Beth Mann's Blog

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Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
November 11
Hot Buttered Media
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 14, 2012 10:08AM

How John Cusack Ruined Valentine's Day for Me

Rate: 49 Flag
When I saw the stupid scene years ago, I knew I was in trouble. Tears welled, heart expanded, etc. Romance did exist and John Cusack was living proof. Sure, it was the movies...but it could happen, right?

Say Anything came out in 1989, over 20 years ago. Yet that scene has done a number on me ever since. I was lead to believe that grand romantic gestures were possible, like Lloyd Dobler standing there proudly, defiantly, with that boom box, in front of the house of the woman he loves. The man in your life could break through all the internal and external bullshit and boldly stake his claim for you. (Or hell, even lustful interest!)

Yet I've rarely seen such valiant statements when it comes to love - unless I exhibited them! Most of the time, I feel like I'm excavating for love, like some heart-heavy archaeologist, digging for a boom box that doesn't exist. Or, if I find one, it doesn't play "In your Eyes" but "Crazy Train" instead.

So far, on this Valentine's Day 2012, my ex-boyfriend Robert has sent me a picture text of a rose. Very sweet. But no boom box. (And I can't escape the haunting feeling that he probably cc'd it to a few other females in his life. Cold, this virtual world we live in!)

What else? A woman I know sent me the prettiest animated e-card, where birds fly and horses trot and cats chase. They finally reach a house and the bird opens the door for me. There awaits a table full of pastries and ribbons and stuff. Guess what? I'm still hungry.

Years ago, I decided it was better to simply ask for what I wanted. "Hey [fill in the blank], make yourself useful. Go find a boom box and play it outside of my window." But you know, you lose a little something when you're being a bossy bitch about romance.

A few days ago, I sent several texts and emails to some guys I like. Who I think like me too. Nothing too over the top, but certainly the message was there. "I'm sending you a romantic and/or sexy email."

So far, no response. Can you imagine that? Even if you're not interested, be flattered and share that with me. And basic etiquette dictates that you should at least respond. Come on! That's me playing the boom box and no one listening to the music. My arms are tired, boys!

Emotional dwarfism prevails these days. People (I'm trying really hard not to say men, I swear) seem to have forgotten how to express themselves in a loving, valorous way. They try very purposefully to never feel jealous or vulnerable. Hell, they pride themselves in boring self-protection.

They stutter, overthink, avoid, conveniently forget, distance, make excuses. They tinker with the boom box for hours out in the driveway while I lay fast asleep, unaware that anyone is even there. Too much deliberation, not enough boom box playing!

So here's to the scene that ruined it for me. That made me think that people step up to the plate romantically. Because our hearts are healed a little when such proclamations take place. When someone admits feelings for you, no matter how big or small. When someone gives you a personal gift that isn't of the e-variety. When someone takes a stand instead of sitting this one out. Say anything!

Dumb movie.

Dumb John Cusack.

Smart Peter Gabriel.

All my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside
- In Your Eyes

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The Peter Gabriel tunes will always tug a little extra on the heart strings. Sigh. They have just done a study that suggests (strongly) that circumsized men are more likely to develop alexithymia- inability to connect to or express feelings. American men are far more likely to undergo this procedure and far more likely to have it. So, do your proper screening, like "text me a picture", and save yourself the time and trouble. :) Happy Arizona Day.
First of all, your title KICKS ASS...and made me remember the scene (and your sentiments) before I even read your blog. This is perfection. Wish I could rate it twice!!
I just told my husband the title and he just held his hands in the air, as if holding an imaginary boom box...then I read it to him. He said "Wow, that's good writing, heh?" Just telling you....
Sigh. . .John Cusack. A favorite movie, a favorite song, a favorite all-time guy. Now, Beth, I've experienced some pretty big grand gestures in my life, so I know they happen. Don't give up hope.
"Must Love Dogs" was the movie he was in that does me in. Grand romantic gestures. Oh Yes....they do exist but most guys hide and just hope Valentine Day will go away. Jerks. sigh.
Women want/crave/need romance - but rarely choose romance. Guys learn that lesson very early and very painfully!
Beth, you are so right about this.


And, Happy Valentine's Day as well.
Beth, great piece, great movie and great song. Like Kathy, I can attest that the guys who will make gestures are out there - don't give up!
I know that feeling of which you speak. What a great piece you have written here. I have been there in the distant past, but somehow it is good for me now, the last 25 years that is.
Love? Maybe. Romance? Not so much.

It least it isn't a boom box playing Trent Reznor's Hurt.

There is absolutely nothing worse than the highly creative grand gesture gone wrong.

After that, males tend to take their cues from television advertisements or simply take orders.
The no response thing is poor. I feel that way when I put my heart into a post and get few comments. Comments are candy for writers. :)
Excellent piece. Roses to you.
Have you heard of kickboxing, sport of the future? I can see by your expression no. The point is, your daughter will be safe with me, sir.

