Rom-Com Dreams

I’ve only seen about a thousand romantic comedies in my life. It’s not all of them, but it’s a sizeable chunk out of the genre. And it’s certainly enough to know exactly how I’d want my life to be like a RomCom.

  • I don’t need an Indie music montage.
  • I don’t want to cry in front of strangers while declaring my love.
  • I’m not interested in having a bitter sexually aggressive best friend or a quirky irresponsible little sister.
  • I don’t have the nagging mother, the indulgent father, the pet cat, or the adorable vehicle (anymore).
  • I don’t want the high paying job that requires seemingly minimal time at work and endless opportunities to go to black tie balls, meet wealthy bachelors, and engage in crazy shenanigans like tipping over a tower of champagne flutes.
  • I have no plans to live in New York, L.A., or travel to some place exotic on a crazy whim using all the credit on my card.
  • I won’t kid you that I don’t want the leading man. Let’s face it, if I had a meet-cute with [Insert your favorite leading man here]  I’d let that little story play out as far as it would go.

But what I DO resonate with is that apartment. That quirky, colorful, aged and worn but happy yellow patchwork apartment. And the giant wine glasses, and the seemingly endless supply of wine. Yeah. At the beginning of the movie when our heroine is puttering around her apartment all alone and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her, all I can think is how can she waste that amazing opportunity??

In an hour and a half she’s going to be selling it, moving in with some boy she kind of knows, but let’s face it, doesn’t really understand, and goodbye apartment, goodbye solo wine drinking, late nights watching A Roman Holiday and eating lasagna in bed.

The next time we see her she’s going to be playing a dramatic lead in some film about the complexities and perils of married life and how difficult it is (think Kate Winslet from The Holiday to Revolutionary Road). She has absolutely no idea how good she has it at this exact moment. Her clothes thrown about the place, and the apartment being so much of her own identity that the second the audience sees it they know who she is. And here comes this guy and sure, he’s suave and attractive, and charming, and adorable. And he’s probably an architect. Or he makes furniture. Or he’s a puppy doctor. But isn’t he mostly just hair gel and a smile in a pastel blue sweater and well fitting jeans?

So anyway, my point is, the real romance of rom-coms is the single life that’s unappreciated. Take time, my friends, to appreciate puttering and lazing, dance parties for one, drinking wine in the tub, and the occasional late-night impulse decision.

Seize the quirky solo nights my friends, while you’ve got them.

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Childhood Fantasy Life

It’s probably just me, but I never played “bride” as a kid. I played “teacher” with my cabbage patch dolls, I dressed up my cabbage patch dolls, I rollerbladed (not with my cabbage patch dolls). I read Encyclopedia Brown, The BFG and The Outsiders. I made my dogs dress up in cabbage patch kid clothes (and one small black t-shirt that just said “the boss”). But I never played pretend wedding.

My earliest adult aspirations involved becoming an actress, or a teacher, or Pocahontas. I don’t remember wanting to get married. (This may also be due to a mistaken notion that marriage required a blood test and I was so afraid of needles that I internally decided if I never got married, I’d never have to give blood and didn’t that just sound like the neatest solution to my phobia.)

I’ll confess to doing all of the above in my tweens and teens. I doodled, I planned, I designed the perfect wedding dress. I’ll give you a hint: it was white. (Also the most diva dress you can imagine, we are talking yards upon yards of fabric, and at one point, probably in the eighth grade, the sleeves resembled actual wings — which is kind of ironic now that I mention it.)

So when does it happen? When do we start doodling our first name with our crush’s last name, and designing the perfect wedding dress and planning out what our dream houses will look like? When do we become marriage obsessed? When does it become aspirational to settle down and not to get out? How did I make the shift from Native American princess boldly roaming the wild outdoors of the church parking lot, to deciding if I was going to wear a veil or a tiara for my Big Day?

