This admission may come as quite a shock to those who know me, but I am more than capable of being a less than stellar human being in a variety of situations.
That makes me no different than most people, but there are times when my obsessive dedication to being the most obnoxious, sarcastic person to ever walk the earth pushes the envelope. If I had a dollar for every time I've felt the need to say, "I'm only kidding!" throughout my 40-plus years of existence, I'd be tucked safely and securely among Mitt Romney and the rest of his 1 percent club.
We're all capable of being more cranky than usual at times. There are the obvious triggers, like when we're sleep deprived, for instance, or stressed out at work. Or sick. Or hungry. Just ask my wife, and she'll tell you a major precursor to my periodic crabbiness is tied directly to food. She'd join me and my man Mitt in the 1 percent club if she had a dollar for every time she's felt the need to ask me when I'm particularly snarly, "Have you eaten anything today?"
My fuse can be trimmed especially short by something that I think sets me apart from most others, and that's when I have stumbled across a movie, TV show, commercial or song that I really dig or have particularly identified with, and I want to pass the joy onto someone else – usually my spouse. But if she gets distracted while I'm sharing my stellar discovery with her or if she doesn't seem to be concentrating on it 100 percent, look out. My patience evaporates and I get downright surly.
If I was a more understanding person, I'd realize that a wife and mother as busy as my spouse is at work, at home and in the community is nothing if not distracted practically 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She takes work home with her, she's always reading work-related materials, and when it comes to our two boys, she is usually the parent sought out first when they want something or need something. When she does try to steal a few minutes for herself, funny how her cell phone never seems to go more than 10 minutes at a time without beeping or vibrating. She's a woman in demand.
But, especially when I want her to watch a movie with me that I've determined is, for her, a must-watch, I demand nothing less than 110 percent of her attention.
The latest flick to blow my mind is "Another Earth," most likely starring no one you've ever heard of. But this Brit Marling writer/actress? Yowza, is she ever talented.
I stumbled across the flick one afternoon, pressed the "Info" button on the remote control, and learned that it combined a tragedy, astronomy and sort of a love story and a tale of personal reclamation into one.
Page 2 of 2 - As kind of a space nut, I was instantly intrigued. For the next hour and a half or so, I must have hit the 10-second rewind button on the DVR 50 times because so many scenes in "Another Earth" were so rewind-worthy. It didn't hurt that Marling, who helped write the script, owned the screen, even as she wore a hood and janitor clothes in most scenes.
This marked yet another time that, about 10 minutes into the film, I knew I'd want my wife to see it. So I recorded it, and then the wait was on, to find an evening where my wife and I would be able to sit down to watch, by today's standards, a relatively short 95 minute film. That, in fact, became one of my selling points. "It's only an hour and a half long," I said.
A couple weeks later, we hunkered down in the basement to watch it. Within a half-hour, I was raging inside, as I found myself hitting the pause button repeatedly while my wife answered phone calls and responded to various requests from the kids. She was missing precious, little nuances in the plot, I convinced myself. Then, when she returned to the basement after dealing with something upstairs, saw that I'd paused "Another Earth" yet again and said, "You don't have to keep pausing it," I thought I'd stroll to the workshop in the corner of the basement and see how tight I could squeeze the vise on my skull without shooting my eyeballs across the room.
But we pressed on, and suddenly the distractions ceased. I watched my wife's reactions to various little snippets from various scenes, and could tell “Another Earth” was growing on her. I saw a smile here...heard a whisphered "Oh, my god," there. Then, after the climactic scene ended abruptly and the credits rolled, I got what I was hoping for, a huge shriek from my wife. No, she wasn't frightened, she was frustrated. Watch the movie for yourself and you'll see that "Another Earth" doesn't tie everything up in a neat bow at the end; instead, it ends ambiguously, and leaves those who watched it to debate what it all means.
My wife and I discussed the ending for a few minutes – Is there anything more fun that talking about a great movie or, specifically, debating the meaning of its ending? – and then my wife made it all worthwhile when she concluded, "That woman is beautiful," she said. "That was a very, very good movie."
And, in that instant, the vise in the adjacent room seemed like it was a million miles away.