H ookups Friday continues, with my rejoinder to Lisa.
"All this fuss about sleeping together. For physical pleasure I'd just as soon see my dentist any day."
So says Nina Blount in Evelyn Waugh's “Decline and Fall.”
And it’s a fairly apt review of all these movies about Friends With Benefits, even if they do feature Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. The only thing I can say with certainty is that friends with benefits are eventually neither.
The title is the whole appeal. "Ugly-Bumpin' Besties" didn't quite have the same ring to it. "Bonding Hormone Oxytocin Eventually Causes Problems For Everyone" did well with test audiences at Comic Con but somewhat fizzled thereafter. And the real word around which all these titles are dancing remains unprintable in a family newspaper.
The hookup, qua hookup, has always been shunned of The Mature. "It's so intimate!" they yell. "And yet so un-intimate!" The Mature don't quite know what this means, but they know that they don’t like it. What they like generally begins with a proposal to your father, the exchange of several dowry horses, and your being led off in triumph to a castle surrounded by trolls. At least this was always what my parents suggested when I tried to bring boys home.
Every time single friends hop into bed, America rolls its collective eyes. "We can see where this is going," we say. "Remember 'When Harry Met Sally'? Heck, remember when Natalie met Ashton? That was maybe six months ago.”
Maybe the real myth isn't that hookups work. It's that male-female friendship does. Oscar Wilde didn't think it was possible, and he didn’t even particularly like women! "Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship." Could that be? If so, hooking up begins squarely in the first category and then makes its way to the last.
Or perhaps what really stuns people about the hookups in popular film nowadays is the stubborn insistence of the parties involved on actually knowing the people they slept with.
What's wrong with a one-night stand?
Well, this is a recession. One-night stands require visiting bars and purchasing costly entertainment. Friends with benefits offer a stable, reliable financial arrangement that can last through an economic downturn. Laugh if you like, but I know whom to text if they fail to raise the debt ceiling.
Still, I have some impatience with the modern notion that these things are a modern notion. “Hookups with friends!This is the zeitgeist!” everyone insists. Hardly.
It's been going on forever, since our cavemen ancestors first decided that they were too tired to go all the way to the next village to find women to drag back by the hair and sent ill-advised, suggestive images of mammoths to their closest friends. I just don't know how the hooks got involved. Maybe they took the place of the strings we seem to keep refusing to attach.
One of my favorite theses is that friends have been ill-advisedly hooking up and making things awkward since — well, a garden, millennia ago, or longer depending on how literally you take your theology.
And maybe it's working. I know there's that old saying about cows and milk, but I like to sleep with a cow first before I marry it. More educated people marry later and stay married longer. And if there's one thing that more education means, it means more free time to hook up. We’re certainly not studying. There is a modern preference for knowing the people we hook up with — what if they turn out to be, say, Capulets? That might put a bit of a damper on things.
But it's been going on far longer than we'd think. Adam and Eve? That was an ill-advised hookup if I ever ran into one.
Full disclosure: My play, “Hookups,” which offers a funnier answer to the same questions, runs in the Capital Fringe festival this weekend.