Honestly I think it’s related to how terrifically awkward middle school and high school can feel. Because in middle school and in high school, what you want more than anything is to not look how you feel then. Awkward, uncomfortable, uncoordinated, frankly ugly. And brides are never ugly. I wanted to be assured that when I became an adult someone would want me. I wanted the security that I knew a marriage and a husband and a house represented. I wanted the “bride’s day”.

For me this is the real sticking point. I never wanted to be married; I just wanted to be the center of positive attention. A groom barely figured into it at all. Sure, he was there, but in the same way an usher is, or a carpet runner. It’s a wedding prop. Probably ancillary even to the doves and the string quartet. A wedding was the gateway to the security I was craving, and the last hurrah I assumed before life settled into the sameness I associated then with married life. The routine monotonous security of the suburbs. To paraphrase a favorite quote from Sleepless in Seattle: “You don’t want to be [married]. You want to be [married] in a movie.” And when I finally figured that out, that’s when I got over wanting to just get married.

However, to this day I still have not gotten over the fact that I will never be Pocahontas or Sacagawea.

Giving and Taking Offense

“Think before you speak” is a handy proverb I grew up with. For the most part it’s a nice way of saying don’t be tactless or inane. But in shorthand it’s probably better known by the aphorism “better to be thought an idiot than open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Culturally speaking we’re in a new day and age though where not only is any thought encouraged to be spoken out loud (“I’m just saying”, “I won’t apologize for being blunt”, #nofilter, “don’t be a snowflake”, and a host of others), but we’re also encountering a phenomenon that believes in almost absolute censorship in the event someone’s feelings are compromised.

Because social media makes any joke accessible to any other human, context markers are lost. And because any tweet is shared instantly with millions, we sometimes forget that perhaps that speaker wasn’t talking about our immediate condition.

In other words, we’ve lost the ability to censor ourselves intelligently, and the ability to not turn everything we read into a personal attack. What’s worse is that this is no longer an online phenomenon, it’s invaded our real lives and our personal conversations.

I read a blog post recently titled, “If Someone With Chronic Illness Says They’re Tired, Please Think Before Responding, ‘Me Too'”, and reading the title filled me with an overwhelming helplessness. Now we can’t even relate to someone about the most common condition of being TIRED?

Of course, this title could be altered to accommodate any overly fatigued group. You could insert “children” in place of “Chronic Illness”. You could insert “three jobs”. You could insert “PTSD”. Truth is, there’s no end of ways to be justifiably and excessively tired.

But what happens when we begin preemptively censoring others is that we’ve largely missed the point of communal living. Which is that “me too” is relational, not selfish. It’s sharing the human condition where we all admit that we get run down during the day.

Now, I’ll admit as a chronic illness participant myself that I absolute adore “winning” at being exhausted, and in my lesser moments over the past decade+ of being an arthritic, I’ve definitely gloried in making someone feel at least a small degree of shame at attempting to relate to my fatigue.

But this is not the person I aspire to be. To borrow one of my absolute favorite quotes by Mark Haddon in A Spot of Bother, “…it occurred to him that there were two parts to being a better person. One part was thinking about other people. The other part was not giving a toss about what other people thought.”

To be brief: Value the fatigue of others, and don’t value their opinion of your fatigue. What’s neat about this phrase is you can change out fatigue with whatever you choose. For example: “Value the feelings of others, and don’t value their opinion of your feelings.”

Communal living boils down to balancing compassion for others with care of self. Sit back and relax. Take yourself out of combative interactions with the reassuring notion that they’re not trying to attack you, they’re just trying to relate to you. And probably they’re doing a bad job; social interactions are hard. Don’t make them harder than they have to be. Follow the excellent advice from James 1:19: “Be swift to hear, slow to speech, slow to wrath.”

To Our Mother Friends

My mother-friends.

