Scott and his new friend were clearly in the pre-sex ritual of the dance floor bump and grind. Lots of touching of parts. Too bad Scott didn’t notice the tube of lipstick in her pocket.

“Gooch, you do realize that’s a dude, right?” Leo asked me, still puzzled at my lack of dismay in Scott’s choice of dance partner. And lo and behold, there it was, a clearly visible Adam’s apple.

When Scott came off of the dance floor for a quick breather between songs, the three of us, realizing that to let this go on any further would just be cruel, took Scott aside to let him know he had been dancing with another man. Scott laughed off our assertions, saying, “Hey, I know she’s not hot, but she’s a great dancer. Beats holding up the wall like you guys are doing (a good point, I must admit)”. Clearly he thought we were poking fun at his dance partner’s lack of beauty, not lack of vagina. What can I say; he is an only child and has the stubbornness to prove it. Shortly thereafter, Scott made his way back onto the dance floor with the same partner. But not for long. He may not have believed us, but I guess came around to the idea after his new friend whispered “Are you gay or bi?” during a particularly sensual moment on the dance floor.

Even though Leo and I have repeated this story a number of times, including in front of Scott’s wife, I still feel we’ve never given Scott the proper degree of shit over it that is deserved. I mean, really, how often does the ultimate sitcom plot, the “Guy Almost Goes All The Way With Girl Who Turns Out To Be A Guy” storyline, actually come to life? This seems to me to be the equivalent of having been struck my lightning or having won the lottery. At the very least I shouldn’t have edited it out of my Best Man speech.
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