Boccaccio, First Day, Story 10

Boccaccio is not even on my reading list. Seriously, I’ve got about 20 books that I’m “reading”–but, as usual, I reach for Boccaccio because I’m completely miserable. And a bottle of port. I’m convinced that one or both will make me feel better. They won’t. Oh, and while we’re at it: dear Pakistan, THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT HENS ON THIS BLOG, PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE.

I first got my hands on this bottle of port in 2008, late spring, because as far as what’s available at most places, it’s pretty much the finest 10-year tawny port I can find. Not that I’m a wine connoisseur by any means–i.e., last night I needed a wine that fit two rules: pinot noir, screw-on top. Found it. A little more expensive than I was hoping for, $10, but that’s that. And I was just as happy as with the $80 bottle that bitch ordered but couldn’t be convinced to drink more than a glass of when I drove to goddamn Manhattan for a date. Go to hell, all of you, right now.

Now, port is something else entirely, because while it’s sweet, you don’t want it to be too sweet, and you want it to be strong. This bottle, I recall because by candlelight we were drinking it, some four of us, sitting on the bed and the floor, the French girls had already gone to sleep in the next room, and the world had a freshness about it, she wore these tiny bright-orange shorts. The situation was that she had a crush on me, but I had a crush on her roommate, and it was one of those profoundly silly situations in which the girl was wickedly intelligent and exciting, and her roommate spent most of her time prattling on about how evil those Jews sure are!–but it was the roommate I wanted to hook up with, so much of my time was spent trying to figure out some system of sexual transmigration, you know, get the “crush” to move from the girl to her roommate. 

The final story begins with Elisa going into a lengthy description of how women generally lack substance completely. Part of this description includes just the sort of phrase that strikes hope in my little heart, hope that the remaining 91 stories may be a little less tame.

Noble damsels, like as in the lucid nights the stars are the ornament of the sky and as in Spring-time the flowers of the green meadows even so are commendable manners and pleasing discourse adorned by witty sallies, which latter, for that they are brief, are yet more beseeming to women than to men…

This introduction leads me to believe that Boccaccio’s giving her, and the other ladies, permission to tell less moralistic stories. So far I’ve been correct in my predictions over when he’s granting permission to his narrators, but what gives me pause on this one is that it’s the final story of Day 1, which means Elisa loses her queenship at the end of this story and someone else sets the rules the following day.

Anyway, as the story goes, an old man has a crush on a young woman. She and her friends think this is funny, so they invite him to hang out so they can make fun of him and ask him point-blank how he could possibly think that he could win her heart when there’s so many young hotties who are also in love with her. His answers fascinate me. The first one, in particular, I find quite beautiful:

…albeit old men are by operation of nature bereft of the vigour that behoveth unto amorous exercises, yet not for all that are they bereft of the will nor of the wit to apprehend that which is worthy to be loved; nay this latter is naturally the better valued of them, inasmuch as they have more knowledge and experience than the young.

This strikes me in a few ways. The first is that I suppose I’ve always hoped that when I get older I just lose all interest in sex, much in the same way that I look back on the things I enjoyed as a child and find them dull and idiotic wastes. Even at this point I find romance a dull and idiotic waste, but, just as I take painkillers when my head aches, I cannot decline the intoxications of romance, so I swallow both with great unhappiness and hope. One summer I bought a book of love letters, and my grandfather looked at the cover and said “I’m too old for love letters.” I felt ashamed. But I also felt it reflected on his age. The statement in Boccaccio, of course, comes from the imagination of a young man, and I won’t deny that part of me prefers it to what may be reality.

Second, however, Boccaccio dives into one of those eternal questions: why do women prefer douchebags? He presents it by comparing it to how these women eat a certain vegetable, whose base is delicious, but whose leaves on top taste disgusting,

but you ladies, moved by a perverse appetite, commonly hold [the tasty part] in your hand and munch the leaves, which are not only naught, but of an ill savour. How know I, madam, but you do the like in the election of your lovers? In which case, I should be the one chosen of you and the others would be turned away.

In other words, “you stupid fucks don’t even know which part of the plant you’re supposed to hold and which part you’re supposed to eat–which is probably why you choose douchebags for lovers, in which case…you’ll come around to me when you want something good.” The women are stunned, and embarrassed to find he’s right. The end.

And so, the crown moves to Filomena’s head and she declares that the next day’s stories will be on such and such subject, and Dioneo asks permission to not have to stick to the subject but get to tell any story that he pleases. She agrees. So, at least I can expect that story 20 will be fun.

Tonight I’m disappointed by everyone, including Boccaccio.

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