I love Lloyd Dobbler. I smile every time I pass a Gas 'N Sip. And that is the greatest scene ever.
Read this for a wonderful example of the busted grand gesture.
For me, the most romantic scene in that movie is not the boombox scene. It is the scene at the end when they are sitting on the plane. She is freaking out about flying and he is helping her conquer her fear by reciting statistics about plane crashes and holding her hand until the seatbelt sign goes off. That's a better portrayal of love, I think. To this day, whenever I hear the sound of the seatbelt sign going off, I think of John Cusack.
Day ain't over yet, Sweetheart. May you be surprised by a gesture, grand or other, of sincerity. And may you end the day in bed. R~
Ding scene for Jennifer:

Thanks for your feedback, all. And Happy Valentine's Day. Certainly the love is always felt here.
Fabulous. Why isn't this an EP? ... Thank you for making me appreciate the "small" things in my life. My husband and I have been taking our love for granted recently, but something happened recently that really gave us a wake-up call. (Too harrowing and personal to share here). But, today, as I sat here at my computer checking e-mail, he walked up to me, took my face in his hands, and said, "Happy Valentine's Day. I love you. You are the love of my life." Part of me wanted to play the passive-aggressive "girl game" (the eternal game of hard to get), the other part wanted to melt into him.

Thank you for reminding us that love isn't always perfect, or even available, but that we should be humbled and appreciative when it appears in our lives, whatever form it takes. Rated.

John Cusack is really a treat to watch on the big screen and to see in person. I saw him around Chicago a few times, and you wouldn't be disappointed.

This Valentine's day has been great so far, other than a few eventful moments on OS. I got three very surprising gifts from friends this morning, and it's been very fun in my office.

Fortunately all of the people I work with are happily married, and so it's very good to see how their husbands and wife have responded for Valentine's Day. From the look of things around here romance seems to be everywhere.

I'll keep my eyes open all day looking for all of those great romantic moments with the tons of couples on campus. I think this holiday can fun if you focus on things like that.

Don't you think you might want to give your ex-boyfriend the benefit of the doubt? Perhaps he is trying in his own way to woo you.

Uh, Oh! Guilty as charged. I sent that card (Jacquie Lawson?) to many of my girlfriends who live far away and most of whose adresses I don't know, but I did want them to know that I'm think of them today especially. I hope it didn't spoil their day. But I understand what you mean, Beth. Gosh, 1989 was already more than 20 years ago!!
Ha! That damn boom box set the bar so high, didn't it?
Great post~r
Were I but within 50 miles of you I would gladly store your surf-boards...with flowers of course.

I agree with you. There is a humanity deficit in our times. It will be harder for all of us to not succumb to the flighty 1/2 salutations as we drive away honking at our neighbors who we never talk to if we see them at Starbucks.

My folks would host card parties, bring out the card-tables, mix the drinks, exchange stories as Mom bundled us boys off to bed. I saw conversations that would hold the same subject for long moments, laughter splitting the darkness as my brother listened between his showing me illustrations of dinosaurs...and knocking the flashlight on the floor trying not to bring attention.

People talked, listened, laughed and remembered each other on birthdays and Valentine's Day...alas, I can only send you a conceptual heart and one you already know:
Ruined it for you??? Ha! John Cusack used to drive my wife, and his sisters Susie and Anne, home from ballet lessons in Evanston Illinois when they were all kids.

He ruined it for ME!

(ps---great piece!)
What about a guy who wears red socks? That's it. No music. No candy.
Just red socks.
Isn't that love?
Did they ever know how to express themselves when it comes to their emotions? I think it's all a big myth - it didn't exist except in fairy tales/movies/song what have you and it still doesn't - for most men, anyway.
Okay face it, High Fidelity set the bar pretty damn high for people like me
Great post. But I can't help thinking that maybe the internet has ruined it a little too--with too much online connecting keeping everybody too busy to make those actual, and grand, personal connections.
Movies in general, and John Cusak in particular, set the bar pretty damn high for all of us. But they are movies, and grand gestures on a realistic scale do exist. Thanks for this, it's my favorite song.
Well, their loss, Beth! Great post.
Yes, the grand gesture will make our romantic hearts go pit-a-pat. Real love is also cleaning up the vomit when your dear one gets sick.
turn up the damn boombox, boys!! says another bossy bitch over here on the west edge. great piece/title/wish, ms. mann.

@nick: oh, and i luv you, too, but pffffft on your failed grand gesture. every guy i know has gotten big points just for trying. no excuse, dude. :)
Chin up. Those of us who are happily married, know they're out there. Some take patience and training poor dears, but they're out there.
I'm with Ande, comments are candy for writers.....hope you're savoring yours!

