Sunday, October 24, 2004

Boys, Buffets, and Bollywood

It is a rite of passage for parents. Our children develop interest in other children. This is called friendship. It is healthy curiosity that leads to social interaction and builds communities that last a lifetime. Would that it were only that.

Our child has developed an interest in a lad who has developed an interest in her. When they are together they are like hook and loop. Velcro, you know. You see them in a room together, turn your back, turn around again, and they are sheepishly parting like ... well, like two kids caught necking. Sheesh.

If my memory was better, I would be able to recall whether or not I was that driven at their age. Thankfully, I have plenty of intermittent periods devoid of data in my rememberer. It's pretty much like a Watergate tape. I'm thankful because I've done a good bit of stupid things in my day. If I could only call up what they were I would be mortally frightened of my child repeating the same things. The shadow memories flickering at the periphery of my consciousness are scary enough.

This particular young fellow escorted my only child to the Homecoming Dance at the local high school this weekend. He cleaned up nicely in a brand new suit, sported a haircut and shave, and even smelled pretty good. I knew then I was in trouble. If a full-fledged adult was even moderately impressed with this specimen, what was a giddy young lady in a short dress with spaghetti straps, banana curls, and--dare I say it?--makeup around her eyes and all over her lips going to think? Needless to say, judging by the way she unabashedly melted into his arms and kissed him RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME AT THE BACK DOOR OF MY OWN EVERLOVING HOME, she approved. What is the world coming to?

We had the pre-dance discussions. No freak dancing. This is a happy little trend in which kids flipping out of their gourds on nothing more suspicious than hormones do an imitation of a thorough strip search to one another, followed by intense gyrations in curious proximity. This is hauntingly familiar to the observer, provided one has ever seen two canines avidly procreating. Yeah. Puppy love my butt. I've seen this story play out and I don't enjoy the evident trend.

The starts and twitches brought on by this case of Paternal Anxiety were in no way allayed by the joy of the mothers of these young girls--several of whom gathered at our house before we towed them down to the heifer sale (well, it felt like that), I mean to the dance. What were these mothers thinking? Did they not realize what was going on here? Was I witness to some strange case of mass denial? These lovely, innocent young ladies were about to enter a dark room filled with wide-eyed, hyperventilating young men and it was all set to a soundtrack of computer-generated drum loops and screeching guitars. Nothing good could come of this. Since we had granted our permission and in many case had also underwritten our child's entrace fee, we had nobody to blame but ourselves. Meanwhile, mothers clustered around these imminent victims cooing, "Oh, isn't she lovely? That dress is so right for you. Ah, I love your hair. What stunning earrings." I helplessly stood by, not a firearm in the house.

Since most participants didn't drive, I collected our little darling and one of her friends. They survived. We survived. As they say in Big Ten basketball, No Blood, No Foul. It's over.

Until prom.

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This afternoon, we did something more sensible. We took my in-laws out to see the changing leaves. The only reasonable place to do this was due west. We drove to Thurmont and had lunch at The Cozy. The Cozy buffet is infamous. It is a heady blend of food that can only be delivered in Number 10 cans and other dishes that are very apparently made on the premises. And made quite nicely, I might add. All in all, The Cozy buffet is an open invitation to gluttony. They may sound terrible and I really should be ashamed. But may I add that I had to stand in line for the privilege. I'm not alone in this deadly sin, folks. One down, six to go.

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We have borrowed several movies from some dear friends. They are some of Bollywood's best. If you're not familiar with Bollywood, it is the informal name for India's film industry. In many respects, the films are pure fun. One must suspend disbelief. The films are much like presidential debates in that respect. The difference is that Bollywood freely admits it. There is usually a love triangle, or a love interest. There is also plenty of action, humor, and song-and-dance numbers. The instruments used to score the film will not necessarily reflect those that appear on the screen. The words being sung will not necessarily be perfectly synchronized with those one sees either. That's part of the fun.

I think the language being spoken is Hindi. We are unapologetically relying on subtitles as we watch. This is not a rewarding pursuit for illiterates. Our friends warned us about everything in the preceding paragraph. Then they generously parted with four DVDs and sent us on our merry way. There is a smattering of English included. From the last film, I came away with, "Hello, good-bye, and Mrs. Johnson." They didn't warn us about untimely endings.

We watched the first film and near the end one of two heros died. Oh, it was dramatic, but the result was the same. Handsome, dashing, athletic, and unflinchingly loyal to his bosom buddy, but the outlaws shot him down. I was in shock. We weren't 15 minute past a happy little dance number. Now the hero is lying in the dirt covered in his own blood.

Tonight we saw another. At the last possible moment, one of two friends vying for the hand of the same girl throws himself in front of his friend to save the guy from being shot. It was rich versus poor, and we rooted for this hard-working, gregarious, prankster the whole film. The girl they both love has to see that this blue collar Joe is the right choice, right? Not so, my friends. And if you are even more optimistic than me, the evil uncle trying to kill his rich nephew to secure his inheritance of the family business puts four bullets into our intrepid hero, fairly effectively laying those hopes to rest.

I called our friend right after the movie and registered my complaint. He laughed at me. Is it too much to demand a happy ending? I like my escapism pure, unsullied by reality. Maybe this is Bollywood's intent. There's a nasty old world out there. We've entertained these people, let's not let them exit the theater unprepared for it. Blam. Blam. Blam. Blam. Three minutes of noble parting conversation. One minute of tears by all remaining parties. Two minutes of bosom buddy exacting revenge. Roll credits.

Maybe I'm not ready for Bollywood. I'll tell you after we've watched the other two.