Always complain! Can you imagine?
We walked to the Met.
I remember realizing that my dress was all wrong. It had gauzy red sheathing. Annette was wrapped in soft layers of black and blue. She looked sophisticated and I looked like I had missed the prom. A New York City prom, maybe. But a prom.
Ah, but who cared about my dress? I was enlightened. Liberated. I had just had my teeth kicked in, in the game of love. But not because I didn’t complain! Annette and Matt represented everything I thought I didn’t want. I wanted Shakespeare, a marriage of true minds. I wrote about Annette (anonymously) in a piece for the paper. I mocked and excoriated her as a Rules Girls.
Remember The Rules? Don’t make plans for Friday after Wednesday. Don’t pick up the phone when he calls. Don’t sleep with him until he has bought you the correct number of dinners. Demand, in your every word and gesture: If you like it, then you better put a ring on it.
At dinner, Playboy had told a story about taking Annette to New Jersey to see about a horse—she owned and rode horses. She had refused to stop and eat lunch, because they were still in New Jersey. And she wouldn’t eat in New Jersey.
He teased her about this over a glass of wine. She smiled and took it and said, “Well, I won’t.”
The Rules were a way to commodify yourself. You cornered the market and then jacked up the price. You went through the motions of having a full life and self-esteem. My response, at the time, was to cry out against the idea that the war between the sexes was a zero-sum game. The Rules promised to help you game the system. But I still wanted to believe in romance! Blind risk! “Offer your heart up for the sacrifice,” I wrote “because if there is one thing that the bulletin boards on the Rules site prove, it’s that even the Rules cannot shield you from heartbreak.”
I was right on that count: There is no playbook for loving without getting hurt. But since that night, I have lost my other naïve certainties. Sure, maybe I want to be the kind of girl who will walk the three blocks to the Met. And I certainly have nothing against food in New Jersey. But Annette wanted the cab because she wanted Matt to get it for her. She was demanding allegiance in front of this poorly-dressed nitwit on Playboy’s arm. It was her Petruchio. I say it is the moon that shines so bright. Matt, look at the sun and tell me it’s the moon.
An if you please to call it a rush-candle
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.
(… to be continued …)