Valentine’s Day is this Sunday, which led me to thinking about love. Romance is definitely in the air, since both branches of Flic Spa have been sold out for Valentine’s Day weekend, for months now. I'm proud to say our spas have been venues for countless anniversary celebrations, date nights and even some marriage proposals. We are honored to be a part of our clients' love story.
Speaking of which, the movie Love Story was two years old when our family moved to America. The theme song, written by Francis Lai, a French man with an Asian sounding name, was a huge hit with great staying power. My father brought home the Easy Piano version of the sheet music, so he could enjoy the lilting melody played live at home.
That is, until he heard my version, which sounded no different from the padfooted interpretation by our cat Precious, strolling along the piano keys My mother came to the rescue, since she was our family’s genuine musical talent, nurtured by two years of childhood piano lessons and authenticated by first place wins at a string of singing contests during her teen years. Her rich, alto voice garnered cash prizes and inexplicably, a solid teak bookcase and a ukulele.
“A bookcase and a ukulele,” I said, incredulous. “For first place. At a singing contest?”
“I guess it is strange,” said my mother. “Hoy! It's an honor. Now play.“
She was out of my sight, but I knew she was wincing throughout my performance. Next came the coaching: “You’re not playing it with any feeling!” or “You’re just plowing through it!” and "You play like an animal. With hooves!" I knew she was right. To my defense, the sheet music was littered with black, angry notes, clearly written by a madman with a grudge against child pianists. Playing Love Story felt like walking against the wind, along the edge of a cliff.
The sheet music's cover, in stark contrast with the dangerous music within, featured a languid portrait of the movie’s lead actors, a strapping Ryan O’Neal and a doe-like Ali McGraw. On the bottom was the movie’s romantic tagline: “Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.”
“What does it mean?” I asked my mother, pivoting the topic away from my piano playing. Plus the irony was stunning -- I must have said ‘sorry’ a hundred times under my breath, after playing every wrong note.
“When you’re in love, you don’t say sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
“For bad things. When you get older you’ll understand. Now, do your homework.”
“And why can’t we watch it? Bonnie Kessler’s parents let her.”
“That’s why Bonnie is failing in school – don’t tell her that. Now, do your homework, or I’ll give you something to be sorry about.”
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen Love Story, the plot goes like this: Boy meets girl; Girl Dies; Boy Cries; You Cry. I wondered if the writer of that sentence wrote it in a fit of inspiration, or if it took many discarded versions:
Love means never having to say you’re late for dinner. “Would it kill you to make a phone call?”
Love means never having to sign a prenup. “If you sign it, it means you love me. For me. Not for my yacht. Or my vacation house in Lake George.”
Love means never having to say you’re vaccinated. “For God’s sake, you work with kids! Go get a flu shot. You don’t wash your hands as often as you claim.”
Love means never having to forget your anniversary. “You have no excuse. You have SIRI and Google Calendar.”
Love means never having to pick up your socks off the floor. “Is this a college dorm? Those socks are three steps away from the hamper.”
Love means never having to say I wasn’t listening to the last five sentences you were saying. “You never listen. If I could only get the same respect you give your mother.”
Oliver and I will soon be together 24 years, the last nine with the added dimension of being business partners, as co-owners of Flic Spa. You may already know this, but love and business usually don’t mix well, but somehow we've managed to stay together. So when people ask me the secret to our long, happy union, I say it involves a lot of tongue biting -- sometimes not your own tongue. It is a lot like playing the Love Story theme song. You try to play all the right notes and avoid the wrong ones. Oftentimes, it feels like walking against the wind, along the edge of a cliff. But always, you must play with feeling.
You learn to understand each other by picking up visual cues, by talking without words. A cross look from Oliver cuts me deeper than an unkind word, because his gestures speak loud and clear to me. I have become fluent enough in his secret language to become a master translator. His codex of signs and signals took decades to write. Through the years, it has become a protective shell that shields us from the outside. In our private world, acts of wrongdoing are followed by acts of contrition. We may not need to say we’re sorry, but we certainly need to show it. Our love story comes with this tagline: Love means never having to say a thing.
Happy 24th Valentine’s Day, Oliver. I promise to listen better, and I’ll pick up my socks later. And stop giving me that look.