Do Our Relationships with Our Parents Foreshadow What Will Happen in Our Love Lives?

I turned another year older this weekend, and took a moment to reflect on why I'm still single.


I celebrated a birthday this weekend, rather quietly. A certain someone came into the city and we went to see a screening of The Godfather at BAM Cinema; then we had a nice dinner afterwards.

Although I'm quite a cinephile, I'd never seen the flick till this Saturday, although there's a reason for that.

See, back in my early twenties, I was at a party when I told some guy of my "Godfather Virginity," at which point he implored to hold out and see it on the big screen for my first time. So hold out I did...and finally, on the day before my birthday, it was showing — for one day only! Serendipity, right? When I spotted the movie listing a few weeks ago, I couldn't believe it. And the only thing I really wanted to do for my birthday was to see the three-hour-long saga, one of the very best flicks of all time, or so they say.

But who could I ask to come with me? Daisy Milliner, my best lady friend, was going to be out of town; so was my best male friend in New York City, Jarvis Cobbler. (That's the problem with an August birthday: half the world is away on vacation for it.) And there were a million other people (or at least ten) I could ask...but I didn't want to impose on anyone else. To be honest, I felt a little embarrassed to ask anyone else. (For fear they might think, "Why is Maura asking me? We're not that close!"

I considered asking my father to come...but there was an unwritten rule with him, that he did not go to movies. (Or to plays. Or to museums. Or to any other cultural thing I might be interested in checking out.) In fact, the last movie we saw together was Annie. That was in 1982! (And a few weeks after that, my mother died, rather unexpectedly, of cancer, and my father stopped having fun for a long, long time.)

And yet, a lot has changed since we've both started taking anti-depressants. The days when every interaction we had turned into a tension-filled torture sessions seem to be — knock wood — over. I no longer wait and wait for him to start a fight; I no longer provoke the inevitable argument just to get it over with, either. We actually And listen. And, for the first time in my life, it seems, we get along.

So last Sunday night, when I was on the phone with the old man, reporting my safe arrival back from Madison, I said, "Hey, bucko, any chance you'd come into Brooklyn and see The Godfather this weekend with me? On the big screen? For my birthday?"

And he said he would!

The movie was AWESOME. As it turns out, my father had never seen it either — when he's flipping through the channels, he generally stops on the black-and-white movies. Anyway, he and I whispered back and forth to each other through out the screening — silly things, like me saying "Dad! That's Al Pacino, of course!" Or him saying "That is one mobster who is about to get an ass-whipping." I covered his eyes during the nudie shot, of a girl's boobies. We cheered silently, shaking raised fists, when the dudes we were rooting against got what was coming to them. I especially related to the scenes of aging Don Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) with his son Michael (Pacino), and wondered if my father was tuned into the poignance, too. We sat in stunned silence for a few moments as the credits rolled. Then we rolled off ourselves, to nearby Chez Oskar, where we got a seat outside, on the patio, and had dinner: a burger and fries with a couple Heinekens for him, a salad nicoise with a couple waters for me. (Hey — I like to bike responsibly.)

As we were waiting for dessert (the flourless chocolate cake), he leaned in and said to me, "I feel better than I have in many, many years, Maura Kelly. A great weight has been lifted off my back. There was a time there when I was pretty sure you were going to die on me.* And then, once I knew you were out of the woods, I wondered if we would ever be friends. I always wondered what I'd done...what it was you blamed me for. But now that we are friends, finally? You have no idea how much that means to me."

I had to choke back a tear before telling him it means a lot to me, too.

Once we paid up, I was walking my pop to his ride when he stopped to get a lottery ticket. As I waited for him outside, I felt a tap on my back...and turning around, I saw Jake Stein, my dear old ex! Who just happened to be getting a drink with some friends next door, in Stonehome Wine Bar; he'd spotted me through the window. We hugged there on the sidewalk, and he and my father shook hands. (They'd met once before, when Jake had gone out to dinner with the two of us and my dad's lame ex-girlfriend.)

Later, after I'd seen my father off, I returned to spend a few minutes with Jake and his buddies — and had my first chance, then, to congratulate Jake in person on his recent engagement. Yes! Engaged! And I really am happy for him.

At the same time, it seems so many other people are making it to these important milestones — engagement, marriage, children, the publishing of a book or novel or whatever — while I don't have much to show for myself.

Except...maybe the first movie with my dad in 25 years is progress, huh?

And maybe now that my relationship with him has improved so much, perhaps I'll be able to trust other men a little better? And feel more optimistic that close relationships don't always have to involve more pain and suffering and anger and arguing than they do happiness?

We'll see, I guess, won't we?




PS: I went to see The Godfather, Part II yesterday, and when my father asked me how it was, I reported that it was amazing, though not quite as perfect as the first one. "That's because I wasn't there," he answered.

PPS: I went to some party ever so briefly on Saturday night, on a roof top in Park Slope. I marched up to some hot dude dude, standing with one other guy and two girls, and simply stuck out my hand and said, "Hey, I'm Maura." No explanation; just a straight-up introduction. Both the hottie and his friend seemed quite impressed — dare I say touched? — but my boldness, not to say arrogance. Unfortunately for me, however, it quickly became apparent the (very nice) women they were with were their girlfriends. Oops.


dear commenters:

i'm hearing all of you, on the nice guy thing ... and I think I'm going to give it another shot, even though I am kind of with our girl from Cali and Sarah-Beth in thinking, eh, it never works out if you don't feel like chemistry off the bat. (But, then again, it hasn't worked out for me when I HAVE felt the chemistry off the bat, either! So ... what have I got to lose?)


*This is kind of a long story, but the short version is that my father can be a little melodramatic and I had anorexia, which was bad enough that my leg was temporarily paralyzed, due to complications, for a long time, and I had to be hospitalized twice, and I suppose there was some danger of me dying, if I kept it up. But all that stuff went down about twenty years ago, and I am more than perfectly healthy now ... if a little exercise-obsessed.