They are beautiful. They hold the impossible potential of a child in their arms, and rest under the incredible burden of loving their children. I am old enough now that I have lots of friends who are mothers, and some of them invite me in to their homes and lives and let me learn and observe and play and pick up from school and twirl in circles and make cookies and paint pictures, and generally bounce back and forth between my mother friend and my new child-friends with the energy of a temporary installation. I have conversations with these little ones, who are fed, clothed, diapered, and rested almost entirely in spite of themselves by their mothers. These little ones who could do nothing by or for themselves, and prove it daily with their runny noses and eating habits. I watch them move in confidence of each provision for their welfare, utterly faith-filled in their unconscious expectation of the good from their Mothers.

I see them grow older and awkward, quiet, morose, angry, confused, rebellious, a little ridiculous, as we all were. And I see my mother friends hold the impossible potential still, a little more bent by the storms of becoming A So-Called Person that seem intentionally aimed to hurt the mothers, to resist and estrange them, to separate from their families—this second labor that seems to hurt as much as the first. I see my mother-friends who have suffered unutterable losses, multiple deaths— not only of life, but of hope, of joy, of health, of promise or expectation, of friendship of Son or Daughter (or in-law), of unborn-stillborn-miscarried. I hear the conversations of wondering, worrying, of dread and fear and sorrow and stillness and unanswered prayers that continue into infinity because Mothers. Never. Quit. No matter how much they want to.

You are beautiful, my mother-friends. I see in you the stories of Mary, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Sarah. You are consistently exhausted and exhilarated and filled with a passion that defies understanding. You are hiding in your bedroom for one more minute of peace before facing the enthusiastic barrage of questions, contradictions, commands, and cuddles, and yet the instant something threatens the noise-makers you can move with lightning-speed. Know this; it is a privilege to watch you love your children—even when you (or they) are irritated, frustrated, or disappointed and (obviously) unable to hide those honest emotions.

Even when they call you out on your shit in front of strangers, family, or friends. Even when they melt down while we are shopping for their Halloween costumes. Even when they give me sticky food-faced kisses or pick their nose for twenty minutes solid or loudly act up when I’m visiting. Especially when they make very honest and usually hilarious observations about my age, marital status, relative maturity (“are you big or little? Cause you look little. But I think you’re big.” “Are you in college?! No?! BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE KIDS BY NOW!” and, recently, “How old are you again? You’re THEWTY-EIGHT?! One-two-thwee-fou-five-twelve-eleven-thewteen-sixteen-seventeen…”). It is an honor to hear you speak about the joys and sorrows and fears and inadequacies you feel as you parent, to hear you dream about their futures, and to talk about the talents and troubles you see taking root in them as they grow up.

Your love is extraordinary, and it is transforming you into the woman you were meant to become. Your love changes the world. One diaper at a time. One recital, one soccer game, one swimming lesson at a time. One meltdown, one rebellious, scathing comment, one prayer at a time.

*the photograph above was taken by my friend Laura, on a short weekend trip with the girls, which for the first time included a second generation, my niece Lucy.

 

Briefly Wrong

Maybe it’s because I’m a naturally more argumentative person, or because I’m highly opinionated, or divisive, or whatever it is you’d want to call me when I’m being contrary, but I have, on average, at least a dozen arguments a day.

About 50% of those are even out loud.

The rest, I’m sad to say, are all internal repeats of arguments I’ve had in the past. Arguments that are years, or even over a decade old. Not even good arguments, really, just points that were made that I didn’t have a rebuttal for THEN but I definitely do NOW.

I can’t seem to kick this internal compulsion to correct them, or to correct old, wrong ideas when I come across them again. I have to fight the urge to go up to them even though we haven’t spoken in five years or, 15 years, and say, “you were wrong about ____________. I now have the dream response that I’ve spent at least twelve showers finessing until I’m confident every single angle and point of attack has been countered. Ha-HAH!”

If only others could remember their wrongness with the brilliant clarity that I remember their wrongness. SIGH.

Of the qualities we inevitably all tolerate in each other, constant correcting has to be among the most abrasive. (Probably don’t correct me on this, it’ll just validate it)

Trouble is, correctors have this fundamental idea that being right is of extreme importance. And how could anyone possibly go about their day being wrong about something when it’s very easy to set them on the right path? It’s like discovering at 10pm that you’ve got breakfast from 8am stuck in your teeth still. What? No one thought to mention it??

