How Olivia Newton-John ruined my dating life
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"Are you turned on by women hurtling small appliances at your head in a fit of passion? If you answered yes, click somewhere else, because this mama is not into the drama. SWF, 44, likes her men likes she likes her wine: smooth, complex, dark, and flowing with a robust red passion.
Another day, another friend knocks on the door and asks me to write their online dating profile. She said she wanted a man more in line with NASCAR than Nieman Marcus and within weeks of posting this, she brought around a series of hulking teddy bears (ones with tattoos and a trucker caps, but still!). Though some Manhattan-based matchmakers charge hundreds for the service, I ask for two bottles of good red wine: one for the creative process and one for my personal stash.
I started doing this online profile service as a favor to friends about four years ago. I now have a raging wine cellar that grows like the ass of a newlywed bride who no longer needs to worry about a dress fitting.
Though I am unbelievably fortunate to have married a redhead far above my station, there is a part of me that is deeply resentful in this day and age that my God-given writing talent is a potent tool to attract the opposite sex.
We now live in a world of instant messaging, texts, social networks, and a plethora of other mating tools all rely on clever use of the English language for that special mojo.
Though I am quite sure I could never find anyone that comes close to the caliber of my wife, I fantasize all the time what my dating life would look like if I was unattached right now and using the power of the written word for devious and sexual purposes.
“You’re living vicariously through them, I know it,” sniffs my wife when she catches me asking our friends for every lurid detail of a date caused by my profile. “Here’s another guy that has fallen in love with you,” is the subject of an email from my friend Dawn as she forwards dozens of replies from men who have gotten stuck in a web of lies I have spun for her.
When I was dating, the ability to string sentences together was not exactly an aphrodisiac to the girls I pursued. For that, I can only blame Olivia Newton John.
Allow me to explain.
I came of age around 1977, just as Olivia Newton-John (ONJ for short from now on) was about to rule the universe. She had just launched a 50s bobby-sox revival with her big screen reworking of Grease; I was pretty good at impressing the 7th grade girls with my rendition of “The Hand Jive,” a whimsical dance from the movie that required flexible wrists and fingers.
Just as I was hitting my hand jive stride, the bitch threw me a curve ball a year later with a film called Xanadu that cast her as the goddess that she was. The story required the glossy Aussie to glide on a pair or roller skates, igniting a rolling craze coincided with the first signs of puberty.
For people of a certain age, the roller rink was the place to hang out when you were a teenager, especially when you ran out of quarters to play Asteroids or Ms. Pac man at the local arcade.
The same place that hosted our ice hockey practices in South Amboy in the early morning hours would be transformed into a sleek roller disco by night. The scene was like a school dance, only with wheels and the constant threat of a broken bone or twisted ligament looming above the dry ice smoke.
The suggestive lyrics of Donna Summer might have flown above our heads but the propulsive disco beats hit us squarely in our preteen crotches as we rolled around in a giant circle.
When the tempo slowed, the boys and girls would skate over to their respective corners. The lineup to choose from all had the same look on the female side: soft cashmere v-neck sweaters and puffy shoulder pad added to the cottony allure of glossy lipstick and feathered hair sculpted in ONJ’s image.
Some of the boys would burn off testosterone with slick skates and figure-eights in the middle of the circle, where they would show off brawny moves cultivated during the hockey practices that morning. The jocks naturally had the first pick of the litter before the rest of us swooped in for the spoils.
I tried to compensate for my lack of swagger by wearing the latest styles. Robin Williams was flying high at the time with Mork & Mindy, so I saved enough paper route money to buy the rainbow suspenders he made famous on the show.
They held up a generously sized pair of parachute pants, a tight fitting article of clothing made with the same fabric as the parachute. I remember them making a swishing noise whenever you made the move of putting one foot in front of the other as you skated around the rink. The pants came in the day-glow colors that were fashionable at the time; I believe I wore a pair of bright cherry red trousers that matched the suspenders.
“You look like a pair of right feckin’ eejits altogether,” my dad said with a scowl as he dropped my friend and I at the rink. “You’ll get your ass kicked in there for wearing that nonsense, you mark my words!”
He was only half right. We did look like eejits but we didn’t bring any trouble on ourselves for dressing that way because everyone wore the same thing and looked equally ridiculous.
I would skate by the line and ask one of the girls to join me for a roll on the floor (mind out of the gutter, people). The response was always the same: a grimace of pain followed by a polite “no thanks” that was followed by cackles from the gaggles of friends around her.
It was ias f the girl was mortified that she was giving out the impression that some Casper the Friendly Ghost in parachute pants had a chance with a girl like her. I would skate around the floor, dejected and emasculated, while couples paired off into the dark recesses of the hall.
I do remember one time when I was rewarded by a roll and a kiss. I couldn’t believe my luck when it was suggested that we move to a corner for alone time. We were skating off of the main rink and holding hands when I spilled head first over a discarded soda can. A crowd of pointing and laughing skaters gathered around to watch the spectacle of me getting up and the only thing that got stiff that night was my sprained ankle.
I sometimes wonder how things would have been different if only Olivia had made a movie about the life of James Joyce in the Seventies. In this version of Bloomsday, she would have played a hot-and-bothered Nora Barnacle who could scarcely contain herself around the literary sexiness of a Dublin scribe. Having a sex symbol of that caliber whispering “let’s get physical” into the ear of an Irish writer would have made the whole dating thing a whole lot easier for a shy, insecure kid with a love for words.
Instead, I am reduced to a Cyrano de Bergerac for the cyber-age, helping others say “I honestly love you” to their soul mate with a well constructed online profile.