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In Search of the Ring

Using 'LOTR' as a dating manual

By Liz Langley

You're smart enough to have noticed by now that a lot of maxims contradict one another. "He who hesitates is lost" conflicts with "Look before you leap." "Good things come to those who wait" doesn't jibe with "A rolling stone gathers no moss." And sure, "Quit while you're ahead," but what about "Winners never quit"?

My least favorite of the contradictory mottoes is "Seek and you shall find" and "You will find it when you're not looking for it." A lot of people say that last one is really bad news for single people, because looking becomes second nature after a while, in the same way that job seekers will automatically find their pupils dilating at the sight of the Help Wanted ads.

When you're ISO, you try to look cool but you're really like a meerkat, casting your lighthouse eyes on everything that moves. After a while, it becomes a reflex.

It doesn't matter if you're looking at an online dating site (and you'll look at least at one), a story on the richest bachelors in America (whom you'll never meet) or an encyclopedia. (Who is that? Lord Byron? Dead, huh? Nice lips.)

It's exhausting. And on top of it all, you hear your mother's voice saying, "Fix yourself up before you go out! You never know who you might meet." The movies are supposed to be an escape from all that, but I discovered that even Middle Earth wasn't far enough to go to get my mind off romance, past and future.

I had made it all the way to Return of the King, the third installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, when suddenly Aragorn reminded me very much of someone I once went out with. My date was a good actor, too--which was too bad, because he was in a wholly different profession.

Then I realized that I'd also gone out with a guy who reminded me a little of Gollum. And one who resembled the dwarf. There's definitely a Hobbit or two in my past. This cheered me up, because it made me realize how much I get around. I also realized that while others have picked up on certain subtexts in Tolkien's work, like the antiwar themes, I might be the first to interpret the whole enchilada as a dating manual.

Now, I'm not one of those aficionados who knows every intricacy of Tolkien or has memorized every book, grocery list and letter to Santa he ever wrote. I'm just an average moviegoer, but I know a metaphor when I see one, or make one up. LOTR may be disguised as a sexless geek-boy epic, but this trilogy is riddled with more dating tips than an issue of Seventeen magazine:

* When you're trying to catch the cute guy's eye is the exact moment the dwarf will pick to approach you.

* Eating raw fish is no longer a sign of a sophisticated date. (That said, you have to admit the Atkins plan is working for Gollum.)

* If you're the only girl among a thousand guys, you'll still fall for the only one who has a girlfriend.

* When overused, terms of endearment such as "precious" lose their meaning.

* All couples fight, but battles shouldn't last so long that one of you has to get up and stretch your legs or use the bathroom.

* Even if you look like Liv Tyler, your pining and whining will still get on people's nerves.

* Don't blame your friends just because they can see right through your creepy little partner.

* If you can get along on a road trip, the relationship will probably last.

* There will come a point when it seems like the relationship should be over. Don't drag it out. Just end it there.

* And finally, the mother of all dating wisdom: Some people will go to any lengths to get a ring; others, having had one for awhile, will go to any lengths to chuck it into a volcano.

See what I mean? And speaking of the movies, you may find love there, but only if you turn your attention away from the screen and toward the surrounding seats. Like mom said, you never know.

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From the February 5-11, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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