But there is this idea in each one of us I think that the opinions we hold are the right ones. And they continue to be the right beliefs until someone comes along and convinces us otherwise, and now suddenly we yet again have the right beliefs.

You see, the truth is that we all only ever feel that we are wrong briefly, that wrongness is a passing situation, easily corrected by converting your mind again to something that is right, or by ignoring any information that is contrary to your previously held rightness.

You will never encounter someone in this life who says, “Well that’s just my opinion on politics. It’s wrong. But I’ve decided to keep using it as a basis for all my decisions anyway.”

Someone might be glib enough to say, “I might be wrong”, but speaking to you confidentially as someone who’s said this before, it’s usually sarcastic.

So I’ll still go on arguing in my head with all those phantoms of friends gone by, but perhaps, maybe just perhaps, it’s because I’m still not convinced I’m right, I’m just not ready to admit it yet.

Eat the Rice

I’ve never made a secret of my lacking kitchen skills, but this past weekend I really topped my worst efforts.

It happened the way most problems do: I got cocky. I thought I could cook rice and walk away. What a rookie mistake. It started boiling before I knew it and I hastily returned to my neglected post and turned the burner down to low, as is correct. The rice continued to boil for an abnormally long time after I did this, but I didn’t concern myself with the mysterious ways of water in a pot, I was too busy worrying about the fish I was frying in the oven (I know that’s not frying fish, but I couldn’t resist the metaphor). Simultaneous to these two events I’m attempting a stir fry (literally). After all, it’s Friday, the day for stir frys (stir Friday).

Quick story about my stovetop. I have only two burners that can function without smoking up the kitchen. The first burner I ruined was because I let all the water boil out of a whistle-less tea kettle and some of the kettle remains stuck to the burner and now whenever it heats up the smoke detectors go off. The second burner I spilled milk on a few months ago because I got a little excited about the macaroni and cheese I was making.

I decided to chance the tea kettle burner. Sure enough a smoke detector starts going off. It’s so much louder than I anticipate. Always. And I can never hear where it’s coming from. So of course I mistake the carbon monoxide detector for the smoke alarm and I tear that down ineffectually.

Alarm still blaring I drag a chair out out to reach the one over the entry way door and I manage to get that off but still there’s a smoke alarm going. I turn off the defective burner and move to the living room to grab that one, all the while wondering why I have so many smoke detectors in this not large apartment.

I huck the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detector into the deep recesses of the living room and go back to the kitchen, hungry and irate.

This is roughly when the third smoke alarm, which I had forgotten about, starts chiming.

At this point I fully expect my landlord, who lives below me to storm upstairs wondering why I’m so intent on burning down my apartment.

After lobbing this smoke detector also into the living room I go back into the kitchen and decide to check on the rice. Which is when I realize I turned a complete unoccupied burner on low, and never turned the rice burner off high.

I ate the rice the basically inedible, mostly charcoal rice. I was not about to let it go to waste. I’d waited a good 30ish minutes for that rice that I paid for out of a hard earned paycheck.

So in honor of my mother’s birthday, and in gratitude to the original woman who taught me how to eat around culinary mistakes and gave me a life lesson I’d never forget, thanks, Mom, for not being the best cook in all the world, but the most adaptable.

PS, for the record, I cannot remember my mother once having this amount of trouble cooking, but her small oops in the kitchen have been instrumental to me whenever I encounter the big oops of life, in the kitchen or outside of it.

Forty Someday

“And I’m going to be 40!”

“When?”

“Someday!”

“In eight years!”

— Sally and Harry from When Harry Met Sally

Sally’s emotional outburst is one of those fantastically absurd, and painfully relatable human experiences. Whether we panic at the thought of turning 25, 30, 40, 50, 70…there’s an age we have in our minds when we know we’re supposed to “have it together”. We’re supposed to be living the grown-up, adult life. Perhaps purposeful, intentional. Or at the very least, healthier, more responsibly, satisfactorily even.

