Sunday, June 05, 2005

“Is it possible for us to be lonesome together?”

The Movie: My Little Chickadee, 1940 (Mae West and W. C. Fields, screenwriters; Edward F. Cline, dir.)
Who says it: W. C. Fields as Cuthbert J. Twillie, a con man who becomes sheriff of Greasewood City.
The context: Twillie proposes to Flower Belle Lee (Mae West), who is no better than she should be.
How to use it: I think this would be a lovely wedding proposal. Seriously. It might also serve, as Lyle Lovett puts it, for a more temporal gratification. (That wouldn't make you a shallow person -- would it?)

One of my neighbors is a very nice man who tells me, every time I meet him, that he is gay. I'm not sure why he does this, since 1) it's obvious and 2) I don't care.

But it happened again yesterday afternoon, when Dizzy and I stopped to chat, so I smiled at him and said, "Well, and I'm straight. Not that there's anything wrong with that."

He did a double-take and said, "Really? I thought you were at least bi."

Now, I could list all the different reasons this disconcerted and annoyed me -- I'm not in the habit of speculating about my neighbors' private lives, and it hadn't occurred to me that my neighbors speculated about mine. And I know I'm not a girly girl, but the facts that I live alone, own power tools, and like to hammer things do not mean that I prefer the romantic companionship of my own gender. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But my indignation couldn't gather much steam when I realized that his assumption, like his repeated outing of himself, had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the fact that he is terribly, horrifyingly lonely, and looking for someone who'd sympathize with him.

Which I can do, a little, but not in the way that he was hoping for.

While we were standing outside talking, a car belonging to two of my other neighbors screeched into the parking lot. The man driving the car was screaming at the woman beside him. She got out of the car and ran into their home in tears, and he peeled rubber and drove away, a danger to himself and others.

There are as many ways to be lonely as there are humans on the planet. If you let yourself start noticing it, it's pretty overwhelming.


Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Just a thought: at one point in my life I attended a weekly group therapy meeting that was comprised of roughly 15 gay men and myself....and as the only straight man in the room, I found it incredibly comforting, even intimate, in a way that I hadn't felt before. And not because I was secretly gay but in some way quite the opposite. I felt something safe in the room, something close, and in a way I felt closer to these guys as guys because certain questions were in fact completely set aside. Hard to explain without more words, but....I did feel the need to mention this. This gay/bi typecasting may in one way be a code, a hidden language of loneliness, but its something else also that I can't quite define.

AnswerGirl said...

We talked about this a little at St. Joe's book group yesterday -- not your point, specifically (and I know you meant to say "composed of" instead of "comprised of") -- but the need we have, even as adults, for men to have the company of men and women to have the company of women. Women have many more opportunities to hang out together in same-sex groups than men do these days, and that's a shame.

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

From Strunk and White:

Comprise. LIterally, "embrace": A zoo comprises mammals, reptiles, and birds (because it "embraces," or "includes," them). But animals do not comprise ("embrace") a zoo--they constitute a zoo.

I stand uncorrected. I'm not saying that I embraced each of the guys in the group, though occasionally there was a need for that. I am saying that the group was comprised of 15 gay men and me.

Jeez, a trip to Jeopardy and a girl thinks she's the grammar czar...

AnswerGirl said...

You just made my point. Your group "comprised" gay men and you, or it "was composed of" gay men and you. "Comprised of" is an incorrect construction. You wouldn't ever say "included of" or "embraced of."

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Fine. "Fine." Fine.

AnswerGirl said...

uh... can I still stay over at your house on Thursday?

Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Of course. Our household will comprise friends and family and something else, I suppose.