My god, it was bloody awful. The more I think about it, the more it's curdling my blood. Audrey Tatou is "cute" in the way that Shirley Temple was, i.e., it feels like somebody is standing over her with a whip screaming "CUTER! BE CUTER! NO, STILL NOT CUTE ENOUGH! MORE WINSOME GIRLISH SMIRKS, DAMN YOU! IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO REPLACE YOU WITH EMILY WATSON, YOU KNOW!"
They went around washing all the graffiti off of selected Paris neighborhoods before filming in them, which is oddly apropos. Nope, there's certainly no bad stuff in Amelie's world! No sir! All the problems she's got are minor, cute, adorable ones!
On the other end of the spectrum, I recently watched Harmony Korine's "Julien Donkey-Boy." He thinks Hollywood has a problem and that he has the solution. I agree with the former, but not the latter. He goes to the complete opposite extreme, plumbing the depths of brattiness. Oh, you were enjoying that scene? Thought I might be finally adding a little bit of a narrative arc, did you? Well then, how about I foil your expectations by cutting it off, not just mid-conversation, but mid-SENTENCE? Yep, just snap away from that scene and to some other random thing without letting my characters finish talking. Ha! Showed YOU, didn't I? None of you idiots are smart enough to appreciate my cinematic genious, that's the real problem here.
The right answer is never at either extreme. It'll always be somewhere near the middle.
And now, because political_punk asked me to, I'm going to recount my earliest encounters with GURLS.
Ahh, man. This feels so much like I'm plagiarizing myself. I've participated seriously in at least seven or eight online communities, and dabbled in hundreds more, since I got my first modem in 1985. I've told every story from my life multiple times, from every possible angle. I'm getting sick of hearing my own head rattling.
You know that thing that youngsters seem to go through where they think the opposite sex has cooties for a certain number of years? That never applied to me. I always liked girls. As soon as I was old enough to realize that there was a difference, which would have been around the age of three I guess, I started liking girls.
My first crush was in kindergarten, which was the first time I had any regular contact with kids I wasn't related to. It was a girl named Holly. I wish I could remember what she looked like.
I don't recall this part very well myself, but mom has told the story many times. I was an insecure whiny brat, of course. I didn't want to go to the first day of kindergarten in the worst possible way, to the point of being completely insane about it. Okay, I'm starting to remember that part a little bit. Yes, very, very insane. I can remember looking out the back window of the car on the way there, wishing I could jump out and get away from this nightmare. Mom says I got there, crying my fool head off, clinging to her like a barnacle. Holly came out of the crowd, not saying a word. She took me by the hand and led me into the classroom. I stopped crying and completely forgot all about my mom.
I remember going over to Holly's house several times. We talked to each other as we imagined adults did, and I'm sure it sounded hysterically comical.
I can't remember any complete scenes, just scattered still-photograph kinds of things. Snow stuck to a chain-link fence in her back yard. Her older brother had a gigantic slot car set, which I thought was wicked cool, but we were forbidden to touch it.
And that's all I remember about Holly. Actually, that's not all I remember about Holly, but the rest of it is making me think "Hey, I bet that's how I ended up with that particular fetish! Geez, I wonder why I never made that connection before!" So you'll just have to use your imagination. It will be better if you fill in details from your own life.
There were many other girls I admired, but only from afar. The next serious one was Cathy Schoonover. She and I went to the same church in Ottawa, Kansas for many years. I thought she was cute but I never had much of a chance to talk to her, until we both went to bible camp one summer, when we were eleven. Not having any parents around emboldened me considerably.
Cathy was pretty much the brassiest girl I knew. That summer she almost always wore this cute hat with a ribbon around it that she got from her father. She liked to tell dirty jokes. Here's the punch-line to one of them: "Doctor Bennett!" "Bent it hell, I think I broke it!"
Boy, I sure did a lot of stupid stuff trying to impress her. I can remember a lot of it but I'm not going to tell you. Way too stupid. Again, fill in details from your own childhood. I'll say this much, though: a lot of it worked. I could almost make Cathy laugh at will.
Here's one I can tell that's not quite so embarrasing. She bought a soft drink out of one of those old-tyme drink machines that I expect you kids today are completely unaware of. They were about the size of a refrigerator, and have a glass refrigerator-type door running from top to bottom along one side. Inside there are lots of different types of drinks in bottles, and after you put in a quarter you could pull one out. Cathy did that, but then she couldn't get the cap off. She tried the bottle over and over again in the bottle opener in the machine but it wasn't working. I swooped in and, in one graceful move, took the bottle from her, expertly finessed the cap off in the opener, and gave it back. Then I wandered off, all nonchalant-like, as if this was only one of many selfless deeds I planned to do that day. Yep, I'm off to look for a little old blind lady I can lead across a street or something.
