i’d rather fight with you …

my favorite romance stories seem to be the ones where the man and woman fight like crazy before finally falling in love (or admitting they have).

i’m not sure why this is, either, because my usual response to real (versus comic) conflict is either silence or crying, and in either case getting away as soon as possible.

in the course of coming up with the perfect answer to a conversation that happened two years ago, however, i do dream up lots of snarky zinging comments.

tonight we watched part of the philadelphia story, with cary grant, katharine hepburn and jimmy stewart. if you’ve not seen it you should, because it’s such a film. cary and kate, they don’t get along, mainly because they love each other and decide to pretend they hate each other (there are lots of other reasons like pride and whatnot, but that’s the main one). oh my goodness, they say some of the most deliciously mean things to each other. as i watched them sparring i thought what fun it would be to play tracy lord, katharine hepburn’s character.

dexter: “sometimes, for your own sake, red, i think you should’ve stuck to me longer.”
tracy: “i thought it was for life, but the nice judge gave me a full pardon.”
dexter: “aaah, that’s the old redhead. no bitterness, no recrimination, just a good swift left to the jaw.”

then there’s double wedding, a screwball comedy featuring william powell and myrna loy, who have to be one of the most charming screen couples in the history of movies.

the first time their characters meet it ends in a quarrel where both parties have to be physically restrained, presumably to keep them from scratching each others’ eyes out.

charlie: “and i’m sure that under the influence of you and your hate, i could paint as i’ve never painted before.”
margit: “well, i hate you. what’s your proposition?”

and it just gets better from there.

and let’s not  forget shakespeare’s much ado about nothing, where benedick and beatrice trade insults throughout the entire play, right up to the point at which their love for each other is publicly announced. they’re the most delightful by far.


Is it possible disdain should die while she hath
such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?
Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come
in her presence.


Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I
am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I
would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard
heart; for, truly, I love none.


A dear happiness to women: they would else have
been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God
and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I
had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man
swear he loves me.


God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some
gentleman or other shall ‘scape a predestinate
scratched face.


Scratching could not make it worse, an ’twere such
a face as yours were.


Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.


A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.


I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and
so good a continuer. But keep your way, i’ God’s
name; I have done.


You always end with a jade’s trick: I know you of old.

i’m not quite sure why these pointedly mean instances of romance amuse me so. i think maybe because the women are all so intelligent, even though they get carried away in their cleverness sometimes and say things they ought not to. they have fine minds and aren’t afraid to show it.

i used to say to myself i wanted a man to love me for my mind, rather than my body. well, that’s all well and good (actually it’s not, but the reasons i had for wanting that would take too long to explain).

but, after all, a man can’t quite say “your mind looks gorgeous in that evening gown, darling,” and still be taken seriously, can he?

(although it would amuse me very much to hear it.)

so my understanding of how all that works has evened out a bit.

still, there is something delightful about the verbal fencing of two rapier wits. it is a pleasure to listen to, and extremely fun to spar with someone whose intelligence forces you to be constantly on your toes — so long as it’s all in good fun, and no one really gets hurt.