Lauren and I agreed to Friendsgiving at Ryan Black’s place, knowing full well it would be nice. Infuriatingly nice. Ryan Black has excellent taste for a heterosexual American man, and somehow the patience and budget to execute it. He has an apparatus that makes sparkling water out of thin air (and still water). He has some lavender sprigs just tossed in a porcelain milk jug on the windowsill. He has glasses for specific drinks. Glasses for white wine. Glasses for aperitif. Glasses for evening coffee and glasses for port. I don’t know what port is and I often drink wine from a mug. Ryan Black even has a chatty, intelligent girlfriend who you want to dislike, but totally don’t, in the same way that you want to dislike homemade sparking water, but totally don’t. As I said, the whole Ryan Black scene is infuriatingly nice.
(But he doesn’t have decorative haystacks! And by the way, you can’t return decorative haystacks!)
The other guest at Friendsgiving was Gilbert (not Gil-BERT, but pronounced all French, like Gil-bearrrr). He is my best friend in graduate school and constant exasperation. When he was my plus one to my brother’s wedding my meddling aunts insisted on knowing if he was my boyfriend or gay. The answer to both is no, because he is French. Little red shorts and scarf wearing French. We love each other, but not romantically. He prefers women who write poetry and cut themselves in the rain, and I prefer guys who watch T.V. and take out the trash. Someday he will live above the garage of my cozy New England house. My kids will adore “Uncle Gil,” but my daughters will be forbidden from his company after their first menstruations.
Obviously Gilbert ruined Friendsgiving, but not by bringing some vapid, yet pretentious girlfriend-of-the-day in fur as we expected. He ruined Friendsgiving by bringing lasagna. He heaped a heaping on our plates before we could fill the space with the traditional fixings. Everyone ate a meal of lasagna before beginning Thanksgiving dinner. Some of us didn’t begin Thanksgiving dinner. Some of us were too full. It was calculated French sabotage of an American holiday.
In the digestive interlude between dinner and dessert we began watching Love Actually. We had all seen it. We knew what would happen. Within minutes we were predictably transfixed and seduced. It is just so wonderful. It’s about all kinds of love. Struggling writer-Portuguese maid love. Step father-step son love. Commitment to the mirage of the institution of marriage love. Charmingly befuddled Hugh Grant-Parliamentary assistant love. Yes, every kind of love! (except multi-racial or homosexual, but come on, they couldn’t fit every kind of love in 135 minutes. There’d be no time for Obnoxious British wanker-Midwestern Models Love!). It’s a beautiful, intoxicating movie.
Which brings us to our debate: is Love Actually, in fact, dangerously intoxicating? It renders viewers with senses dulled and dizzied, uplifted, eager for affection—side effects just like those of ecstasy. Does this altered state lead to poor decisions as deleterious as those made on other mild-altering substances?
Evidence one: I know this teenage girl, who—while high on Love Actually—lost her virginity on a park bench during a “walk,” prompted by a late night AIM conversation. Would she have made this decision in a normal state of mind? Perhaps not.
Evidence two: One message of the movie is, “Because it’s Christmas…[I can do something rash and out of character].” Like, “Because it’s Christmas, I’m going to learn Portuguese, fly to Marseilles, and propose.” “Because it’s Christmas I’m going to confess my love to my best friend’s wife.” Well that’s a slippery (or “slippy” as we say in Pittsburgh) slope motto. “Because it’s Christmas I’m going to tell my boss she’s a bitch.” “Because it’s Christmas I’m going to eat cookies and watch Love Actually on repeat all day.” Something is lacking in this logic, like say, logic. But because it’s Christmas let’s disseminate specious reasoning.
Evidence three: While some story lines of the movie are realistically devastating, in general Love Actually leaves you certain that you will find love, and I am not generally certain that you or me will find love. I know this girl who watched Love Actually snuggling with a guy after she cooked him dinner. She does not generally cook things other than toast, so this was a significant, revealing gesture. He left after the movie because he did not love her. It occurred to her that he would never love her and she cried. That is the danger of Love Actually. Expectations for the greatest uncertainty: love, actually.
Evidence four: F— cynics! I love that movie! Remember when Hugh Grant dances? And the nativity play with a First Lobster? And the music that plays during the climax when the kid is running through the airport? Debate over. Love Actually is THE-GREATEST-MOVIE (tied with Jurassic Park).
At Friendsgiving, we concurred, because we had sufficient love for now: between four friends, four pies, and stupid port in stupid port glasses.