Jann Arden Made Me Do It

Sometimes nostalgia makes us remember things incorrectly, or forgive those who did us wrong. Sometimes when we re-watch movies we thought were once great, they fall flat and we figure out we should have just remembered them fondly instead of watching them one last time. I’m talking about “Bed of Roses,” people. Christian Slater was trying to soften up his image a bit after going through a darker phase (“Heathers” and “Pump Up the Volume,” anyone?), and Mary Stuart Masterson was trying to transition into more grown-up roles. Hell, I was trying to transition into more grown-up roles myself when this movie came out.

“Bed of Roses” was released just as I got my first job under the general umbrella of real estate, specifically for me in title work, throwing me into a 20-year career path. It was also the birth of my dating life as I never experienced it before. Men were actually pursuing me. One of them was an assistant to a very successful real estate agent who used my team for closings. I will call said young man Mr. Sweater (to be explained later). Mr. Sweater was a fast talker, demanding but charming, drove a BMW, tall, and good looking in an Izod-Polo-Gap kind of way. He asked me out, and I accepted. We went to see “Bed of Roses” and then went to eat at Albuquerque’s infamous Rainbow Cafe.

At the cafe, Mr. Sweater ordered me a fruit torte just to “watch my mouth” as I ate it. He talked about how he wanted to fall in love with a woman and send her thousands of roses and buy out a city. I talked about Jann Arden’s song “Insensitive” and that I recognized the song in the movie because I already owned the CD, and Mr. Sweater nearly danced on the table, asking if he could borrow it so he could memorize all of the songs like I had.

Apparently it didn’t take much to get in my pants, because we had sex to close out that first date. I don’t remember much about it, that’s how unremarkable it was. No fireworks. No heady thoughts that I had found my soul mate or that he suddenly cared about me. I certainly didn’t expect to have thousands of sterling roses show up on my doorstep. I did leave some CDs with him, though. My music has always been precious, and for any of you who grew up pre-MP3s, you know how difficult it sometimes was to replace stuff once it was gone (for instance, it took YEARS and YEARS to replace an imported EP of Nine Inch Nails “Get Down Make Love” that a friend gave me from England after it disappeared with an asshole ex who felt entitled to it). I expected to get the CDs back because we talked about future dates – they were definitely on loan, not a gift. The CDs included Jann Arden’s.

This is how different we were in our approaches: Mr. Sweater had a very idealized way of thinking about love and how it should look like a Hallmark commercial; I thought he should treat me like I am a living, breathing human being. Whenever I didn’t act in a way that he wanted me to, he would immediately get pissed and chastise me. Mr. Sweater was all about status and money. It was exhausting for me, because I’m the opposite. I mean, sheesh, yes, I LIKE money, but we seem to not be able to spend much time together – it’s more like a distant and divorced relative. Mr. Sweater would always talk about how much one article of clothing would cost, and I would say, “Gosh, that’s an entire month of rent for me.”

We were doomed. We barely had much in common bringing us together in the first place – in fact, that first date was our last, even though we talked on the phone many times after that. But the final straw was him talking about spending $350 on a sweater and then buying a very high-strung cocker spaniel for $800 (both in 1996 dollars, not adjusted to 2016 dollars). Said dog chewed the hell out of said sweater when Mr. Sweater imprisoned the dog in his apartment and barely took him out for a few minutes at a time – the dog was going fucking crazy. I finally laid it out for him and said, “Hey, how about if you stop talking about how fucking expensive everything is? That’s all you ever talk about, and it’s boring. By the way, take care of your dog or he’s going to keep acting out.”

That didn’t go over so well. Mr. Sweater kept talking about how important the price of the sweater was, and that I just didn’t understand because I didn’t own anything that expensive. From there we quickly progressed to “Fuck you” from both sides.

The problem was that he still had some of my music. That included my precious Jann Arden CD. Why didn’t I just go out and get another one? Well, besides music not always being easy to find (especially a Canadian artist in Albuquerque), I was also on a very tight budget – sometimes I only had $10 a week for groceries. (As a side note, my menu for weeks was 1 bag frozen veggies, 1 can cream of whatever soup, 1 bag cooked white rice, 1 can tuna, and I mixed that up for an entire week and a bowl was either my lunch or dinner – nothing else). For a week and a half, I asked him to bring my music back. Finally one night to shut me up he threw everything in a box and put it at my door located at the back, knocked and then ran. My roommate opened the door while I opened my window and yelled out the front, “YOU AND YOUR SWEATER CAN GO FUCK YOURSELVES!”

Yeah, not my best moment. My roommate had no idea the drama that was unfolding under our roof, and she certainly didn’t expect me to yell expletives out the window like we were living in Hell’s Kitchen on a 5th floor walk-up. One date. One lousy lay. Days and days angst over a guy who didn’t have a clue about how to truly invest himself into a loving relationship. I mean, how could he be so…insensitive?

“Bed of Roses” is available now so you can watch it on Netflix like I did this morning. It feels kind of lackluster, and I’m not really sure if it’s because we’ve seen better scripts come out since then, or if it’s because I know what it’s like to be in love and it’s not just about reciting a bunch of lines and hitting your marks and buying out an entire city’s supply of purple sterling roses. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not about the grand gestures. It’s about my boyfriend seeing my face and knowing that I either need to sit down, lay down, or be done for the rest of the day – even if it’s 2 pm. It’s about being able to let down your guard and have your inside jokes and sacred space, and celebrate laugh lines and hold each other through vulnerabilities.

The Jann Arden song that was in “Bed of Roses” was actually quite fitting for Mr. Sweater – Jann, seriously, did you know that guy?? I wonder if he ever figured it out or if he is like countless other men who are still stuck on empty.

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