Whither Romance?

Select Magazine — May 1982

The really amazing thing is that men and women ever get together at all! Even under what might seem to be the perfect circumstances events do not always go as one might expect. Christopher Long thought he had it made one recent glorious day when love certainly gave every impression of being heavily in the air. But what would appear to be a natural female suspicion of male motivation won the day as he explains.

By Christopher Long

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So, once again, Spring is in the air. Sparrow flirts with sparrow and the pigeons are chatting each other up. Enter romance - and we, that gallant band of young, single and lusty males, are once more lightly turning our fancies to love.

Like the macho pigeons, we swell our chests, display our vigour and watching our females pottering around in dotty delight doing their best not to notice our attentions. The sun shines, warm breezes sway the trees. We sit amid the daffodils and smell of cut grass and we marvel ... except that some of us aren't quite as young as we were and we tend to forget what we're supposed to do.

Having elevated us into the upper echelons of the animal kingdom, Mother Nature has unfortunately forgotten to endow some of us with that instinctive know-how that she so liberally dishes out to the sparrows and pigeons of this world each Spring. Which is why I felt I needed a refresher course. Why I found myself soaking up the sun in the local park, reading the only book I could find which seemed to offer any hints on the subject. It was one of those rather lurid, romantic novelettes that seem so popular with many of our women folk.

A dark tragic beauty stared hauntingly at me from the cover, while a strong, stern man with that big gamehunter look of the lonely-life-in-the-wide-open-spaces-that-has-no-room-for-a-lady stared evenly into the distance.

I was about to be baptised. Like drinking one's first pint or smoking one's first cigarette, I was about to read my first trashy romance.

Chapter One got off to a spanking pace. The hero and heroine saw each other. This naturally led on to Chapters Two, Three, Four and Five, during which our heroine analysed her feelings, discussed her anatomy, stripped bare her soul and dwelt at length on every detail of that first look at each other, before, during and after.

Putting the book down, I noticed a sylph-like goddess nearby. Now I have already said that I'm not exactly in the Olympic league so far as chat-up and romantic pursuit know-how is concerned, but there's nothing wrong with my eyes. First of all it was clear that there had never been a goddess as sylph-like as this one: secondly there was no doubt at all that she was reading a book almost identical to mine. Different hero and heroine on the cover (blue-eyed blonde versus Robert Redford's kid brother) but, romance being what it is, I thought, the story can't have been that different from mine. We had things in common, she and I. What's more, she was just about to get into Chapter Six as well, so here was a chance to put some of the big gamehunter's techniques to the test. With any luck she, my goddess, would do the square thing and react according to plan.

I winged a meaning look at the goddess on the next park bench.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" or "What the hell do you think I am?" her blank stare at me seemed to be saying.

Was I dismayed?

No. I took courage from a less than wholly loveable pigeon with a deformed foot who happened to be passing by and seemed to be having a similar problem with a rather flighty collar-dove, but was persevering nevertheless.

In Chapter Six hero spoke to heroine. This led to a great deal of yes-ing and no-ing on her part until he made his exit and our heroine was able to confide a wealth of stirred emotions, pangs of passion, familiar flutterings and longings deep within her.

This took us to Chapter Twelve.

I should perhaps have looked to see if the goddess on the next bench was showing any of these symptoms. But by this time I was deep into an action-packed Chapter Twelve where she discovers a fatal flaw in his character that convinces her of her love for him. He in turn discovers that he is but an empty shell and lost without her love and understanding.

He needs her even more than he needed that one remaining bullet which felled a charging bull elephant and saved his life out there on the Serengeti Plain. Fatal flaws! I had fatal flaws, didn't I? Fatal flaws were my stock-in-trade. Which fatal flaw would my goddess find most heart-rending? Hard to say, I thought, as I watched her grind three quarters of a king-size filter tip into the tarmac beneath her delicately moulded foot.

I caught her eye and smiled.

She looked at me.

Then she looked through me. And then, with studied indifference, she looked back over her other shoulder to see, out of sheer boredom, just who I was smiling at.

What would our hero have done, I wondered.

"Shot her with his last remaining bullet," said a small, unromantic devil within me.

Probably nothing, I decided.

Indeed, during Chapters Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen, he seemed to be doing mighty little and saying still less - which was strange considering how well he was doing.

Only a bit-part actor would play this role. Nevertheless, he succeeded in inflaming our heroine's passion with his muscular jaw, his sinewy limbs, his animal warmth and his clear, penetrating eyes. Eyes, I should add, which had seen things that a woman could only guess at.

By this stage hero and heroine were practically bivouacking and Chapter Seventeen seemed fated to be the scene of their final 'union'.

I felt that the goddess and I had quite a lot of catching up to do.

I got up to go, closed my book, stretched my legs and collected my belongings. My faithful dog was watching me from the car. Perhaps he and I shared more than we thought with our hero. Perhaps we too were destined for a lonely life on the Serengeti where there's no room for a lady and men see things that women can only guess at. If so, we were about to be joined by the less than wholly loveable pigeon whose fatal flaw was making his chances of success with the object of his desire less and less likely by the minute.

With a wordless glance I took a last look at the goddess. She was just about to reach Chapter Seventeen. So much so, in fact, that she never saw me go. Her lovely head was buried in her book. Never mind, I thought, as I stared evenly into the distance, at least I have the comfort of knowing that I have that last remaining bullet in my pocket.

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© (1982) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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