August 23, 2011 § Leave a comment


The History of  My Calamity

by Steve Siddle

Have you heard the story of Heloise and Abelard? Peter Abelard was a Second Century theologian and poet who challenged the Church to seek logical reconciliations. For this, of course, he was attacked as a heretic and tortured.

Unfortunately this fate was not unique and the poet Abelard would have been condemned to eternal obscurity were it not for his love of Heloise. Abelard was 37 when he fell in love with his beautiful, brilliant student of 17, Heloise. The two married and had a child together despite the stern warnings of Heloise’s cruel uncle who was a University Canon. The uncle hired thugs to drag Abelard away from his wife and child and emasculate him. Abelard spent the rest of his life in prison and Heloise retired to a Convent.

Luckily, their love survived through a group of remarkable letters they sent one another and Heloise was immortalized in Abelard’s Autobiography, Historia Calamitatum. The couple’s undying love for one another have entered the history books and survives among some of the great, doomed loves of Western history alongside Tristan and Isolde and Romeo and Juliet.

My fondness of this story is but one of the distinguishing marks that brands me “a romantic.” There have been many episodes in the history of my own romantic calamities that would further define me as a man prone to amorous impossibilities, but let me share just one with you today.

A few years ago I was racing across America with some friends of mine and, after driving non stop for 18 hours; I collapsed into the passenger seat and gave the wheel to my co-pilot Robert. Robert, wisely, encouraged me to sleep but I was still jittery from diet of liquid cocaine and Cliff Bars. I stared out the window and let myself become hypnotized by the world whizzing past.

We were deep in the barren southwest corner of the land of the free. Robert was driving fast and hard, just south of the Bonneville Salt Flats, on Interstate 80 inUtah. The landscape was post apocalyptic. I was feeling burnt out as an old transmission, when I spotted something that made me sit up straight.

There in the ashen salt heaps of that lifeless landscape was on of the most romantic gestures I had ever seen. On the side of the tallest salt dune, some young Romeo had written in tire tracks, the name HELEN.

“My God!” I exclaimed to Robert, “Do you see that?” I went to theorize out loud that a love stricken young man, desperate to display his affection for his lady, used the only tools around him to create a testament to his love. Where as some men are driven to paint their girl’s name on the underpass of bridges or high on the rocks beside the highway, this dude from Utah figured out how to drive his ATV through the dirt and dust in a such a way that the tracks would spell out “Helen”!

Robert was unimpressed and skeptical. I was ecstatic for a minute or two, but became increasingly downhearted as we sped closer to the salt heap. They were more and more obviously appearing to be meaningless tracks in the dust.

Robert looked over at me and said, “Steve, you are a hopeless romantic. And I do mean HOPELESS!” I remained silent untilLas Vegas.

As you might imagine, my particularly hopeless strand of romanticism has resulted in a colorful and turbulent love life. I don’t mind. Despite how many times I have broken my own heart, I still spend the better part of my days searching for the next long-legged lady over which to swoon. I love it.

The most trying aspect of life as one of the world’s last incorrigible romantics has to be the pain I feel every time I watch television. It seems to that we are fast approaching the age of the gross. The sound of Kardashian wedding bells and Lady Gaga songs sound to me very much like the death rattle of American romance.

Long past are the days Sinatra and Cary Grant and slow dancing at the Ballroom. No more are men expected to present flowers on a first date or even to open the car door for his lady. Far gone are the old cowboy traditions of tipping one’s hat or laying one’s coat across the mud puddle.

I was sitting at the bar at Ten Steak and Sushi in Providence a few weeks ago trying not to stare at the stunning lady a few stools down who was on a date with her boyfriend. The schmuck spent the whole meal playing with his Iphone while the damsel sullenly poked at her Tuna sashimi. I was gong to follow her to the bathroom and offer to steal her away, but my friends stopped me. “That would just be creepy” they advised.

More and more men are becoming bland, epicene slaves to fantasy sports and video games. They lack charisma. They shave their chests. They suck and I’m tired of apologizing for them.

The modern American woman is not much better. If we men have been acting increasingly effeminate and foppish, then it may be because American women have become so damned manly.

Increasingly crude and hyper sexual young women grate on my nerves. I am not the only man who feels this way. More and more often I hear men complaining about the masculine tendencies of the women they date.

Even beyond though the changing sexual roles of men and women is the underlying sense that relationships have become business agreements. Television shows like “the Bachelor” and “the Flavor of Love” reinforce the sense that love is a competitive sport to played mercilessly.America’s young lovers have entered a race to the bottom of self-respect and the prize (a few days of fame) is less and less valuable by the minute.

Here is to those still looking for love on the sidelines. I will spray paint your names on backside of street signs.

Read more by Steve Siddle


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