Authors: Dermot Davis
Zen and Sex
by Dermot Davis
Table of Contents
ZEN AND SEX
1. The Look of Love
It’s a beautiful sunset and I’m walking along the palm tree-lined ocean cliff park in Santa Monica, California. I’ve been coming here a lot lately and it has become my favorite spot to observe courting couples and photographically capture what I like to call, the look of love. Although we’ve all observed that moment of magical connection between two lovers at some time or another (and many will claim that they exchange that look with their loved one on a regular basis), in my experience, it’s quite rare. A definition does not do it justice (it’s a know it when you see it kind of thing) but it’s that look when two people gaze into each other’s eyes, which says, ‘I’m so deeply, joyously in love with you.’
I haven’t done an in-depth study, so I can’t quote percentages, age group breakdowns or demographics and what-not but suffice it to say, it seems that unwed, courting couples are the least self-conscious in public when it comes to unabashed, soulful eye-staring exchanges (often followed by a passionate or tender kiss or perhaps a little bit of tastefully-censored PDA, public display of affection). Come sunset in Santa Monica, Palisades Park attracts dating couples just like stores attract shoppers in the January sales; so much so, in fact, that a single guy all on his lonesome sticks out enough to warrant suspicion, as in: what on earth is this twenty-four-year old guy doing all alone sitting on a park bench, taking up space and preventing honorable, bona fide courting couples from sitting down to take in a romantic, breathless view of the glorious sunset and the majestic blue-green ocean? This is why I bring my camera with me… everywhere.
In the list (not that I really have a list) of what to bring with you to deflect other people from taking notice of your naked aloneness in a public space known to being frequented primarily by dating couples, a decent camera (not some cheapo, use once, throw-away camera, please) would be number two on the list, after a dog.
Walking a dog is hands down
best deflector of singlehood that a lone guy could imagine. In fact, not only does a single guy walking a dog not look lonely, miserable and out of place but he may actually attract attention – positive attention – if the dog is deemed cute enough. Unfortunately, the apartment I share with my roommate does not allow pets but I’m not too bummed about that as, realistically, unless the dog is tiny enough (and hence, automatically excluded as being a “man’s dog”), it becomes a problem when you want to take it to other dating couple-heavy locales like bars, restaurants, art galleries or movie theaters where generally they do not allow pets.
So, I’ll stick with my Cannon EOS Rebel T3 digital camera with the IS 2, 18-55mm lens which works great for long shots as well as those sweet, close up shots when I really want to capture that glint in those sparkly, love-filled eyes. As a photographer by trade, I do know a trick or two about getting the best angle, lighting and composition for a photo, even when using natural light in the field and whether the subjects are willing or not.
I like to think that what I’m doing is a project or a study of sorts, which to my knowledge, hasn’t been explored photographically and then shown or displayed before (yes, a major gallery showing of my work with media fanfare would work wonders for my career and look great on my resume). It has all the elements: human emotion, romance, connection, relationship, joie de vivre, mystery and mystique (better) and many other tags I could slip in which would respond favorably to all the major internet search engines.
What I’d really love, though, is to have one of my photos made into a poster and become as successful and iconic as Alfred Eisenstaedt’s ‘The Sailor Kiss on V-E Day’ which was taken in 1945 in Times Square or better still, Doisneau’s ‘The Kiss by The Hotel de Ville’ which was taken on a street in Paris in 1950. Both of these posters have hung on my walls all through my teens and, well, right up to the present day (though I’ve no idea what that says about me).
It’s probably fair to say that these photos were the inspiration behind why I wanted to become a professional photographer to begin with. At least, maybe in the beginning they were but somewhere along the line (perhaps more as a consequence of adolescent hormones), I decided that professional fashion photographers made shit loads of money and got to sleep with whatever super model they desired. I’m sure I could have gone that way but I never really got the breaks.
Instead, I do print advertisements, real estate, event, portraits, weddings and head shots and anything else not too far beneath my dignity that pays okay. I do all right, not great.
Back at my apartment, I take a look at what I’ve got on the larger screen of my laptop. I don’t like to play around with the images too much, in fact, I prefer them to look as natural as possible. What I’m looking for in the photograph is that magic moment of shared connection between two lovers which melts the heart. Trust me, it’s harder than it looks to get it just right. Today, I probably took about a hundred photos all told, hitting up as many as twenty different couples; young, old (some looked like they could be in their forties), ethnic (everyone is ethnically ambiguous in L.A.), tourists, natives and every one in-between.
There is only one or two that I like, where I catch both parties with both their eyes open at the same time and I can see enough of their faces where the light hits them just so. Overall yardstick for each photograph: do they melt my heart? Naw.