All the things we envisioned for ourselves in high school should be realities now, surely. A life on track. I’m 32 today and that panic Sally prematurely experiences recognizing she’s closing in on a milestone is something I can relate to.

I never saw my life going in a “typical” direction. But I did think that by my 30s I would have gone confidently in the direction of my dreams. But instead I’ve fallen victim too often to the same problem that plagues so many of us, we go blithely in the paths of least resistance. And there’s any number of silly and valid reasons to justify treading water and floating upstream.

But I have that secret knowledge, and you might understand, that I’m just not quite the person I wanted to be. It’s possible I have too high of expectations. Or that I’m a fundamentally unreasonable person. Or that I’ve seen too many movies where people who dream great big dreams inevitably achieve them through sheer will and force of personality — surely those are cultivated skills?

But mostly I have to acknowledge that younger me didn’t really understand what it would feel like to age. To have high school memories close to the surface of consciousness, and the ones from two years ago feel like ancient history.

I suppose I trusted too much in the confident and authoritative faces of the adults around me that conveyed a settled sense of direction and contentment that I assumed was the result of maturity brought about strictly by age.

Sally’s panicked about “someday”. The someday of waking up and discovering you’re not the you that you were meant to be, and that maybe you’re even fine with that now. You’ve settled in whatever way that means to you. You’ve lost the anticipation of the better.

I’m absolutely terrified of settling. But am I terrified enough?

I don’t mean, you know, terrified enough to rebound into a one night stand with Billy Crystal…

But that fear which recognizes what I’m doing perhaps does matter. That choosing a direction, even if it’s not perfect or ‘right” or what I’d wish to be fated might be for the best.

To quote an anecdote from William Goldman’s excellent Which Lie Did I Tell:

“The choreographer sat in the audience alone, his head in his hands… “I can’t figure out what they should do next.”

Mr Abbott never stopped moving. He jumped the three feet from the stage to the aisle. “Well have them do SOMETHING!” Mr. Abbot said. “That way we’ll have something change.””

But probably not a tryst with Billy Crystal.

Why Are You Still Single?

I have to revisit this question, “Why are you still single?” because it perpetuates so strongly most of what I believe is wrong with our perception of singleness. It’s counterpart are the teasing phrases “and can you believe, she’s single, folks!” and “It makes sense you’re single.”

In both cases our single person has made clear the lack in character that results in the loneliness of singleness. In other words, in order to “still be single” there must be something deeply wrong with you.

In most cases this lack is attributed to a basic unsociability, or antisocial tendency. This can take the form of rudeness, tactlessness, bitchiness, uncouthness, or any other inappropriate social misfiring. “Doesn’t work and play well with others” is to blame for your inability to catch a spouse.

Of course, there are those of us who are acknowledged  as “still single” because of our appearance. Our inability to dress to socially accepted standards, a lack of socially accepted personal hygiene, a lack of some physical attribute that naturally always ensures a successful romantic pairing. One can’t, for example, have bad eyebrows and expect to get married.

The analysis in the question “why are you still single” hits at a deep fear in society, a lack of control in an area we desperately want to control. We want assurances. We want to know that if we do everything correctly then we will have relational bliss and success.

Humans are fond of taking inexplicable things and forcing anecdotal evidence to function as causative proof. The reality is that plenty of people with major character defects are married. There are many “ugly” married people. Many people are married who have huge glaring flaws physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Being an attractive person with good people skills, healthy self awareness, and an attitude of moderation is no recipe for relational success.

And I do mean success here, because we singles understand that marriage is success in society. The gay rights movement has a critical hinge on marital equality. If you are single you are perceived, and may even perceive yourself, as unsuccessful. Lacking. Choice enters into this not at all, because we know that everyone wants to be married.