Take heart my dear, when your grand gesture of love arrives, it will mean all the more because it will be genuine and not some act that you hinted at wanting. In the meantime, love yourself and don't let those men ignoring your love notes get the best of you.

I still love John Cusack, I can't help it.

In your thighs
(the vaseline)
your thighs
(are they pristine?)
in your thighs
in your thiiiiiiiiiighs

(**unreleased alternative version**)
Dunno, Beth. You demerit Robert for maybe sending his cyber-rose to others besides you, but then you go on to reveal that you sent suggestive little notes to more than one guy. Dunno. And what Harry said, and what Nick said. What Bogart said to Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon: "All I know is maybe you love me and maybe I love you...but I'm not gonna play the sap for you." And that was back in '41. Still valid, altho I suppose a little slack could be given on Val's Day.
Have always loved that scene, and I'm a guy. And yeah, it has inspired/led me to make a number of grand gestures in the love stakes over the last 20 years or so, with wildly varying degrees of success in terms of both implementation and outcome... ;-)

I still love it now, even knowing that an integral element of the scene was actually wildly (and amusingly) different when it was shot_ - i.e. the iconic Peter Gabriel song.

Turns out that not only was Cusack wearing a Fishbone t-shirt under his other shirt (you can see it in the clip above), but during filming he was actually blasting out his favourite Fishbone tape on the ol' boom-box. (Source: film director Cameron Crowe's commentary on the DVD.)

I now like to think the track he was listening to was "Boning in the Boneyard, " but hell, pretty anything from Fishbone's rock/ska/ funk oeuvre of the period will do.

Ah, the illusions cinema weaves, eh?
And Chuck Klosterman wrote, in his essay entitled "This Is Emo":

"I once loved a girl who almost loved me, but not as much as she loved John Cusack... It appears that countless women born between 1965 and 1978 are in love with John Cusack. I cannot fathom how he isn't the number-one box office star in America, because every straight girl I know would sell her soul to share a milkshake with that motherfucker."

--From his essay collection, "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.

Clearly great minds (yours and his) think alike.

Roger that is the coolest thing ever.

When I was dating again, I wore a bracelet, What Would JC do? Of course the makers of the bracelet meant Jesus Christ, but in my world, it was "What Would John Cusack Do?" because, of course, he would be the most perfect boyfriend EVER. He was even cute as an assassin. From *Michigan*.
Great post. I think the internet is making it worse, but I'm not quite sure why. Yay for grand gestures! It could be too that the guy who didn't get back to you, didn't get the e-mail. Internet down or stuck in a wifi free zone?
Here's hoping it gets to him soon and that you and he get to share an epic love story come next February 14th.
I'm working on being more loving and open to the people I love. But you are right. It's not easy in this digital world of flakiness.
BEST THING I'VE READ TODAY! Sorry, I had to shout that. Awesome post. Really, I was thinking about this scene today too, wondering...why the hell not?
Ahh, how many poems, heartfelt and properly directed have I written only to see widened eyes, a fear response and the ultimate kiss off, "We can still be friends?" How many times did gifts I sacrificed what little I had to show my appreciation and adoration of someone, only to be told, "What will my parents think?"

Boombox? Romance? Harry's Ghost summed it up pretty well. Women want romance, but seldom choose it. Oftentimes, romance, properly shown, is rebuffed, turned away or worse, completely ignored. Just watch all those sappy romances again and you just tell me how many times the one that really loved the person looking for it was right there the whole time, helping the idiot get the pretty/handsome asshole instead?

Romance, indeed. The romance of Valentine's Day is for suckers.

On a less rancorous note, I love my wife and she loves me. She got me TWO Valentine's Day cards and one of them I think was the nicest, sweetest card I've ever gotten. It actually made me cry a little bit.

If you want romance, choose to see it where you least expect it. Then act accordingly.

Happy Valentine's Day! I loved this post. And I love Peter Gabriel.
The title couldn't be more apt. I'm at the other end of the spectrum - I'm a guy, who was Cusacked into believing in Grand Gestures. I once took a three-night train ride from one end of India to another to 'surprise' my first love. We broke up two weeks later. Years later, I proposed on top of the Cologne Cathedral. That lasted six more months. I blame Grand Gestures. There's simply no grand enough reciprocation in real life, and you're left to choose between drunken karaoke or Harold and Maude on TV at age 28. Damn that John Cusack.
Then you have to see Cusack in High Fidelity. that could take the bloom off a tad.
Someone wonderful will eventually take a chance with you. How could he not?
I am a valorous lover! I know my loving giant exists, too. He must!
Great piece, if I had a boom-box, I'd play it for you AND dance a little jig. ;)
It is SO nice to see John Cusack get credit for these sorts of roles. He was in a series of fine films that were not blockbusters. (My favorite is "The Sure Thing," a Rob Reiner film.)
Song, scene, and film...all favorites of mine. I was 18 in 1989 and I remember John Cusack holding that boombox oh so well. He's gone on to do great work in many films since, but I will always associate him with that role.
The reason everybody remembers that scene is because it is such a rare and extraordinary action.

