SIGMUND FREUD supposedly said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” although there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest he actually said anything like that. But as comedian Stephen Colbert says, the axiom has a certain “truthiness” to it, and in the world of social interaction, “truthiness” might just count for more.
The couple arrived separately and greeted each other with an awkward handshake, followed by an even more awkward hug. Two glasses of midlevel chardonnay later and the two began sizing up each other.
Dressed as if he had just rolled off the golf course, his was an obvious attempt to convey a certain level of casualness while simultaneously revealing his upper-middle-class status. A lower-tier Rolex and a golf hat from the U.S. Open cinched the deal.
If only she noticed.
She was dressed in a flowing chiffon dress and less-than-sensible shoes. A bevy of shiny expensive bracelets jingled metallically with her every move. Hers was a concerted effort to look casual.
He talked too much about himself and she laughed just a little too readily. First dates can be that way.
Eventually the conversation moved from him to her, and it was now he ho laughed too readily. The thrust and parry of courtship, as I suspect it has always been. The conversation moved from anonymous past lovers to less-anonymous familial encounters.
“I have a Lab,” he said, presumably after a question I didn’t hear.
“His name is Chuck.”
“I have a cat. Her name is Ariel.”
“I like dogs because they are loyal,” he said.
“I like cats because they are independent,” she observed.
Somewhere, someone should have said, “en garde.”
“Cats are too aloof.”
“Dogs are too needy.”
“Cats always do their own thing.”
“Dogs can’t even go to the bathroom on their own.”
It didn’t take Freud to realize that they were no longer talking about cats and dogs.
He ordered another glass of chardonnay; she opted for a glass of syrah. Paths that were merging, now were not.
They sat for a few minutes looking at their wine, now half full.
Whether it is half full or half empty depends on perspective. Incidentally wineglasses should never be full, the point is to leave enough room to swirl the wine in order to release its aromas. But this couple was beyond caring about things like that.
There is a point in these types of dates where couples make their excuses and leave separately, or they go in for dinner together. Sometimes the couples actually leave early, together, but that is an entirely different story.
This couple wasn’t going anywhere together, in any sense.
Ten more minutes about cats and dogs and that was it. She made some excuse about having an early meeting, to which he countered, “Me, too.”
As I watched two people head in opposite directions, both figuratively and literally, I realized that sometimes it is far better to give up early. Better that then spending several awkward months clothing their loneliness in an unstable fabric of delusion stitched together from two wholly different sets of cloth.
Within moments of their departure another couple sat in the same two seats. Let’s just say that in their case, “thrust and parry” was not a metaphor.
All of which left me with three thoughts:
• “Women and cats do as they please. Men and dogs get used to it,” is a saying often seen on single women’s refrigerators.
• “The more I see of men the more I like dogs,” said “It Girl” and silent screen star Clara Bow.
• What Freud actually said of cigars was, “They are cylindrical and tubular. They have a hot, red end. They emit smoke that is fragrant.” Which is far stranger than the apocryphal saying.