February 14, 2002
The Parking Spot Theory
Here's my "Parking Spot Theory": Let's say you're driving around, looking for a parking spot and you can't find one. You drive around the block again and, still, nothing. You look up ahead at the other cars circling the block and no one is getting a parking spot. Frustration builds. Then, suddenly, a spot opens up and the guy ahead of you pulls into it. The first thing you think is, "Damn, that could've been my parking spot." Disappointment. Anger.
The next thing you think is: "Hey! That guy found a parking spot! There are parking spots to be had!" You suddenly feel optimistic about the future. "If I continue in my quest with a pure heart and an open mind, I, too, shall find my parking spot." That's the theory.
My friend Doug just got married to a lovely girl from the East Coast named Debbie. Doug is 42, and this is his first marriage. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Debbie is the parking spot into which Doug has parked. He is a symbol of hope to single people of a certain age all over the world, and the wedding was cause for much rejoicing among Jewish mothers all over the Westside.
Doug walked the aisle to the strains of Etta James' "At Last," which got a well-deserved laugh from the congregation. The message was this: It only takes one.
I admit that the "Parking Spot Theory" is hardly the story of Job, but it can be a trial, a test of faith. At some point, the thought of going on another date is almost too horrible to imagine. I saw "Harold and Maude" the other day and Harold, an awkward, eccentric young man (not unlike yours truly) greeted each of the young ladies his mother had chosen for him with very elaborate, realistic-looking suicide attempts, including self-immolation. Is that an extreme overreaction to facing yet another blind date? I could argue it both ways.
I think life was simpler when Yenta made a match, like in "Fiddler on the Roof" -- and that was that. You got a partner and you made the most of it. Then along comes the second act and Hodel wants something more out of the deal. This is when Tevya turns to the audience and asks in disbelief, "Love?" Believe me, there is always something more. There is always a better parking spot to be had.
I think this is why you find so many people trying JDate, personal ads (see right) and matchmaking services -- let somebody else figure it out for you. These are the valet parking guys of romance. When you sign on with one of these outfits, you're essentially saying, "There's a big tip in it if you can find a parking spot for me, pal."
I'm not surprised that people have so much trouble finding one another. Men and women are taught completely different things about relationships and marriage and develop wildly disparate world views. I was sitting next to a woman on a plane the other day whose copy of Vogue magazine had a 30-page wedding pullout section, with stories on everything from gowns to "honeymoon secrets." By contrast, my copy of Details, a popular men's magazine, had a two-page story titled, "How to Have the Perfect One-Night Stand." The only thing the two magazines could agree on is that both of you could do better.
Women are arming themselves with this vital information. There is a whole section on the magazine stand that they read when men are not looking. Women are armed and dangerous. They are gearing up for the big game, and most men don't even know there's a game on. There are no magazines for grooms, and what would it say if one did exist? "Good Luck"? "Seven Ways to Pretend You're Paying Attention"? "See Ya Later, Sucker"?
I'm happy to report that married life is agreeing with Doug and Debbie. They are happily parked. There was a moment at the end of their beautiful wedding ceremony, when they turned around to the congregation, facing the world for the first time as man and wife, they received a standing ovation from their guests. It was a lovely moment, but Doug admitted later that it was the first "standing O" he'd ever gotten in his life. Shaking his head, he said, "It's all downhill from here."
J.D. Smith is parked @ www.lifesentence.net.