Sue is dying to see “Les Miserables”; I can’t wait to see “Django Unchained.” She wants to see “Django” as much as she wants to eat giant sea slugs, and I want to sit through the three hours of “Les Mis” as much as I want to help her shop for purses.
“Have you seen the commercial for it? It’s all blood and gore and guns and death,” she says.
I say, “That’s why it’s called ‘miserable,’ isn’t it?”
“You know I’m talking about ‘Django.’ ‘Les Mis’ is a musical.”
“Yeah, a musical about blood and gore and guns and death. The only difference is they get to sing as they die, which is just dragging it out, if you ask me.”
Once again, we are at an impasse over which movie to see. The ones she likes to watch are torture for me; the ones I like, she thinks are disgusting.
“What about ‘Lincoln’?” she asks. “Everyone says it’s really great. Too bad he dies at the end.”
“Now you’ve wrecked it for me. You’re supposed to say ‘spoiler alert’ before you blurt out the end of a movie. I’ll never be able to enjoy it now. How would you like it if I told you what happened to the Titanic before you saw the film?”
“I knew what was going to happen. If knowing the ending of a movie spoils it for you, it must not be a very good movie. Everyone knows what happens at the end of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but they still want to see it,” Sue says.
“Well, don’t tell me. I haven’t seen it yet.”
It’s not just movies. We have a “Downton Abbey” gap in our house, too. Sue’s seen all the episodes twice; I haven’t been able to get through a single one. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s that you have to watch them in order or you miss everything. I never saw the first episode, so I’m lost. You don’t have to watch the James Bond or Jackie Chan movies in order. You can just dive in any old time and they still make sense.
I don’t know when our tastes started to diverge. Maybe we never liked all the same things and just now — many, many years later — we’re willing to say so. When you’re dating, you go the extra mile and do things you may not like to do just to be with the other person. On the fourth date you can say things like, “Sure, I’d love to come with you to shop for fabric remnants.” In the second year of marriage, she might say, “Sure, go out drinking with your high school buddies. Go have some fun.” Then, after 30 years, you find yourself watching different television shows in different rooms. I’m watching the Billy Bob Thornton festival on Spike TV, and she’s watching extreme home makeovers on HGTV.
Maybe cable TV has done this to us. Back when there were only three channels, we almost had to watch the same shows together. I mean, can you remember what was on opposite “The Ed Sullivan Show”? Neither can I.
It’s not as if we disagree about every film. Neither of us wants to go to teenage slasher movies with names like “The Chilling,” “The Grabbing” or “The Spooking.” If there’s a gerund in the title, we pretty much know it’s not for The Ageing. We don’t have knock-down drag-outs over the latest gross-out comedy, because neither of us has any interest in it. We avoid anything that might attract small children, so there’s no need for discussion.
So we end up double-dating with a couple we know who have the same problems we do agreeing on a movie. Sue and Sally will go see “Les Mis” at the multiplex, while Bob and I will go down the hall to “Django,” and we’ll all meet at a restaurant for dinner. Bob and I just hope it’s not that health-food place they dragged us to last time.
You can contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.