All things considered, I’d rather be a cliché than a meme. People tire of clichés – they know them when they see them, dismiss them, and move on. But memes keep getting reborn – right when you thought they have run their course, someone posts a new gif or tweet with a yet another take on the embarrassing typo or the spectacularly ignorant statement or the dance move that went horribly wrong, and the hapless victim suffers all over again.
By now I think we’re all pretty sick of references to Groundhog Day and how no one can remember what day of the week it is. But I’m not tired of stories of people organizing to help those in need, or of talented people using their creativity to entertain us online while we hunker down and pray this appalling affliction will abate.
I also appreciate binge-watching suggestions. Because after gratefully putting in my 8 hours at the laptop, then hauling my fat ass reluctantly to the basement to march and punch and squat and LIFT! in response to the coaching of the least-annoying trainer I can find on YouTube (“you’re moving! that’s a win!”), I’m not quite up to reading the “compleat” works of Shakespeare or writing my next book. Collapsing into my cheap plum-fake-velvet-mid-century-ish looking chair across from the TV in my “boudoir” is about all I can manage.
And that’s how I discovered that the story of my obsession with the Bulgarian has gone beyond “hey, turns out falling for your contractor is kind of a thing” through “hmm, maybe there’s something to that Jungian idea of synchronicity” to “oh, for Christ sake not again!” In my latest binge series, Sex Education, I find yet another example of a smart, professional, not-particularly-self-aware woman-of-a-certain-age getting all hot for handyman. In three of four instances of what I now have no choice but to refer to as this cliché (my case, along with Kate Reddy from the book How Hard Can It Be and Dr. Jean Milburn from Sex Education), the object of the lady’s desire is a kind, capable, patient man of quiet wisdom, who speaks English with an Eastern (Bulgarian, Polish) or Northern European (Swedish) accent. In two of these cases (me and Dr. Jean) the accented amour is able to seamlessly code-switch between his native language when addressing family or talking on the phone, and English, when addressing the lady signing the checks.
It gets worse (spoiler alert!) In Sex Education, the handy hunk Jakob, portrayed very fetchingly by a Swedish actor named Mikael Persbrandt, is copiously adorned with tattoos (the Bulgarian had one anyone could see, and reported he had several more elsewhere that I never saw, nor never will see). Jean, whose revolving bedroom door and casual cruelty to men she uses and throws away puts her in no position to judge, reads Jakob as a lothario who goes around seducing and then forgetting his clients.
And then it turns out Jakob is a widower who spent years taking care of his sick wife before she died.
As did Phil, the target of Grace Hanson’s lust on Grace and Frankie.
As did I, with Mike – although my 20 month’s time as Mike’s caregiver was shorter, I think, than either of those two fictional men’s time caring for their fictional wives.
Just what the hell is the universe trying to tell me, here, if anything? Does the universe really communicate in clichés? I suppose it’s possible, given the thickness of the skulls its messages have to penetrate, most of the time.
I believe in the power of stories, even those with clichéd plotlines. To me, clichés hint at aspects of shared human experience that our minds and our hearts need to hear, repeatedly, like affirmations. I’m not sure what all these hot handymen add up to, but so far, here’s what I get out of these stories: hope.
People survive hardship, heartbreak, betrayal and loss, and still have the guts and the strength to give love another go, if they’re lucky enough to have the opportunity. It will be a long time until anyone comes out from behind their mask to find a new love. In the meantime I’ll take what binge-watching offers me and try to stay focused on gratitude for waking up each morning, breathing without assistance, and for having a roof over my head and food in the pantry.
With additional gratitude for stories that present men with complex emotional lives who appreciate smart women with layers of their own, I remain,
Your hoping to survive long enough to settle Angelic Daughter in a happy independent life and experience the love of a few good men a few more times,
n.b. I’ve updated my 27 Things page with two new lists.