Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love and the Knife Blade

Say I'm a time traveler like in the movie. Not as good looking as some (see Eric Bana, right), but a time traveler nonetheless. And say I have a wife. And let's say that wife is the same wife I have now. We'll call her Sheri.

In real life, when we met, Sheri was 42
and I was 25. Despite our age difference, we got all weak-kneed and tingly with each other and then got married.

But forget real life for a minute. This is reel life.

So, let’s say, because I’m a time traveler my 25-year-old self pops into the chrono-pseudo-slipstream and stumbles out into 1974 to meet Sheri’s 25-year-old self, the way Eric Bana meets his wife at various stages of her life. In The Time Traveler’s Wife, he’s always the same age, and whenever he meets his wife – whether she’s a six-year-old girl or pimple-faced or a sexy twenty-something – she’s smitten with him. Like the movie copy reads, she’s loved him her entire life.

So here’s 25-year-old me popping back to 1974 and meeting 25-year-old Sheri. You know what happens? She doesn’t even see me. There’s a vibe I give off that makes me invisible, because the vibe says I’m a guy who enjoy visits with his grandparents, who likes Gordon Setters more than Dobermans, who eats too much apple pie but has never tried cocaine. I’m – oh, God – I’m … too nice.


Sheri, it turns out, spent her twenties and thirties falling for dangerous men. She craved thrills and edges; sometimes she fell from them and got hurt. There’s at least one guy who, if I ever meet him, will get hurt in turn.

Plenty of theorists have studied why women – and men, too – want the dangerous mate. There are biological theories, social theories. I don’t know much about those. I know I’m not alone in thinking that Sandy in Grease was way hotter – dangerous, powerful, and sexier – once she lost the printed
skirts and squirmed into those leather pants.

But a time came when I figured out that there are other kinds of power, other kinds of sexiness, and I outgrew that craving for love on the blade of a knife. That was when I was in my mid-twenties, about the time I met Sheri (the 42-year-old version). She evinced one of those other kinds of power, an energy more about sexuality than prowling. I can’t define it, but I think it stemmed from the advent of her realization that she didn’t need dangerous men.

As Sheri tells the story, that realization became complete when she saw me – the nice guy – spike a volleyball with a concentrated, precise violence. Maybe aggression didn’t have to be reckless and unpredictable. Maybe power could be paired with nice.

So when I say we went all weak-kneed and tingly despite our age difference, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we tingled because of it.

Or maybe a younger man is just a different kind of danger. Danger of a safer sort.


  1. Hey, Bana's got nothing on you, baby.

    I like the volleyball story, but . . . volleyball? Maybe some artistic license is in order: ". . . when she saw me - the nice guy - launch an uppercut into the jaw of my archnemesis, Dirk Steele, followed by two left jabs in quick succession to his thorax, leaving him begging for mercy, mercy which I unmercifully denied. . . ." Or maybe badminton!

    Just catching up on some earlier posts. Congrats on the NYTimes plug!

  2. Revisionism. Yes, I think that's a good suggestion.

    It wasn't volleyball. It was sword play. Broadswords. Rusty ones. Dirk died of lock jaw.