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Was there something more revealing and sinister to a lover's grammar problems than I'd realized?

Deena suggested maybe I was using this whole linguistic thing as an excuse to avoid intimacy.

Unhinged - Oddities PrintEasy

Women Who Can't Speak
and the Man Who Dates Them            November 1, 2000

When syntax gets in the way of intimacy

by Tony Soltis


Email to a FriendOkay, I understand we speak a complicated twenty-first-century language with an Escher-esque litany of rules. But is it too much to want to find a woman to fall in love with who speaks English? I'm not talking anything extreme. My ears don't burn if a date says, 'It was like I was walking on air,' instead of, 'It was as if I were walking on air.' I'm not a whack, I can live with that. My complaint is with the women I meet and their rampant inability to use grade school language skills. Why can't I - a single, professional man seeking intimacy - expect my lover to understand the difference between me and I?

It started bothering me when I was seeing Lindsey. This cute actress had a habit of saying: 'Me and my friend went to that concert.' Or, 'Me and you should try that dance.' Now, I learned long ago that no one likes being corrected, so I heard the mistake and just left it alone, since I wanted to keep seeing her.

Then I noticed Lindsey always took the last bite of the creme brulee we were supposed to be splitting. If some exciting thing happened to me at work, I had to wait until this narcissist told me her story first. Like an infant, Lindsey insisted on beginning each thought with herself. Was there something more revealing and sinister to a lover's grammar problems than I'd realized?

After Lindsey I met Melissa, who was a pianist. This pretty redhead liked to use 'I' at the end of her prepositional phrases, as in: 'That was for my date and I.' Again, I swallowed. But I was worried.

One sleepless night when I should have stuck to decaf, it occurred to me that Melissa ended all her prepositional phrases with 'I' because, ironically, she thought it sounded smarter. Perhaps once she'd said something like 'she is taller than me,' and a pedant pointed out that one should say 'taller than I.' Misunderstanding the rule, Melissa now went around not just ending all her phrases in 'I,' but emphasizing it. Singing it. Making it 'I-eeee.'

So despite my fear that this grammar flaw was an augur to exit the relationship, I gambled: I pointed out what she was doing wrong.

Melissa bristled and pouted. We sat without speaking on her couch, mindlessly watching TV. The sitcom Frasier was on. Then right from Frasier's lips, we both heard the bomb fall: 'It's from Niles and I.'

'Ah-ha!' Melissa jumped up. 'You were wrong.'

What could I say? A fictional TV character that is supposed to be a sophisticated Harvard-graduate used 'I' as a prepositional object. Perhaps in the editing room a producer heard the faux pas but thought, 'Ah heck, who in America will catch it?'

Oh, someone caught it alright, and it was like giving Grey Goose Vodka to an alcoholic.

She kicked me out (see, no one likes being corrected) and I was concerned. If Frasier couldn't get it right, what chance did my dates have? Maybe my hopes were unrealistic. I mean, I remained single while Melissa married the next guy she dated, a dude who didn't care about her objective pronoun problem, and to whom she no doubt recounted our breakup with the closing line: 'and that was the end for Mr. Obsessive-Grammar-Man and I-eeee.'

Finally, I met Deena. This classy, funny and smart woman was vice-president of a hot dot-com business. And she knew all kinds of exotic things, like the proper order to a sushi dinner (wafer-thin halibut sashimi to start, fat snow crab rolls at the end). I got excited and hoped she could be the one.

Then it came. On a late Sunday afternoon, walking hand-in-hand down a park path, I said, 'Look at that fountain.' And she responded: 'Yes, don't it look nice?'

Oh, God.

Crushed, my mind raced. Did she say it purposely, trying to affect a good ol' girl feeling, like peach pie on a summer night, watchin' the thunder'n ligthnin' - 'don't that sound nice?' But when she said it again later that night at dinner, again on the way home, and again the next day on the phone, it was time to admit I was facing my unrelenting bÍte noire once more. Had I learned anything from my previous syntax-flawed girlfriends?

It was late, well after last call, we were stumbling back to my place and I figured what the hell, I'd just tell her everything. So I spilled my guts about how much I wanted someone to love that I could respect... well... grammatically. Deena smirked, reared back and suggested maybe I was using this whole linguistic thing as an excuse to avoid intimacy.

Ouch.

I ranted in protest (protesting too much), and ended up revealing all sorts of things. She did too. We told tales of elementary school teachers, high school lovers, secrets about what our parents did that was truly weird. Suddenly we noticed the morning sun. Giggling, we kissed, and I realized that if I want to take a chance opening my heart, I might as well do it with the most best woman I ever met.

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