“The Hard Sell,” is an amusing complaint by writer Adam Resnick about well-meaning friends. (Town&Country, 2/15 pgs. 82-84.) In his case, the friend was a woman who insisted he watch a foreign film called, Lovers of the Arctic Circle. When she told him about the plot, it evoked no interest in him but each time the two met, she grilled him about why he had yet to view the film. When he’d run out of excuses, he finally admitted the truth. The subject struck him as boring. With her good taste on trial, the woman rose to the film’s defense, warning Resnick that being reluctant to try new things was a form of emotional suicide. He replied he didn’t have to experience what he knew he wouldn’t like just to prove he was right. (Ibid pg. 84.)
The friendship cooled but eventually a repentant Resnick sent the woman an apology. In response, she sent him a DVD of the film in question. As a new year was beginning, Resnick resolved that for his friend’s sake, he’d watch the film. But like most New Year’s resolutions, he never followed through with his intent. Instead, Lovers of the Arctic Circle landed in a Salvation Army donation box. (Ibid, pg. 84)
Resnick’s story is a parable about everyday life. We’re all been guilty of good intentions — recommending a book or a movie then feeling rebuffed when our suggestion receives a cool reception. We forget what it’s like to be on the receiving end.
The other day someone suggested I join her for a performance of The Merry Widow at a local theater. I like the operetta well enough, but I’ve seen versions of it as far back as Lana Turner on the big screen, Ethel Merman on the stage, and Beverly Sills at the New York City Opera. In fact, I own a DVD I can watch anytime. “Oh, but this is a performance by the Metropolitan Opera,” my acquaintance countered, as if, somehow, the version she’d invited me to attend ended with the Merry Widow putting an asp to her bosom or the production was staged as Episode 6 of the Star Wars series — neither of which was true.
Defending ourselves from the good intentions of others is a never-ending task. I’ve made a point, for example, of telling my friends that in my move to the retirement center, I’ve freed myself of clutter. Still, they come bearing flowers and potted plants as housewarming gifts. Such kindness speaks well of the human race, of course. Even so, I think it’s not too late to make a New Year’s resolution. When someone frowns at my suggestion or tells me, “No gifts please,” I’m going to pay attention.