It has happened to all of us. You are in a pleasant conversation, or relationship, or marriage, or about to get on a plane for that two week vacation with a boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/lover/Governor/presidential candidate and it occurs.
Gosh, one of the above says for whatever reason, I really like Steely Dan... don't you?
And the world, in all of its once promising glory, crashes down around you.
How could you have ever ever ever in a million years spent time with this person? All those thousand moments of looking out over the ocean in seeming perfect unanimity of thought, two hearts as one and one heart was secretly singing: "Rikki Don't Lose That Number."
This while claiming "Sympathy for the Devil" was to be your wedding march?
This is serious stuff.
What song, what book, what movie, what play, whether you can quote Dorothy Parker, whether you mutter "You've had a good life Cholo" under your breath at odd moments, are far more important than looks, college degrees, bank accounts, or job titles in the lives of the kind of people you'd want to know.
My future wife, a paragon of style and taste, resigned from her sorority when asked to read a passage from Jonathan Livingston Seagull at Founders Day. She was the President at the time.
A good friend, an appellate court judge, broke off an engagement when he discovered that the woman he didn't think could exist, actually didn't. She had listed an item from the Franklin Mint on her bridal registry.
I could go on with example after example but you catch the drift.
For a moment let's confine the discussion to the ongoing battle of the sexes, as in Erica Jong: "Men and women, women and men. It will never work."
I am told that Dorothy Parker spent a lifetime trying not to puke at the tastes of others.
As it is for me: it seems that not all, hard as it is to imagine, revere The Big Lebowski in the same way I do. Or think that the Bill James Iles/Hapur police procedurals are not comparable to The Canterbury Tales. And, I am getting verklempt at the thought (more on this later), there are even some whose lives have not been changed by The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
But, that is neither here nor there; we are discussing that precise moment, that moment in time where nothing remains as it was: when the wheat separates from the chaff, the washed from the unwashed, the sacred from the profane, the hip from the coxal, the uber cool from the merely chilly.
That moment described perfectly by Tom McGuane: when, despite all that has happened in a relationship, she suddenly looks at him as if across a state line.
To guard against this, all interpersonal communication between men and women should begin with a rather formal exchange of preferences. Trust me it will save later tears, thrown dishes, therapists, divorce attorneys, family interventions, or hostage negotiations:
Top five movies. Top five books. Top five songs.
If compatible so far, begin thinking about bridesmaid dresses and children's first names.
Top five groups... oh dear! Now we are getting into where the rubber hits the road depending on taste. True go... no go land.
The Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan conducting? A bit arch but permissible. The Beatles... too safe. Kings of Leon... promising, if a bit ageist. Local bands... sorry, it may mean unfortunate previous relationships that will come out eventually. Neil Diamond... run to the nearest exit. The Lyric Opera performing Iphigenie... begin drinking heavily, it's going to be a long night and longer rest of your life as the lights wink out in Disneyland.
This is a time to probe. And, remember, it is never too early to delve into matters Steely Dan.
Politics have become Steely Danner material as well. Sailing along for years in left leaning liberality and discovering the significant other is DVRing Glen Beck. Or worse, finding that hidden stack of Vince Flynn novels in the boot of the Tesla. Hello, it's time to review the pre-nup.
Living in that perfect house, on that perfect block, with two perfect children attending Cheney Magnet School, mixed doubles champions at the club, maxed out Bush 41 Presidential Library donaters, and then one or the other finds Lions for Lambs listed on the Netflix queue. Or that collector's item 1967 Joe Biden Playgirl issue tucked behind the gun rack.
"Madison, Justin, take Russet Champion IV to the playroom but no telly, mummy and daddy-kins have to talk."
I recently held forth to friends at a local bistro on two recent movies: Los Abrazos Rotos and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Huffington Post readers can find my written reviews of them by clicking my name above.
I was in particularly fine form that night, rather splendid in my new Paul Mixtor-Hythe suit, a generous portion of Kressman's Armagnac swirling in the snifter in my left hand. I passionately held forth on the genius of these films (I never use the term "movie" when declaiming). Alternating between French and English, to show loyalty to Cahiers du Cinema and to project a cosmopolitanism so lacking in Evanston beyond the drink fad of several years ago. By the time I had finished (actually I hadn't finished but several other tables had complained) it was clear to all that one did not deserve to breath the free air of these United States if one did not immediately include Abrazos and Imaginarium in one's Top Five of all time.
That night, trying to fall asleep, the Kressman's not sitting well with the Caneton Roti a L'Orange special, I remembered my best friend's untimely death. Shortly before resolutely walking down the aisle with his fourth wife, home earlier than planned, he found his fiance lying naked in bed... embracing a Nicholas Spark's novel.
It was too much.
His artist's soul could not take it. A lifetime of cutting Steely Danners off at their cretinous knees with a frigid look and arched eyebrow had come to this? To be as one with a woman who read such drivel?
The world as he wanted it, was not to be. He sagged back, his hand fluttering to his broken heart. It was reported to the police investigating what, at first seemed a suspicious death, that the woman in question thought she heard him mutter:
"I could have endured Hey Nineteen, nay, perhaps forgiven it... but Nicholas Sparks?!"