“Why are you still single?” is hurtful, rude, and inappropriate because what it so clearly indicates is that your obvious flaw is not visible to me, but I’m pretty sure you have one. I have to know what it is because I can’t account for you, this anomaly, in a world where by all rights you SHOULD be married. Your very existence alarms and unsettles my perception of the world.

What we are really discussing is a much deeper and more profound fear. We’re afraid of loneliness. And we see marriage as the correct avoidance of this condition. When we ask the question “why are you still single?” what we’re really asking is “I need confirmation that loneliness is only to be feared for an avoidable reason.”

But this unsettling fear is one thing you should live with, should wrestle with. It should transform your thinking to recognize that marriage is not a reward. It’s not a guarantee, it’s not a promise. It’s not the end result of being a good person. Marriages don’t stick together because both people promise to be “good people”.

It should unsettle you to recognize that marriage, an institution we run to often to avoid loneliness, is not a haven of companionship. We must think bigger if we take marriage to be a relational safety net that catches the deserving.

And as singles we must endeavor to work hard against our own fears about our singleness, and we must work even harder to confront the terrifying realities of loneliness by seeking out and carving whole communities that resolve not only our own fears of isolation, but those that exist in even the married and familied folk.

There is no remedy against loneliness but seeking out, or creating, healthy community, whether married or single.

What Can One Man Do?

Yesterday Oscar Gröning died. Gröning  was a former SS officer who was in charge of processing possessions and money at Auschwitz. The only reason he became famous, the only reason he was sentenced to prison for his crimes is because after the war he spoke out against holocaust deniers. Here is a man who could have, who did, return to a normal life in Germany after the war. He could have ducked his head and not flinched at the new philosophy of holocaust denial.

Gröning has said that he experienced involuntary guilt due to his indirect participation in the camp. He believes that because he wasn’t personally responsible for killing anyone, he can defend himself citing that he was only a witness to the killings.

What’s fascinating to me about Oscar Gröning is his choice both for action and for inaction.

In many ways his actions here are similar to a holocaust denier. Moral inaction can stem from a variety of complex emotions. Like deniers, the sheer mental gymnastics of reconciling the basest evils of mankind can create the safe illusion that whatever is happening can’t possibly be that bad. Until Gröning heard the screams himself, he seemed willing to assume the best.

Gröning’s ability to distance himself from any culpability is another coping technique, one holocaust deniers often twist to prove their heresies. The notion that surely, if it was truly bad, someone would have stopped it from happening. Someone would have stepped up. Surely an entire people group is not complicit in this evil, because they would have risen up to stop it from happening. Gröning himself seems content to explain his moral relativism in the same terms, though from a more ineffective position. He was not responsible for the actions of the murderers, even if he did help them. It wasn’t as if taking a stand against them would stop the killings.

Both perspectives here, seeing the common man as a hero or seeing the common man as ineffective, are flipsides of the same coin, two sides that don’t seem to hear each other. “What can one man do?” “One man can be a hero.” Both ideas are used to deflect the unpalatable idea that one man can — and did — contribute to the death of 300,000+ people.

The reality is that it happens all the time from the schoolyard on into our old age. Power and fear, coupled with current comfort and complacency, can be wielded capably enough to drive ordinary people, who would like to believe themselves to be “good people”, into utter inaction. “If it was that bad then someone else would stand up”. It’s always someone else. And when that someone does stand often we think they stood too early. We slip into the holocaust denier’s camp. “It couldn’t be that bad, humans wouldn’t have let it get that far.” Inaction is its own form of evil and always will be because it consistently aids the oppressor in oppression.

One of my favorite G.K. Chesterton quotes puts it thusly, “No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.”

Which brings us back around to Gröning. Why did he come forward to refute holocaust deniers? After all, the damage was done, what happened couldn’t be taken back and Gröning himself didn’t believe he was culpable. Why dredge up the past? He had nothing to atone for. I’m sure there are a number of reasons for Gröning to respond as he did, but I tend to believe it must be because once you have seen what you are capable of, what your fellow ordinary humans are capable of, what a regular person who thinks himself good can accomplish that is expressly evil, you cannot stay silent about assumed morality and decency. Because if we allow ourselves to think that in our inaction we are good, then we will contribute to and perpetuate true evils against our own kind.

