They Don’t Make Men Like They Used To

Sometimes I wish I were living in a novel, but it’s fun to dream about it.

Having a passionate, tumultuous affair with a real artist, both a gentleman and rough around the edges. He’d be a real man who’s seen and done things that most men have never and probably won’t ever do. He’d drink the hardest alcohol, fight a good fight, then be able to meet me at the Ritz Paris for martinis.

But those guys are dead if they ever existed, and that’s unfair if you ask me.

This was what I realized this morning, as I flipped through my copy of “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway, with the plans to read it yet again this weekend.

Hemingway was as close as you could get to that kind of man, a man who others wouldn’t dare trifle with.

He was always looking for a fight, but he had a tender romantic side as he believed his first marriage would last forever. And a complicated side who would go on to marry three times after that.

He was a hunter, he traveled to exotic places and could construct a sentence that’s equal parts beautiful and brutally honest, like being punched in the gut. He went to war and survived. He was friends with the best of the American literary world in the 1920s Paris, where all the ex-pats went to write and read and expose themselves to the upper echelon of culture in a city that surpassed most.

He embodied a fullness, at least through his work, you’d want to eat up if you could. Not by the spoonful, but by digging your hands right into the meat of it, devouring it whole with little regard to manners and grace. He was the one who liberated the Ritz Paris from the Germans in WWII, a place that was introduced to him by F. Scott Fitzgerald. According to legend, at the end of the fight, he ran up a tab of 51 martinis.

I’m fresh out of a relationship and single once again, so I think of this often. Hemingway as a writer and as a man. About the amount of backbone, he must have had to live a life to the fullest, and fearlessly, taking lions head on and the front lines of war.

He wouldn’t have been an easy man to live with; his life was riddled with depression and alcoholism, his family had multiple cases of suicide–but the point is, it was an extraordinary life.

Nor would it an easy life for the imaginary man with whom I’d like to have the aforementioned passionate, tumultuous affair with. I know that loving such a man will be hard work, containing a series of disappointments.

It will be a complicated affair only because this man is complicated. I’m also complicated. People are all ridiculously messed up when we pull back the surface and see into the underbelly of each of us. There’s a broken something or other in need of mending or replacing.

Even so, I’d still love to give him a trial run. I dream of a summer in Paloma with him or going diving off the coast of South Africa with him. I want to eat expensive caviar with him as often as we go for a $1 pizza.

I want to stumble home with him, to a flat somewhere in Paris, after one too many martinis. Knowing we didn’t play by life’s rules but scripted one of our own devising.

I want arguments with him where we throw plates, then lie next to him in our own little world, far away from everything else I’ve known. Then in the morning, we retreat separately so that I may work on my writing, and he to his. We’d meet again in the middle of the day and do it all over again.

I’m probably asking for too much. I can’t actually live in a novel. But to quote Hemingway, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” – C. Sky