We got home from camp and started writing letters to each other. Yes, actual old-sk00l letters, on paper, with stamps, through the U.S. post office. You kids are expecting me to mention my pet dinosaur now, right?
We wrote each other stories from camp. She had heard me repeating one of her dirty jokes wrong, so she wrote it all out in a letter, along with many others.
That experience excited me like nothing else in my life had. I just got a LETTER, in the MAIL, from a GURL. Holy COW. I read them over and over again. I looked for meaning in the tiniest details. The letters in this sentence are a little bigger than the others, does she mean something by that? Here it looks like she was pressing harder on the paper, did she mean something by THAT?
I left all her letters in a stack on top of my desk, showing off. Oh, that? It's nothing. Just A PILE OF LETTERS FROM A GURL, that's all. You know, nothing. Because when you're dealing with a suave guy like me, well, why WOULDN'T I have a pile of letters from a gurl on my desk? DUH.
Then came the really horrible part. I had to ask her out. My family was going on a trip to Worlds of Fun, an amusement park in Kansas City which is still around today. I got permission to ask Cathy to go with us. But I very nearly couldn't do it.
I'd sit staring at the phone for an hour. Goading myself. Then I'd pick it up, and dial one digit, and the second, and the third, my heart beating faster with every spin of the rotary dial. It was very rare for me to get past the fifth digit without hyperventilating. There'd be no way I could talk to her in that state, so I'd hang up.
This went on for weeks. Sitting and staring at the phone became my primary leisure time activity. Sometimes I'd get up and go work on another letter to her, because that was so much easier for me. But I knew it was a form of chickening out, so it didn't feel satisfying.
The first time I finally got all seven digits dialed I was so nervous I had to get up and pace to keep from flipping out. I couldn't stand it anymore and hung up after two rings. It was another week before I got all the way to somebody answering at Cathy's house, who turned out to be her mom. "Okay, I'll go get her," Cathy's mom said, and thus commenced the longest 30-second wait of my entire life.
I had no stomach for idle chit-chat. I got right to the point. And she turned me down. I got off the phone as quickly as possible.
Whew! I have seldom been more relieved than I was after that. It was a bummer that she'd turned me down, which stung a lot, but at least I did it, and it was over. Twenty minutes later, she called back. She said she didn't know what she had been thinking before, and that she'd like to go after all.
Cathy and I stretched out in the back of the family station wagon for the two-hour drive to Worlds of Fun. That part was okay. I was so nervous I was about an inch away from puking, but we both held it together. It was all down-hill from there. She wouldn't go on a single ride with me, she always sat next to my stepfather instead. And on the way back she talked about nothing but some other guy she knew at her school.
So I considered the whole episode a big failure. The next day I tore up all the letters she wrote and threw them away. Big, big mistake. If somebody ever retrieves those letters from a landfill and reassembles them, I will pay you ten thousand bucks for their safe return. I am dead serious. I saw Cathy at church occasionally after that but never really talked to her again.
Fast forward to six or seven years later. Mom and my sister and I had moved to Lawrence by then, but Cathy's mom and mine were still in contact. One day Cathy's mom let slip that Cathy had been very disappointed that I'd never asked her out again.
Yep, that pretty well set the tone for my dating life, right there. One stupid miscommunication after another.
My next gurl-infested peer group after that was the youth group at the Unitarian church in Wichita. I had lots of crushes there but no actual dates, and I could just kick myself over that. One time when I was 16 we took a trip to a Holidome in Hutchinson. I don't remember where they came from, but on that trip we had a pair of identical twin girls who were not part of our usual group. I honestly couldn't tell them apart, because I didn't know them very well. They were both equally cute. One time I was sitting next to the pool and one of them came over to me, all slinky and sexy in her lycra swimsuit, and sat on my lap. You'd think a guy might possibly take a hint from that, right? If by "a guy" you mean "me," then you'd be wrong.
Later that year, when I was still 16, I had my first real girlfriend. God only knows how she managed to get my attention, since the twin in the lycra swimsuit couldn't. I don't need to mention her name because she and I are still in contact to this day. I found her online a couple of years ago. I only mentioned Cathy's name because I hope she googles up this story. Send me an e-mail, Cathy! I've been looking for you for like forever.