Inside the boro limits of Turtle Town Is a little 2 bedroom apartment known affectionately as Brovania. That’s hyphenation talk for “brothers in Pennsylvania”. The two Bros who live there are Mitch and Byron, former barristas from my coffee shop. Nice guys, both of them. And single. It seems that nice young single guys are fairly rare, vastly outnumbered by nice young single ladies. This imbalance causes much anguish on both sides of the dating football or croquet mallet… or any other bad metaphor you can come up with, my bold bloggnats. It appears to me (as an old geezer from two generations back) that modern dating is far more fragile than it used to be. The vetting process is longer, even arduous at times. As if each person involved were a possible fake Rembrandt that needs to be tested and insured before it can be loved. In my old days it took a smile, eye contact, a little chat, a suggestion and then the promise of the next day… until a string of days ran unbroken into an exclusive relationship. There were no “friends with benefits” that I knew of in the 1970’s. Nor were there long times of testing and making sure of relationships. We just dove in, or maybe it was just folks like me who dove first and checked water depth second. Some friends’ marriages wound up with broken necks. Mine was merely strained.
Perhaps there is less trust left on the planet, you know, like fossil fuels. Everything is tested and surveyed– our political candidates have focus groups for their campaigns; television shows and movies are previewed with mock audiences prior to launch. I want to yell, ‘Hey, if your ideas are worthy, why are you shaving them for public approval?’ Leading from behind is what that is called, I believe. Ahhh yesss, it’s about the consumption and profit motive. “Trust me, friends. I want what’s good for me.” Your approval equates to their power and money. Even Enterprise Rental cars called me while I was in the bathtub to see how I felt about my recent rental car experience. “Wet. Warm. Clean.” This after the hospital sent me a survey about my recent $2,000 ER visit for a paralyzed neck. (This had nothing to do with the state of my marriage.) Please comment below: “Um, SHOCKED but insured, thank God, rather than bankrupted.” But dating? You need trust, which is truth over time. Both, not one or the other. On-line sites are everywhere advertising great outcomes for their users. Sure, it’s possible. But every week Comcast sends me slick advertising urging me to switch over to their bundle of services, while my phone rings with offers of reduced utility bills. They are all moving product or services. Maybe I could bundle my internet, with E-Harmony, and my electric bill. Buy, save, now. It’s exhausting if you take any of this endless feedback loop seriously. But dating??? It’s swimming with sharks outside of Brovania.
After a while all this quality control crap becomes so much background noise to tune out. So I’m tuning out and wondering how life is inside Brovania. But I need not wonder for long because the boys Facebook (verb use here) all their major activities. I know where Mitch is more often than Mitch does with only occasional F’book cruising. The old saying “Youth is wasted on the young” has a lot more grit and traction the older you get. Folks said that when I was young. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. Reminds me of an old poem by Irving Layton that intrigued me as a kid.
By walking I found out
Where I was going.
By intensely hating, how to love.
By loving, whom and what to love.
By grieving, how to laugh from the belly.
Out of infirmity, I have built strength.
Out of untruth, truth.
From hypocrisy, I wove directness.
Almost now I know who I am.
Almost I have the boldness to be that man.
And I shall be where I started from.
I would add that by aging I have learned how to be young. And I treasure that innocence and optimism that the boys from Brovania still exhibit. The freshness of young love, a good buddy to hang with, a local brew, the unlimited horizon. The view from Brovania is awesome once you learn that life is lived looking forward but understood looking backward.
I’ve never forgotten the incident. It resides next to the memory of driving back from Dulles Airport under a full moon without headlights in Dwight’s old green Volkswagen bug. He turned on his lights only to see a large doe standing in front of us with the original “deer in the headlights” look. We hit her and then the front trunk blew open, which caused great panic among us four guys. When Dwight finally stopped the bug just short of the pine woods on the right shoulder, we watched his spare tire bounce away into the woods. It was another long moment before we all exhaled and saw the deer hair stuck in any crack in the VW. The hood was forced back into its original shape. We retrieved the spare tire while laughing outrageously. Dwight was an official Deer Slayer. “By turning on my high beams, I saw where I was going.” That’s not a poem. It’s just a message smuggled out of Brovania.