Does every woman want a Lloyd Dobler?

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Those of us – especially women – of a certain age remember Lloyd Dobler, John Cusack’s character in the 1980’s movie Say Anything.  A famous scene from the movie places Lloyd outside his romantic interest’s bedroom window, boom box held high above his head, blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”

The movie came to mind recently when my own boyfriend told me that a young male friend of his had called him because his longtime live-in girlfriend had left him.  For context, this young man is 30-ish, and he’s calling upon his older professional mentor for advice.

The young couple, both in the military, had been geographically separated for a couple of months because the woman was away for training.  After she had been gone a month or so, she asked her boyfriend to come visit her on a three-day weekend.  He told her he couldn’t come because he had invited friends over to celebrate the holiday – which happened to be Mardi Gras, and they live in New Orleans.  She is on the West Coast for her class.

My boyfriend, a seasoned and sexy 52-year-old man, did what any man would do in such a situation.  He turned to me, “What should I tell him?”

“Tell him to get on a damn plane, pronto,” was my answer.

We all know that Lloyd Dobler got on the plane.

What does the fact he didn’t get on the plane say to me?  That he’s not all that into her.  She did the right thing, as heartbreaking as it must have been.  Perhaps she even found someone else, someone who IS into her…someone who would get on the plane.

She had been gone a month, and there was a three-day weekend – which also included Valentine’s Day, along with President’s Day, followed by the famous Fat Tuesday.

It appears as if she suggested that he fly out to see her on short notice.  What I suspect is that she had been patiently waiting for him to suggest they get together on the three-day weekend that coincided with Valentine’s Day.  When he didn’t make the gesture, she invited him to visit her.  He took a pass.

His obligation to his friends was more important than seeing her, when she had been gone a month.  There is really no way to undo that.  A truckload of flowers, maybe.  I suggested that he get on the next plane and beg forgiveness.  My sweetie pointed out that this dude doesn’t have that kind of money – that buying a last-minute plane ticket to the West Coast would be pricey.

If she – and the relationship – were really that important to him, he would have told his friends that something suddenly came up; he would have dipped into savings or run up his credit card and hopped the next plane to the West Coast.  After all, he’s asked her to marry him.  She’s supposedly the love of his life.   Isn’t she worth it?

In love, actions speak louder than words.  A relationship counselor I know says you should pay attention to your partner’s actions rather than their words.  They may say they love you and you are a priority, but do they show it, every day, in their deeds?

Grand romantic gestures don’t have to be expensive, like buying a last-minute plane ticket to a far-away city.  I know a man who once had a cop buddy pull his girlfriend over on her way to work and deliver a bouquet of flowers.  I know another man who quit his job and moved hundreds of miles two weeks after meeting his wife, whom he married a few weeks later.  Another guy I know, a very frugal gentleman, spent $10,000 on his wife’s engagement ring.  Yes, he could afford it, but this is the same guy who never bought himself a new car.  The fact he spent big bucks on her that he wouldn’t spend on himself meant something.

I’ve made some grand gestures, myself.  I’ve driven hundreds of miles and rented a pricey hotel room to be near my boyfriend so that we could see one another while he was traveling for work.  I once flew to Newark, NJ on my lover’s birthday to have dinner and spend a (very short) night before getting back on a plane and flying home for a work meeting.  I’ve driven three hours in sleet and snow at night to spend time with the object of my affection, only to get up early the next day for a three-hour commute to my office – and then did it all again the next day.  I’ve surprised my man at the airport when he returned from a business trip, recruiting a friend to drive me an hour to the airport, so that we would have an extra hour in the car on the way home.

Over the years, I’ve also been the recipient of grand romantic gestures.  I have gotten off of planes to be greeted by flowers and large signs proclaiming love.  One guy I had gone out with once – and wasn’t interested in – got off a plane from a business trip (to the West Coast, no less) and drove straight to my office to see me.  Colleagues wondered why this didn’t win me over.

The answer is:  I wasn’t that into him.

The romantic gestures – big or small – are a reflection of one’s level of interest in their partner.  Making an effort, being thoughtful, demonstrating that they are worth it—those are the things that really matter.

I don’t know the young woman on the West Coast, but I definitely know how she feels.  She feels like her boyfriend thinks she’s not worth the effort.  What she did had to be painful, but it was courageous.  She got out before it was too late (in the interest of full disclosure, I’m told she had done a couple of things to indicate she wasn’t that into him, either – but who knows why?).

The bottom line: if he wouldn’t make the effort now, would he do it after they had been together a few years? After children came along?  I don’t think so.

Let’s not write this off as typical male thoughtlessness.  Men will go to a LOT of trouble for a woman they really want and love.  Sadly, she’s not it for him.  One day he will find a woman for whom he will get on the plane.  And this young woman will find a man who thinks she’s worth getting on the plane for.

We all know how Say Anything turned out.  Lloyd Dobler was the geeky weirdo who got the hot chick because he made her feel like the only woman in the world.   He put aside his pride, let his emotions rule, and stood outside that window with the boom box blasting a really stupid, sappy song.

Then he got on the plane.

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