Remember going to the bookstore? It used to be one of those companionable things you did with your mate on a Saturday afternoon or, if you were really kindred spirits, a Saturday night.
You'd walk in the door, start down different aisles and spend a pleasant hour with your head bent sideways before meeting, books under arm, at the cash register. When you examined each other's selection, you had a choice of several correct remarks: "That looks good," "I've already read that," or "Huh!"
If you thought your loved one was heading down a path of intellectual heresy or self-inflicted narcolepsy, you could also say, "I started that, but I never could get into it." You were honest, but you were genteel.
Those days, sad to say, are over. For one thing, you don't go to the bookstore on a Saturday afternoon anymore, you go to the video store. When you get there, you whip out The List, on which is checked off "my movies," "his or her movies" and "our movies."
Preliminaries over, you get down to the four phases of video selection. Phase one is Recrimination and Name-Calling. That's when you say, "Sixteen Candles?" (Read "Christine," "Porky's II" or the "Fighting Seabees," depending on gender, age and degree of incompatibility.) No way! I already had to suffer through the "Jazz Singer" last Saturday night. This time I'm going to pick something decent, not that sissy (low-brow, high-brow, perverted) stuff you always pick."
That was the civilized phase. Phase two is Reevaluation of Feelings about Loved One. The dialogue goes like this: "Oh, no, not another high-school movie. You must have a case of arrested development, all you ever want to do is see some pimply girl (boy) take all her (his) clothes off while the parents are out doing something respectable, like mate-swapping.
Phase three: Unilateral Negotiation. "Oh, okay, get anything you want. I'm too tired to watch anyway, I'll probably just take a bath and go to sleep.
Phase four: Critical Assessment (delivered at 10-minute intervals throughout movie). "What a turkey! Boy, am I glad I didn't spend five bucks to watch this drivel! Who picked this lemon, anyway?"
In the light of day you may occasionally wonder why going out to the movies never presented such difficulties. The answer is simple. Once you had eliminated the movies that started before the babysitter could arrive, the movies that started past your bedtime, the movies that had no parking within three miles and the movies for which the line was three miles, you were down to one movie that you'd never heard of. It was usually awful, but you paid $10 for the tickets, $3.50 for popcorn and soda, and $5 for the babysitter, and damned if you were going to admit you didn't like it.
Besides, half the time you decided to bag the whole idea and go to the bookstore instead, where after an hour you'd meet at the cash register, books in hand, and say to your mate with an affectionate pat on the back, "That looks good," "I've already read that," or "Huh!"