I have to wonder about that for a moment because maybe I’m just getting a bit inured to the look of other people’s romantic moments. I’m looking at one photo from today where the caption could easily be: It doesn’t get any better than this. Am I a tad jealous? I did feel like that once (and it was only once), with a girl called Roxanne. Not sure if I fell in love with her name first and then the girl or the other way around but fall in love, I did.
I took so many photos of her, it was unreal. I never threw any of them out because I always harbored a secret wish, not even a wish, really, just a notion, I guess, in the back of my mind, that we would get back together again. Not sure of the details but in some distant though not too far-off future, she would come back to me and tell me that her life sucks without me, what was she thinking or some such. I would hesitate before taking her back because I wanted her to truly feel the gravity and enormity of the mistake she had made in the first place. Then we’d live happily ever after. Which is well and truly ironic because guess what I got in the mail today? An invitation…to her wedding.
Okay, so all day I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this. So far, I’ve come up with zilch or at the very least the same question I asked when I opened up the prissy, pukey pink, satiny envelope with the ridiculously excessive and aesthetically displeasing embossing: what kind of a woman sends a wedding invitation to the guy she just dumped?
My first thought was: WTF, this can’t be happening; we just broke up like, last year some time (I know exactly when it was) because she didn’t want to get settled and too serious, we were both young, yada, yada, yada…and now, a few short months after her, ‘it’s not you, it’s me,’ going-away speech, she’s getting married?
Which led me to my second thought: she must be pregnant. Which led to a whole stream of thoughts ranging from sympathy to serves her gosh darn right! Upon further reflection, I came to the realization that no matter whether she is or is not preggers, either way, she has decided that marriage is the answer to all of her problems and she probably roped in some poor pushover of a guy to give her a rock and half of his condo and retirement plan.
Let’s face it, the time of their meeting must have been so friggin’ short that they barely know each other’s last names. Could easily have been a one night stand, in which case I feel sorry for them both (which makes my secret notion of her coming back to me not so far-fetched, after all). Except now, she’ll be tainted with a marriage on her mileage log and may even be saddled with a snotty-nosed kid who gets to play with its real dada every other weekend. Am I going to take her back, then?
The kid could be pretty cool - let’s say it’s a boy - but then again, what if the kid is handicapped or damaged in some way? Maybe they won’t notice it at first but a few weeks after she and I get back together, maybe he’ll get diagnosed with some form of palsy or a deformity of some kind. What then? Am I going to bring up someone else’s kid who needs twenty-four-seven attention and medical care-giving? I won’t be able to change my mind at that stage or I’ll be considered a selfish, heartless son of a bitch. Which maybe I am for thinking this way but no way am I going to tell my mind to think only politically correct thoughts just so I can look good to myself.
I hear my roommate, Mike come home from work but I keep doing what I’m doing. Mike and I go so far back that we might as well be brothers; we’re so chill with each other, it’s almost creepy. He’s an outgoing, people person that got a job in sales right out of college. Unfortunately, sales doesn’t seem to be his thing; he just seems to get by, squeaking past or just below his quotas and sales targets and just barely manages to keep his job.
Having said that, for some strange reason, this current month has been his best month ever and he’s closing every sale in sight. According to him, his success is due to being in a relationship with a woman that he’s crazy about, which to my mind is total madness. As every economist will tell you, the business world tends to go in cycles: up, down, up, down. The Dow Jones average doesn’t care a fart who anyone is sleeping with, except maybe if it’s the president of the United States and even then, the president would have months to lie about it before any major stock indices are remotely affected.
I keep telling him that because he’s a positive and upbeat, friendly kinda guy, he would make a great personal coach or motivational speaker but invariably he’ll ask me what do I know about the real world and what nine to five jobs are like? Not ever having worked a nine-to-five job in my life, I will reply with some lame-ass comment like, “yeah, it’s a jungle out there” and that will be it, end of conversation. I don’t think we’ve had a real conversation about anything important in our lives, ever. Which is probably why we’ve remained best friends.
“Hey, that’s pretty cool,” Mike says in lieu of a greeting, as he checks out the photos on my laptop. “That’s your love project, yeah?”
“Yeah. Some new ones I took today. They’re not great.”
“Got your text.” Mike quickly says, as if this is what he really wanted to talk about in the first place. “What’s your next move?”
He is, of course referring to my text to him about the wedding invitation, which complete with expletives and capitals, it may have looked like I was YELLING with rage. But that was spur of the moment stuff and many hours and a few secret beers later, I can now calmly reflect on the whole thing like the reasoned gentleman that I am.
“My next move? I don’t know. What do you think?”
“Well, she obviously wants to rub your face in it.” Mike says, sounding like he has given the whole situation some considered thought, probably the only thing he’s thought about all day: some new drama, yippee. “What’s a girl saying if she sends a wedding invitation to her ex? ‘You blew it, I’m happy and I’m in love. You’ve got nobody and you’re miserable. You should never have let me go, you total loser.’ She’s making a point.”