Gröning after the war found himself yet again in a position to ask what can one man do? His actions are a helpful template for activism. He started small, replying to the author of one pamphlet and assuring him, “it happened. I was there. I saw it.” and when that was not enough Gröning did more. What can one man do?

At the very least he can, he ought, to do something.

“That’s Not a Knife” and Male Confidence

Last night I was watching in a black hole of youtube clips and I came across the clip from the first Crocodile Dundee (because we needed more than one of these) movie where Dundee thwarts a mugger. The famous “that’s a knife” scene.

If you’re unfamiliar, Crocodile Dundee is a fish out of water movie where an Australian more comfortable in the Outback comes to New York because of a beautiful New York reporter and has no trouble adapting to the big harsh city because his knife is bigger than yours. The scene starts with our New York heroine being terrified, and our hero being surprised by the mugger, but in an amused way, like how you respond when your drunk friend starts singing in public.

Despite Sue, our heroine being terrified, she keeps her wits, “Give him your wallet, Mick.”

“What for?”

“He’s got a knife.” She says with growing terror.

“That’s not a knife.” Mick says, scoffing at our mugger — TO HIS FACE. He then pulls his own knife out of a sheath strapped to his back and branishes it in front of the mugger’s face. “That’s a knife,” he says.

He slashes up the mugger’s horrifically vinyl? pleather? jacket.  The mugger runs, presumably just embarrassed to be exposed as someone with awful taste in jacket quality.

Mick turns to Sue, and says, “just kids having fun. You all right?”

She swoons, if not physically then verbally when she utters, “I’m always alright when I’m with you, Dundee.”

It’s a gem of an 80s scene: total camp and silliness. If I had left it at just that, it’s all it would remain. Alas. I love reading youtube comments, it’s such a fascinating look at people that share your same viewing habits, and this was no exception. The one comment that really caught my eye was from someone asserting that “women love guys with big knives”.

Naturally, I blushed at his (clearly a man wrote it) assessment of women. It was so obvious that Sue got all hot and bothered because Mick had a big knife, and as all women know, the bigger the knife wielded, the bigger the penis of the knife holder, and really that’s all women are impressed by.

Oh sigh.

Trouble is, I do like the scene though. And I do think of Mick Dundee as being very manly. Am I really sure that it’s not his knife euphemism that’s the draw? But the more I thought about it, because honestly when you’re just watching youtube videos until 1 am your mind really wanders, I reckoned there was a completely different, more compelling element at play.

It’s the “no worries” of it all. Mick’s a master of de-escalation. There’s nothing more comforting than being around someone who’s not bothered. This is an amazing quality that gives Mick a distinctly reassuring vibe. Everywhere he goes he’s interested in having people chill out. Even animals blocking the entire road just fall to the ground sedated. It’s such a refreshing change from the manic American approach to masculinity which seems to be centered around who has the most intense gun collection and who can get into a fistfight first.

But this is always the trick, confidence sits back and waits, it doesn’t feel the need to rush to action. Confidence sits and listens and then reacts.

The truth is that confidence in a man or a woman is incredibly sexy because it’s calm, focused, interested but not combative.

Confidence means you have a knife strapped to your back because you recognize a knife as a useful tool, not because you need a way to protect women on a New York street.

Confidence  also means, apparently wearing a crocodile vest in public. I don’t understand the full rules of confidence myself, and I’m definitely not at that advanced 80s level.

Or hey, maybe it is about the knife. Maybe it’s just really cool to see an Australian in crocodile boots pull a giant knife out of a special knife sheath on his back (that I didn’t even know was a real thing until this movie), and it’s the movies, and knives and Australians are cool. Maybe it’s that. Who knows?