The Valentino Test
One of the things I really hate, really hate, is the way people find out how old I am (they always assume I’m younger than I am) and then start asking about – whisper quietly – boys. I had it yesterday from a little old lady who knew my grandfather. I get it every so often from other people, and even my own mother, who has been so gloriously mute on the subject, has begun the ‘growing up’ remarks.
She means more around the need to grasp the basics of council tax, finances and everything else, but I know there’s something else underneath it.
I might as well make it clear that I’m twenty-five years old and have never had a boyfriend. That statement means everything else too. There seems to be a curious sense of shame or humiliation attached to such things these days, as if it makes me some kind of freak.
Well, I am a bit freakydinks, but not really because of that. The reason I’m a freak lies not in the fact, but the reasons behind it.
Let me be clear: I am twenty-five years old and have never had a boyfriend, and if you think I’m going to apologise for that, or feel ashamed or in any way less than the rest of the world, think again.
Rudolph Valentino really screwed me up, you know.
Actually, that’s not the whole story either. I suppose I need to go back twenty years or more. Back to a time when I could sit in front of a TV and watch old motion pictures starring people who filled with screen with something I didn’t always entirely understand.
I saw the film A Night To Remember many times, and Kenneth More is still the idea of a Proper Englishman in my mind. I saw Cinderella many times, and so it’s still the idea of Happy Ever After I have caught in the back of my memory. I saw many films many times over, and when I was grown up a bit more, I was shaped by them. I was shaped by them as a sculptor moulds clay or a child squishes Play-Doh. My days for twenty-five years have been filled with great and wonderful people – beautiful people – and fairytales.
There’s been the music too, made by handsome men touched with divine greatness, whose music saved me from myself, from the darker pits of my soul and from the evils in the outside world.
So I lived on for twenty-five years, surrounding myself with the beautiful and great people, people who only turn up once or twice in a generation and the likes of whom we’ll never see again.
It hasn’t been a bad life, and it’s certainly been an entertaining one. There’s one problem: as much as these things saved me in one way or another, I suppose it’s also hamstrung me. It’s kept me from seeing other people, real people, as perhaps other people do. It’s stopped me for settling for anything less than brilliance and perfection.
This particular state of affairs would be OK if the world was filled with brilliant and wondrous people, but it isn’t. You want to know why in a quarter-century I haven’t had a boyfriend or even a date? It’s easy: there’s nobody good enough for me.
It sounds arrogant, and perhaps it is. It sounds conceited, but I don’t quite mean it to. I suppose it’s this: If I have Valentino, who could possibly compare?
Thus: The Valentino Test and how it’s probably screwed me for life.
Rudy can’t take full blame of course, for it was only back this February that I finally understood the point of Valentino. I suppose we must therefore go back, far back to a time when I listened to my dad’s Buddy Holly records, when Elvis Parsley was my favourite punch line and when I had a vague recollection of a fellow in grey tights and a blond fright wig. Still, it’s something that is articulated best through Signor Valentino, because he’s the one who brought it into starkest and clearest relief.
For days after seeing The Sheik and then after The Eagle and Blood and Sand, I looked at every single man I saw, on the street, on the tube and everywhere else and thought to myself: “Not exactly Valentino, is he?”
For years before that, I’d been doing it and not really thinking about it. When you surround yourself with greatness, the rest of the world becomes less interesting. I hadn’t even really noticed myself doing it.
The Valentino Test only requires that the entrant compare favourably to Rudolph Valentino. Being alive is the easy part... but is the entrant beautiful? Is he charming? Is he capable of setting a heart a-flutter? I tried to think, and I suppose maybe 0.0001% of 1% of the world’s population pass the Valentino Test.
As if that weren’t enough, if one is lucky enough to pass this test, it’s not the end of it. For as long as I’ve got Jim Morrison, one must also pass the Morrison Test. Is the entrant cool? Is he thoughtful, challenging, and fearless? Is he capable of Apollonian lightness as well as Dionysian darkness? Slice that 0.0001% of 1% down some more.
Then there’s the Lynott Test, which involves poetry, storytelling and Dennis the Menace charm and charisma. It involves somehow being tough and yet not tough at all. It involves being able to hold thousands of people in the palm of your hand at the same time and making it look effortless. The percentage gets smaller still.
I’m a fairly cynical character, so I find it hard to consider the possibility anyone has got this far... and there’s more to come yet.
You’ve passed the Valentino Test, the Morrison Test and the Lynott Test. Can you, however, pass the Flynn Test? Are you the most beautiful man ever to walk the face of the earth, exuding a special kind of allure that would cause a person to forgive pretty much anything? Can you charm birds from trees? Can you fight the entire Spanish fleet with naught but a grin and a sword?
I haven’t even mentioned Robert Plant, who is the sex in rock and roll wrapped up in hair and jeans. Lest I forget, there’s George Harrison and John Lennon, who are my consciences. Then again, I left out Dean Martin, who is the soft centre of my heart. Then again, there are people like David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Gregory Peck, James Dean and Marlon Brando, who bring joy to my life without needing to be loved.
Eagle-eyed and intelligent readers might notice that I have yet to mention anyone current or contemporary or alive. Whatever, OK? These are the people who have brought me something approaching happiness and contentment through their work. I’m not unaware that people being dead makes it easier to tolerate them. That much of that work was done some years ago (or in the case of Valentino, about eighty-five years ago) is irrelevant to me because it’s still interesting and entertaining.
The fact is, I judge the world by their standards. I judge you by their standards, and yes, I find you wanting.
Take heart, I compare myself to Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn and Julie London. If you think I’m harsh towards you, imagine how terrifically below my own standards I fall, being neither beautiful nor particularly brilliant.
But you’re still not good enough for me.
What does all this mean? Well, for one thing, it likely means that I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. That’s OK. It’s of my own making, and all I particularly ask is that I be master of my own destiny. You may think it pathetic or freaky, but I have made my own choices and I’m squared with that.
Perhaps there is someone out there in the wide world who is good enough. The chances of him thinking the same as regards me are pretty slim, but I’m not fussed.
You never know, the irony might be that The Mythical One might not pass the Valentino Test so much as cast it aside without so much as a glance.
Stranger things have happened.