“Your eyes are more beautiful than all the stars in the Milky Way.”
He said it; I didn’t. I had to look around to make sure there wasn’t anyone else in our immediate vicinity. He couldn’t possibly have been talking to me. I think I even may have been wearing sunglasses at night that night (Yes, in the ’90s, 10 years after Corey Hart, I could still pose with the best of them), so it’s not like he was gazing into my eyes while offering commentary on them. Did he even know what color they were?
But I’d seen my eyes, and frankly, then as now, they were no big deal. They certainly couldn’t hold a candle — or a starlight — to the constellation Orion and its brilliant neighbors, much less all the glowing contents of the Milky Way.
And furthermore, what Milky Way? We were indoors in a restaurant in New York City, a metropolis so brightly lit, no stars had been seen in the evening sky for more than a century. (At the time, most of them seemed to be shining at B Bar on Thursday and Saturday nights.) The compliment might have sounded more believable if we’d been at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, or if a chiseled screen idol had been saying it to his leading lady while they were staring at the moon in some black and white 1950s Hollywood classic. But in a pre-millennial New York City with so few unobstructed indoor views of the glowing night sky (unless you were lucky or rich enough to be viewing it from a penthouse), it just sounded like a joke.
I flashbacked to Johnny, the Brad Pitt-in-Thelma & Louise lookalike I met in 1991, shortly after I moved to New York City. He was strutting around the club with his new copy of Nirvana’s just-released Nevermind CD, insisting that it was the best thing ever. I was too stud struck to care about the soon-to-be-groundbreaking music in his pocket, or in his CD player when we ended up in his apartment on St. Mark’s Place a couple of hours later. “You smell so good,” I announced as we got closer on the roof of his building because I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Maybe Johnny’s Patchouli-scented skin was affecting my ability to form sensible sentences. He laughed at my awkward ardor, breaking the mood and sending my confidence crashing. I should have known that Kurt Cobain and romantic cliches wouldn’t mix.
I resisted the urge to giggle uncontrollably when I found myself standing in Johnny’s Doc Martens after the Milky Way thing (though to this day, I have to stifle a laugh whenever any guy comments on my amazing scent). Still, I much preferred what that guy said to me the other day: “I’d take you home and lock you up… gently.” But isn’t it just like me to be more into the handsome devil? Isn’t it just like all of us? There’s nothing quite so alluring as a beautiful jerk who’d never look closely enough to notice the color of our eyes, much less offer any meaningless commentary about them. We always want the ones we can’t have — or the ones who don’t act like they really want us. As usual, nice guys, especially ones with a canned line for every romantic situation, bring up the rear.
I recently met one, though, who got the girl. I couldn’t figure out if it was because of the lines about her that he kept slipping into our conversation or in spite of them. I wondered, does he really call her “the most beautiful woman in the world” to her face? I thought that was the sort of thing you only heard in songs by Prince and Air Supply. She was an attractive woman for sure, but what, I asked myself, had so captured his effusive devotion, and why was he sharing it with me and pretty much anyone else who’d listen?
He seemed like one of those guys that women and gay men dream about but don’t necessarily want to wake up next to every morning for the rest of their lives because what a nightmare that would be. Picture it: a guy who finishes your thoughts not because he knows what you’re going to say but because he doesn’t want you to overexert yourself by saying it, or one who goes store to store picking up all of your favorite foods and then sits and stares at you while you eat. I wasn’t going to go there, but I was pretty sure if I had, he would have sworn that his lady’s shit really didn’t stink because, well, he was the kind of guy who might actually sit around trying to smell it and then claim it was better than Chanel No. 5.
One of the friends I was with concluded that he must have Googled “How to be romantic” because nobody comes up with the kind of stuff he said and did on his own. I might have dismissed her words as the cynical observation of a bitter, jaded recovering romantic, had they not been so hysterical — and true. And one look at her boyfriend made it clear that she was no member of the lonely hearts club. He was blondly handsome and nice, though with just enough edge that I could never imagine him carelessly tossing around star metaphors or smelling anyone’s shit, including his own.
Luckily for the other boyfriend, the one who was so prone to romantic hyperbole, he was incredibly handsome with the kind of arms that anyone would want wrapped around them as they’re going to sleep. He was also smart enough to give his lady physical space: Despite his clingy emotions, he wasn’t glued to her side. So his attentiveness didn’t cross over into creepy the way it might have coming from a guy who looked like Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock (the least attractive male image fresh in my head at the moment, since I saw the Hitchcock trailer the other day) who couldn’t bear not to be holding onto something.
And thus he managed to sell the sincerity of his fawning fandom — if only to the most beautiful woman in the world. I wondered if he’d Googled “How to sell romantic,” too. Maybe he didn’t have to. You can get away with so much more when you’ve got youth on your side, not to mention, eyes as blue as a cloudless Melbourne sky (maybe as beautiful, too), just the sort of thing you want to be the last thing you see as you lean in for a kiss.
I swear I didn’t get that last part from a “How to sound romantic” Google search. And if I am ever lucky enough to be leaning in for a kiss with a someone whose eyes are actually as beautiful as all the stars in the Milky Way, or a cloudless Melbourne sky, that’s one observation I’ll be keeping to myself.