The other day I found myself in rare form, lazing around the house, scanning the on demand movies for something to keep my yoga-panted self from having to do anything resembling physical activity. I stumbled across an old Doris Day movie titled That Touch of Mink. A sucker for that 1950-60s brand of Should-she or Shouldn’t-she? plot and someone who takes great pleasure in laughing at the sexual politics of the “chick-flicks” of those days, I figured this movie was for me. The main storyline follows an off-kilter Cinderella story where an independent (for the time), kooky, and very blonde woman (Cathy) is splashed by a passing car on the way to a job interview. In the car is of course Prince Charming (Cary Grant) who falls in love with her and whisks her to Bermuda (after buying her a whole new wardrobe for the trip for course.) They share a wonderful day – the best of my life she says – and then comes the night. So nervous about being propositioned, Cathy breaks out into a rash all over her body. The doctor is called and Cary Grant is forced to spend the night playing cards with another man whose wife has a headache. It goes on in a comedic and predictable way, and in the end they get married and on the wedding night he gets a rash. ha ha.
Striking some particular chord with me at the time, I filed it away in my memory and went on with the day and the week. It didn’t much enter my mind again until a friend and I were driving together, playing the great catch-up-game that is our lives these days. We reviewed the weeks since we’d sat around my table in satin and lace wearing paper crowns and telling our fortunes with plastic fish, and even from only two we had much to tell.
She was talking about a crush. A spark, a little flame, glowing softly and mysteriously, growing brighter in the right time and the right place. She fed it some kindling, enjoying its light and warmth until suddenly it grew into a blaze. Suddenly and quickly it was more than she knew what to do with – so she dodged the kiss. Ooopsies I missed! I could see her saying, reaching for the closest glass, giggling and heading to the other room to find someone female. She laughed at herself, remarking that she used to be the kind of person who would rip her heart out and hand it to someone. Here you go, she might say with the strong muscle pumping in her hands, I love you! I laughed too, understanding her perfectly. I recounted the tale of Doris Day and Cary Grant, and we lamented together – first that our tumultuous love affairs never included in new wardrobes and luxurious tropical vacations, and second, that we had become chickenshits.
How does this happen? There you are, just the two of you. Things are going well; Bermuda is beautiful. The stars are out and the drinks are strong and you’re singing or you’re laughing together about something or nothing and everything is peachy-keen. It goes on in the way you expect it will, and like these things usually do, and suddenly there’s that touch of mink. They come in for the kiss and you move to the bedroom and suddenly your heart is pounding so loudly you’re sure the people next door and downstairs can hear it. From somewhere comes a voice, Relax, and you pray its your own and your head is filled with very loud things. But the funny thing is those loud things aren’t disapproval or the beginnings of regret – they’re the fear of what might come next and what if you don’t do everything just the way they like and what if it won’t all come together and why did you eat that piece of cake earlier because you can feel every calorie resting on your hips… And there’s the rash.
We used to be the brave ones. The ones I know have always been the ones to love with abandon, throwing caution (and sometimes rationality) to the wind. I used to be, even in those cornfield days, the kind of girl who thew myself headfirst into love, coming out the other side beaten and bloody. And even with every tear I shed I never regretted anything because I believed that the best things had to have their balance in the universe. When did we become the kind of girls who dodge kisses and talk about the weather?
“Most people have a harder time letting themselves love than finding someone to love them.” – Bill Russell
“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson