For our first Valentine’s Day — we’d been dating about four months — my husband had yet to master the finer points of courtship. He had completely forgotten about the day until the last minute. He grabbed a suspect box of chocolates from a sketchy newsstand in the Port Authority bus station on Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street and presented it to me with the romantic words, “I wouldn’t eat those if I were you.”
We were married the next year and for the ensuing 23 years. With a little training his Valentine’s Day skills have since improved, and soon we will celebrate our 24th anniversary. We have four kids — so I am no stranger to passion and even romance.
But when it comes to the worldwide frenzy of the Fifty Shades of Grey film opening this Valentine’s weekend, I have to admit the whole thing is lost on me. I haven’t read the book. Oh, I own it. My husband bought it for me. But like that inedible chocolate from the Port Authority, I just can’t.
All those straps and belts and blocks and tackles and elaborate pulley systems . . . it just seems like an awful lot of work. I know, it’s all fantasy and escapism. Hey, I like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain as much as the next person, but it seems like the Fifty Shades lifestyle requires so much effort — and a trip to the hardware store on the way to the boudoir. Is it a romance novel or an Ikea furniture instruction manual — put ankles (a) behind ears (b) use Allen wrench to turn counterclockwise . . . ? Granted, I haven’t read the second or third books in the series either, so maybe everybody gets past their issues and it all turns into a meaningful relationship. My roommate from college read all three and assured me “there is a plot,” but her husband was in the room so what else was she going to say?
On Valentine’s Day, I will no doubt get fresh candy and flowers and we will curl up and watch something romantic like Suspicion. Joan Fontaine is helplessly in love with her mysterious but irresistible husband Cary Grant who may or not be a murderer and may or may not be planning to kill her.
Or Notorious when Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant share a passionate and forbidden kiss outside the wine cellar to trick her Nazi husband into thinking that they are in love rather than snooping around for Nazi secrets. (But, spoiler alert, they are in love!)
Or Cary Grant as C. K. Dexter Haven winning back Katherine Hepburn’s tempestuous Tracy Lord in Philadelphia Story.
Come to think of it, just about anything with Cary Grant will do the trick.