A question no man should ever have to ask himself on Christmas Eve: should I go to Midnight Mass alone, or watch Love Actually on Netflix with my cat?
I had never seen Love Actually. At 27, I had never seen any Christmas movies. I hadn’t seen Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Nightmare before Christmas, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, or It’s a Wonderful Life.
“You’ve never seen It’s a Wonderful Life? How is that possible?” the linguist asked me on our first date. A theatre close to her performed a stage adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life every year, but this year, they had opted to perform a musical stage adaptation of Die Hard instead. She wasn’t happy about it.
Oh, and I had seen Die Hard. Many times.
It wasn’t that she disliked Die Hard. It wasn’t that she didn’t think it was a Christmas movie (because it is, duh). It was that she didn’t think it would work as a musical and worried that the Christmas angle would feel forced in the adaptation. Still, we both a greed we should reserve judgments until we actually saw the play.
I didn’t see the play, nor did I see her but once after that. By Christmas, lying on a couch alone watching a British romantic comedy, I had accepted that she was never going to text me back.
That was a year ago.
This past Christmas Eve, I fell asleep with a DVD of Lethal Weapon playing on my girlfriend’s laptop. We had seen Die Hard on the big screen the night before, and the week before that, we had seen the musical adaptation the linguist had told me about the year before. It had sold out every performance, but we got in at the last minute via the waiting list.
We also went to the valley to look at Christmas lights. Yes, there was traffic, both on the freeways heading there and on the neighborhood streets. So we parked, bundled up, and walked through the 40-something-degree air that most L.A. natives would call “freezing.”
She had to work on Christmas Day, so we woke up at 6 AM to exchange gifts. She got me two coffee mugs, one with “HERO” in black letters that, when heated, change to pictures of Marvel Superheroes, and another that read “EVIL” with pictures of villains. I tucked Book of Mormon tickets into a Winnie the Pooh Christmas card. When she opened it, she shouted, “I was going to get you these!”
I spent the day with family. My mom had been digging through old DVDs in her garage and asked me if there were any I wanted to keep. She handed me Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life, neither of which she had ever seen…and even though my mother owned them, it turned out she had never seen them, either.
After my girlfriend got off work, she joined me and my family as we picked up Chinese take-out at Hop Li on Santa Monica Boulevard. We usually got our Jewish Christmas dinners from Hop Woo on Olympic, but this year we decided to change things up a little. We paired our Chinese food with a bottle of red wine from Moraga Estate, even though the dishes were predominantly chicken and seafood.
Then, from 8:00 until midnight, we sat watching both of the classic black-and-white Christmas films, back to back. We didn’t peek at our phones the way we usually do when sitting through a movie marathon. Everyone was fully engrossed throughout the films, and teary-eyed at the end of each. I was now a normal American who had seen all the quintessential Christmas movies, starting with Love Actually last year alone, and ending with It’s a Wonderful Life this year, surrounded by loved ones.
Today the Los Angeles Times posted an article of mine. It was about my dating woes last Christmas with the linguist. Maybe you read it already, clicked the link and found this article, in which case: welcome. Thank you for coming here instead of joining the human pestilence in the comments section of the L.A. Times website. The article in the times is actually the third installment in a series I wrote, the first of which you can read here. I guess that makes what you’re reading now installment #4.
I wrote at the end of my L.A. Times article that with the right girl, I would never have felt intimidated by a more attractive man, the way I was by the bartender on my date with the linguist. That was true. I also wrote that “the right girl” would have found the date magical, and having been on another Christmas-lights-exploring date with “the right girl,” I can confirm that was also true. The linguist, despite fitting to a T the description of “my perfect woman” outlined in the first paragraph of this series, was not a good match for me at all, and each story is filled with red flags that are obvious upon reflection but which I refused to acknowledge at the time.
But really, the immediate giveaway: my perfect woman would never dispute that Die Hard is a Christmas classic, every bit as much so as It’s a Wonderful Life.