Recently I was talking to a friend about grand romantic gestures and how it's the little things that really show us love. For her, nothing says, "I love you," like picking her up at the airport. I'm not sure why or when this became tantamount to caring truly, madly, deeply about her, but I suppose no one wants to be stuck, like Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Terminal (above), waiting for a lift after a long, exhausting flight.
The gestures that move me are even smaller. A few months ago, I was eating delivery Chinese food at home with a date. We had our entire lunch spread -- chicken chau-mien, spring rolls, Sprite Zero -- laid out on the living-room table. At one point, he reached over and pulled a few paper towel sections off the roll. I expected him to hand at least one of them to me (you know, just in case I had any embarrassing food remnants clinging to my upper lip ), but he didn't, so I pulled off a couple of sections myself and dabbed away. Later, when he poured himself another glass of Sprite Zero, I wondered if he'd finally get it right and pour some for me as well. This time, he didn't disappoint. My lunch date, I thought, has potential (never realized, of course, but faithful readers of this blog figured that out on their own).
I know it's a crazy way to size up someone, but I can't help it. I once decided five minutes into a first date that I'd never go out with the guy again when he dared to answer his cell phone mid-sentence (mine!). I've since relaxed my ban on answering cell phones, although I still believe they should be neither seen nor heard when one is in the presence of romantic company.
I think my obsession with proprieties of conduct began years ago, in the mid-'90s, after I interviewed Sting at his Central Park West apartment. His wife, Trudie, greeted me at the front door and led me into the living room, where Sting arrived a few minutes later. After an hour-long conversation, we'd covered plenty of ground, from why he'd never reunite with the Police ("The only reason to do it would be for the money, which I don't need") to why he's not more selective about his duet collaborators ("I have a hard time saying no").
I returned to my office, starstruck and excited about what, up to that point, had been the most A-list interview of my career. But when my colleagues asked me how it went, nobody cared about the actual interview. Every single woman wanted to know the same thing: "Did he offer you something to drink?" This, I thought, must be the mark of a true gentleman. Thus they created a monster obsessed with the tiniest of gestures. And I never recovered.