disclaimer is not a toy

"Innocence Lost: Love is for Idiots"

(Published February 14, 1997)

I am well aware that nobody will read these words. I could write a column containing irrefutable proof that the Parents Television Council is responsible for the Olympic Village bombing and it would have no more effect than if I had simply typed the letter W enough times to fill the required space. Some journalists would be discouraged by the fact that the majority of their target audience refuses to read anything that doesn't have Larry Flynt's personal okay, but I view it as a blessing.

Why, you ask? (Or, rather, you would ask if you hadn't already turned your attention to whatever inflammatory rhetoric Mr. Secreto has contributed this month.) Because I have the freedom to write long, self-serving articles on topics I have no experience with or insights about, secure in the knowledge that no one will challenge my statements.

In keeping with this theme of uninformed ranting, and seeing as how today is the Hallmark brand Valentine's Rockin' Day 1997, I thought I'd show you young lovers out there how deluded you all are. As a nameless character from Life in Hell once observed, you're not happy; you just think you're happy.

Let's say you're a healthy young man or perhaps woman, in the prime of your pre-working stiff life. You've got a part-time job at Mailboxes, Etc. which requires very little actual work apart from picking at the roll of packing tape with your fingernail to get the loose end unstuck, and it pays surprisingly well. You have plenty of friends who are categorized into concentric circles of importance (Friends You Can Trust to Pay You Back, Friends Who You Only Keep Around for the Extra Present on Your Birthday, and so on). You get generally good grades, except in algebra, but you're planning to major in Greek mythology, so you figure it doesn't really matter. You're the party star, you've got your own car, you're never last-picked, you're popular. Yes, life is a pretty tasty stick of butter.

One sun-cycle, though, you suddenly realize that there's a gaping void gnawing away at your very essence, sapping and impurifying your precious bodily fluids. You feel unfulfilled and antsy. You try to cope with this by drinking everything in the house but the contents of your lava lamp, but that doesn't help. "Huh," you think the next morning, after a healthy bout of vomiting. "Maybe it's love I'm hankering for." So you set about on a quest to get some. Love, that is.

Grow up.

The following day, you begin to look around among the local denizens for a person of your opposing gender who is within your attractiveness division. You finally find a similarly desperate, friendly, fun dame/chap who agrees to spend some of his/her brief earthy existence with you, and it's official: you have a significant additional! For ease of reading, let's take the It's Pat approach and give your new love buddy a nice androgynous name like Chris.

So now you're spending most of your time with this Chris character, and it's getting to a point where your formerly impressive grades have slipped to merely middling, and you're missing your favorite shows (Party of Five if you're a girl, King of the Hill if you're not) to go on dates. You're also watching about 90 percent of your meager paycheck go directly to purchasing presents to placate Chris. But you do enjoy being with Chris, and you rationalize allowing Chris to eat up your money by saying, "It's a small price to pay for everlasting happiness."

Three months and $1800 later, it's Chris's birthday, and you decide to take Chris out to Chris's favorite restaurant to celebrate. The restaurant is called The Friars' Fryer, and it's a theme restaurant which is designed to make you feel as though you're dining in a monastery. Personally, you can't see the appeal, but this is Chris's night.

And it's there, at dinner, that it happens. You're enjoying the lull between ordering and receiving your food, and you decide to try your hand at saying something romantic, like they do in cheesy movies. "You know, Chris," you say, gazing into your date's eyes, nervously darting from one to the other which makes Chris fidgety, "the last three or four months have been the best time of my life. They've just been incredible. I enjoy being with you so much," or something along those lines. I know nobody in the real world talks like that.

You wait for a reaction from Chris, but instead of the smile and returned compliment you're expecting, Chris's lip quivers and (s)he swallows hard. Chris looks at you with an apologetic glance, and says, "Listen, I've been thinking… maybe we shouldn't-"

But that's all Chris gets out. At that moment, a crazed man with a shotgun bursts through the front door of the restaurant and screams something about the Book of Revelation. Almost simultaneously, you hear a blast and Chris emits a half-gasp, half-scream, and pitches forth onto the table, lifeless. For the rest of your life, your every waking moment is haunted by this memory, like in The Fisher King, and you have to be committed to a squalid insane asylum. That's what love does to you, my friends.

It all reminds me of something Buddy Cole once said to John Cale in a trattoria in Venice: "Well, if it doesn't matter to you, I don't see why my opinion matters."