Valentine’s Day Lessons for Lonely Hearts

Valentine's Day Lessons for Lonely Hearts

Valentine’s Day Lessons for Lonely Hearts


The late musician and storyteller Harry Chapin wrote one of the best Valentine’s Day songs of all time, “A Better Place,” about a man who can’t believe his luck because one is far from him The women of the league chose to be with him

“Look how beautiful she is, she can warm winter frosts,” Chapin wrote.

I heard this song decades ago and it is still unforgettable.

The speaker was a night watchman in a factory, no big deal to him, and I felt the same way.

Like that watchman, “not much of a mover and not an easy guy”, I couldn’t find a date. It’s not that I’ve been rejected multiple times, but I’m too acutely aware of my physical and social flaws to reject even requests.

I don’t believe I am scary. In fact, my brother’s wife, Michelle, told me that I reminded her of Arnold Schwarzenegger, although I don’t recall that “The Terminator” had thick glasses or a bad complexion.

Although I was just on the freshman dean’s list at my college, I lacked the intelligence or confidence to talk to girls.

Except for Marianne. With her, I was able to look her in the eye when she initiated one of our conversations:

“Clean up, David,” or, “Can you help this pretty lady with groceries?” Or, “Please don’t put eggs in the bottom of the bag.”

Of course, she’s in the supervisory role of head cashier at the Jewelry Food Store in Evergreen Park Plaza, and I’m a bag boy, and she does all the talking.

A bag boy with a crush because, like the mysterious woman in the Chapin song, my boss is beautiful. Not as gorgeous as Scarlett Johansson, but more subtly like Mandy Moore: dark hair and eyes saying, “Can I help you?” even though she doesn’t actually say it to the client.

Not only is she out of my league when it comes to birds and bees, but our personalities are so diametrically opposed that I wonder if I could possibly have been born on another planet and shipped to Earth as a baby.

While I’m a very shy, articulate introvert, Marianne is likely the archetype of the affable, gregarious “CBS This Morning” star Gail King. Not only is she personable and chatty, but she is genuinely interested in everyone she meets. Not surprisingly, her checkout line is always the longest. She knows the names of many of her clients.

One of my consolations is that I can adore her from afar – I mean at the end of her counter, I’m wearing a red tie and white apron, holding a brown double bag and watching each of them take their turn There were happy smiles on the shopper’s face when Marian. While I felt invisible most of the time during those days, this is one place I don’t mind.

Right now, The Sun Times Readers—more astute than the average news consumer—have guessed that Marianne and I would end up in each other’s arms in some way. They are right. It happened when we were both invited to another Jewel employee’s wedding and we found ourselves together after a party in the groom’s parents recreation room, all alone. The question, of course, is that with so many gentle and interested men, why on earth would she choose me?

In Chapin’s love song, the dubious Midnight Watch asks the same question: Why would she agree to go home with a fool like him? In her reply, she alluded to her past disappointments and loneliness, saying that being with him could be a “better place” and that “loving someone is a better way”.

All of this might have gotten her thinking, because when the Watcher came back after breakfast for him and his new love, he found her gone, leaving a note: “It’s time for me to move on.”

Meanwhile, in real life, I’ve never asked Marianne the same question. Then we have been happily together.

Valentine’s Day taught other lonely hearts a lesson: Self-pity can only be self-defeating. Unless, of course, you make a living as a composer.

David McGrath is the author of “South Siders” and one of the contributors to “Chicago Exposed,” a recent collection of Sun-Times news photos archived by the Chicago Museum of him

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