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Flexing the heart muscle

Bob Masters | Sunday, November 21, 2004

I have never been one to trust the supposed rite of springtime that involves one’s fancies turning to love. The only loving going on in the spring is between the birds and the bees, who are getting together to make baby butterflies, as my understanding of reproductive science goes. Spring is too easy for love – with its flowers and tank-tops and pastel popped-collar polo shirts. Love should always be bold. There’s nothing courageous about falling in love when the whole world smells like lilac and dew-drops. I don’t buy into such simple purple-prose notions of affection. They’re for Hallmark and my junior high school poetry. No, I’m from the Midwest. I’m made of sterner things.

That’s why for me, the greatest season for romance is the late fall. There’s something about those days when snow and rain and grayness combine into one big stew called “Midwest November” that stirs my passions. The first brisk chill that requires me donning a sweater sends along a secret message: get up, get on your feet and get living. The last few days of the season when it’s still possible to go out without a jacket speak volumes to me. They say, “listen my son, ask someone out, stop being so afraid and rage against the dying of that romantic light because there are only so many chances left before it starts getting dark at 4:30.” The fall is a constant reminder that things must change and I, for one, don’t want to be left on the romantic losing end because I sat out of the game. And, really, nobody can fall in love in February anyway. There are too many jackets in the way.

The end of fall is really a metaphor for acting on possibility. There’s no greater reminder of the short time we have left to us to find that true love than watching the leaves turn color, realizing that we, like the leaves, are not meant to last forever. Yes, as the fall shows us, we must act and act now.

But above all, gentle reader, there is one ultimate reason why the fall is perfect for romance. This reason cannot be measured by the heart nor understood by the mind. No, it only can be explained by the good people at card services.

I’m talking, of course, about Flex Points.

With the coming of the frost and the Great Pumpkin, around this time every year I begin to run out of Flex Points. This, I have come to find out, is a common experience for most of our campus. Unlike the U.S. government, we cannot continuously spend money somebody else gave us for as long as we want. China may graciously not come collecting on our national debt but tell that to the fine coffee-providers at Starbucks who have begun to look at me funny when I offer to pay for my latte with funds ear-marked for Social Security.

Like a boy playing backyard baseball up until the very last light of day, I’ve pushed my card-swiping ability to the limits, squeezing every last Flex decimal point out of my ID. Oh, how I lament my misspent August, when every coffee was venti and every value meal was supersized. The majority of my Flex Points were surely spent in this vain enterprise, feeding my body but neglecting my soul. Only now do I grasp the inherent connection between my heart and my meal plan.

A man of my average looks and simple social graces requires a well-funded romantic mobilization force to level the dating playing field so unfairly tilted in favor of the varsity athlete. What I lack in looks and letterman status must be made up for in the ability to purchase smoothies.

In days of yore I would simply ask my father for a piece of the family estate, thus providing a small yearly income that would allow me to maintain a cottage, a country wife and a pack of hounds. But alas, this is modern-day America and this is not the first time 21st century notions of dating have let me down.

As I have come to find out, for those of us not on the football team, wooing can’t be done on the cheap. Like a big-money lobbyist firm, Flex Points peddle influence, convincing skeptical young ladies that I am a man worthy of their affection for I am the great provider of submarine sandwiches.

For the regular Joes of Notre Dame like me, the hope of impressing a young lady is an uphill battle. Thanks to Flex Points, however, we have two powerful allies – Burger King and quarter dogs. Yes, I believe it was Sir Francis Bacon who professed in his famous essay “On Love” that “love can find entrance not only into an open heart, but also into [the Huddle].” Ah Flex Points, the meal plan-melter of hearts.

Of course, if they should fail, there’s always virtues such as sensibility, character, tenderness, personality, politeness, kindness, charity, gentleness, empathy, decorum, spirit and graciousness … but Notre Dame didn’t give me 230 of those.

Bob Masters is a senior English major. You may contact him at amasters@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.