Posted on October 25, 2019
by Steve Janowick

I could actually feel the testosterone coursing through my veins.  

A half hour earlier, I had endured fifteen grueling sets of chest and shoulders – the Rocky soundtrack loudly cranked on a continuous loop the entire time.  Rivulets of sweat ran down my back the entire jog home from my community gym, and I could have sworn I was being checked out by a few of the honeys at the pool as I passed by (okay, maybe not – but I’m going with it anyway).  A blender full of nails, gasoline, tiger’s blood, and…uhh…lactose-free milk and strawberry flavored Nesquik went straight down my gullet as soon as I walked in the door.  

The machismo cloud was raining down on me hard that day!  

After a steamy shower, I watched a souped up ‘67 Mustang smoke a new Corvette in the quarter-mile on YouTube while frying up a burger the size of a small dinner plate.  And somewhere in the great beyond Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson we’re looking down on me with a shit-eatin’ grin as I plopped down in front of the TV to enjoy my protein-laden, post-workout lunch and, with a little luck and a little coercing, my favorite old Western.  

But my begging and pleading fell on deaf ears because my wife and daughter were not giving up the remote.   They were deeply immersed in one of their gushy Hallmark Channel “Christmas in July” chick dramas – and because I was too spent (and lazy) to get up – I succumbed to joining them in this romance fest.   Surely I could endure. I’d just tune it out. Let my mind drift to more rugged and virile thoughts. Yea, that’s what I’d do…

But that’s not what I did.  

As hokey, contrived and saccharine-sweet as this movie was, it was having an effect on me.  Slowly sucking me in. I was actually getting emotionally invested in these cardboard cutout characters with their ultra-white toothy smiles and perfectly dapper wardrobes.  I was silently wishing that Brad wouldn’t leave town for that new job and I was rooting for Rebecca to win that gingerbread bake off and also win her man back!

Did I just write that?

Maybe it was the serene, small town setting with the fake snow and all the smiling faces window shopping along Main Street.  Maybe it was the Christmas carolers gleefully singing the classics – and not just the secular ones either – I actually heard Jesus’ name a few times!  Maybe it was the full-on display of traditional family values – the ones that mostly live dormant in my memories. Maybe it was the wholesome, positive message woven into the simple plot or perhaps the redeeming tearjerker ending.  

Who knows.

Regardless of exactly what it was, when the credits started rolling, I found myself swallowing hard to control the lump in my throat.  I was feeling an incipient sense of hope. A sense of optimism. Like my hardened, jaded soul had just been gently massaged. Like my black heart had been ripped from my chest, washed with Dove Soap and carefully put back in.  I had just lived vicariously through these characters and I felt rejuvenated because of it. I had a strong urge to hug my wife – so I scooted my plate away, got up and did just that, because this dumb movie had me all mushy inside.  It gave me a reaffirmation of the power of love. Nobody died. No one was cheated on. There was no salacious nudity or language or biting cynicism.  

There was only love.  A simple, little movie about love.  

And now three months later, I’ve developed a furtive addiction to The Hallmark Channel.  Those cheesy Christmas movies have become my guilty pleasure after a long day of getting my teeth kicked in by life.  Sure, the curmudgeonous cynic in me can only take them in small doses, but I allow myself to ditch the high-brow, know-it-all snobbery I tend to possess when it comes to my entertainment, and escape every now and again to get lost for two hours in a world that’s good and right and decent.  

And if that means a temporary revocation of my man card – screw it…

I’m okay with that.  

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