The wonderful New England weather we've been experiencing lately has forced assorted nymphs and satyrs out of hiding, encouraging them to cavort in public. So although I've put romance on my "to-do" list for 1998 and not a moment before, faced with this amatory outbreak, aided and abetted by the media, I've had no choice--as a pundit who aspires to be above all, relevant--but to consider contemporary romantic relationships.
To the pantheon of immortal lovers--Tristram and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Neil and Angelica--we now may add Harvard's own Rebecca Boggs '95 and her fiance (Duke University's) Michael Wenthe. Or so a recent, cloying profile of the couple in The Boston Globe would have us believe.
It must have, at the time, seemed like a brilliant idea at a Globe brainstorming session--lovers kept apart by cruel fate, dependent upon the beneficence of a Rhodes Scholarship committee for rapturous reunion.
The photo which accompanied the feature looked promising. Michael looked vaguely Byronic, Rebecca looked poetically consumptive. Since they were both English concentrators, I expected articulate, coherent, even "Trollopian" sentences. I looked forward to casual allusions to Chaucer, a deconstructed double entendre here, a joke in Arthurian English there. I was disappointed.
Perhaps it was that in the hands of an incompetent miniaturist, the Oxford-bound couple was portrayed as being completely charm-free and utterly uninteresting.
Nevertheless, their situation prompted reflections upon long-distance relationships and the odds of their success. The couple considered most illustrative of this Phenomenon are the principals in last spring's sublime film, "Four Weddings and a Funeral"--at least before the denouement.
Why do you think the relationship between Hugh Grant's character and Andie MacDowell's character endured? Obviously, in part because his character was utterly and completely irresistible.
What sane woman could possibly resist a man who quoted, in a heartfelt declaration of love, lyrics from one of David Cassidy's--while he was with the Partridge family--songs? But David Cassidy notwithstanding, the relationship succeeded because they lived apart.
He spent most of his time being deliciously witty and charming in London and its environs. She spent most of her time Stateside presumably purchasing gravity-defying gowns. They met for the occasional transatlantic tryst, then went their separate ways. Do you think that their relationship, or any other civilized one, could withstand the trauma of ongoing physical proximity? Or the indignity of a shared bathroom? The destructive effects of a mutual subscription to the Times of London? Of course not.
The minutiae of everyday life drives a stake through the heart of romance. In order for a romantic relationship to thrive, the principals must, at a minimum, be separated by several states, preferably in different time zones. The ideal arrangement would involve separation by several continents and a large body of water thrown in for good measure.
So think about it, Rebecca. Right now he may seem awfully appealing. But can your relationship, or any others, persist in the face of nightly debates about what to have or where to go for dinner? Or weekly grocery shopping? Can mad passion possibly transcend daily arguments about the merits of renting or buying? Getting a loft or a duplex? Living uptown or downtown? Hardwood floors or carpeting? Whether to have kids or simply get a Labrador and a ficus tree in the garden?
Who knew Katharine Hepburn help the wisdom of the world when she said that men and women should never live together, but simply visit occasionally?
Actually, I'm going to have to reschedule my plans--1998 is simply way too early.
Lorraine A. Lezama's column appears on alternate Tuesdays.