As an artist who has mated with multiple sweeties overly endowed with creativity, my experience has been that a mind capable of crafting an original gesture with the largeness of Cusack's can also be a poor long term relationship partner. Love with them burns bright, intense, and short. A grown up who gets up every morning before I do to make me coffee, for thirty or forty years, that's a romantic gesture I'd take that over the boombox any day.
Let me clarify a little: it's not simply grand romantic gestures; it's about taking ANY chances, expressing yourself, being emotionally available, etc. The scene from the movie symbolizes something: the ability to put your ass on the line for love (or even lust).

It seems that there's an increasing inability to risk, emotionally, romantically, as we become more insular, computer-based, etc. Our animal instinct is muffled by insecurities and anxieties.

To dunniteowl and others, just because you don't get positive feedback doesn't mean you should stop taking chances, obviously! The whole idea is to risk IN SPITE of the consequences. That's romantic. That's sexy.

greenheron, coffee making every day is sexy as well. again, not just grand gestures, but ANY gesture will do, as long as people continue to make them, to create them. (because yes, they do require some creativity as well, which again could be part of the problem.)

simply put, it's stepping up to the plate in whatever form you deem fit.

thank you and good night...oh wait, it's morning.
Nice, nice post. We need more Emily Post in our lives. Seriously. Notes should always be acknowledged.

But John Cusack did wreck things for a lot of women. We get over it.
Cheers to gestures, grand gestures and efforts in all departments.
I like the term "emotional dwarfism" ... it's pretty appropriate in many cases. Seems many hesitate to act out of fear. To them I say take the risk, it's worth it. Hope you had a response to the good vibes you put out and enjoyed Valentine's Night, Beth.
Hey, just picture Cusack and Skye's characters in their future, say, Blue Valentine. It'll make you feel better, I bet.
What you are overlooking is that it takes two to Tango. The Disappearing romantic men have been reacting to the Disappearing women.
The best thing about that movie was that HE CHASED HER.
I'm sorry Beth you haven't experienced these grand romantic gestures, but they do still exist.

I'm just as plain as manila. Just a regular guy, with no supercharming powers like J. Cusack.. but when I met my wife, I fell for her so hard that weeks later I found myself buying an airplane ticket to travel half the world to propose to her. No reservations, no plans, just a ring in my pocket.
That was 5 years ago, and looking back, it was so crazy and out of my character that I sometimes think I was high ...

So maybe what I'm saying is that love works in mysterious ways ...
It seems that there's an increasing inability to risk, emotionally, romantically, as we become more insular, computer-based, etc. Our animal instinct is muffled by insecurities and anxieties...

...aggravated by the burgeoning numbers of hungry lawyers and militant feminism and stalking laws and, worst of all, introduction into the nubile female vocabulary of the expression ewwwwww, that's so retarded!
I am not a John Cusack fan, but I do appreciate true romance and expressions of love. E-cards don't cut it for me either, Beth. Congrats on the EP!
I have two words for you.

Cameron Crowe.

He's the one to blame. Wrote it, cast it, chose the music, picked the boom box, directed the scene.

And he had you at "Hello".
Although it was Say Anything that was John Cusack's best movie in the 1980's, he did much better with Grosse Point Blank in 1997. However, Cusack reached his zenith with High Fdelity in 2000; it has been a slippery slope downhill for him ever since. It is tough to top a movie that was brilliantly filmed in Chicago and features the only acting cameo performance ever by Bruce Springsteen.
Paul Haider, Chicago
Thanks for the fun read, Beth. I'm ashamed to admit that I teared up at the scene in "Night at the Roxbury" when the older brother stopped his younger brother from marrying the wrong person by holding up a boom box during the ceremony and blasted "What is Love" by Haddaway. It was a truly poignant moment--Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan pulled it off brilliantly!
Sorry I'm late, but boy, do I relate! So many love stories spoil reality for us. But I do hope that one day, even so, you'll find a man worthy of you, one who'll show his love as boldly as John Cusack's character did. I believe he's out there.
"Oh, I want to be that complete." I LOVE Peter Gabriel! Never having seen the movie, I am now ruined 20 years later!!! Great post!
I spent my Valentine's Day on a trip with 150 8th graders. Your e-mails sound v. romantic to me.
Nick's comments reminded me of the time I came home from work to find my this disgusting smell emanating from the apartment. I called out asking my flatmate what stunk - turns out it was the surprise dinner my boyfriend had been slaving over.
What a brave bit of writing!
I love this. Just love it.
I love this. Just love it.