How Tom Hanks Fucked Me and Why I Want to Punch Him in the Ball Sack

I wrote this for a book I was working on right after my divorce. I’ve since shelved the book, for a while at least, but pulled this out because it feels right to share it now. Enjoy.

Right about now, I’d like to punch Tom Hanks in the ball sack. What could our favorite bosom buddy possibly have done to deserve such genital violence, you ask? Well, besides taking creepiness 3D with a turn in Polar Express, he made me believe in the idea of finding my one true love. If you ask me, I think he’s getting off easy.

As a young adult coming of age in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, I was heavily influenced by the movies of the time. Footloose? Heck yeah, Ren. You show those small-minded folks how it is. Go ahead and have your dance–and take the slutty PK too! And speaking of dance—oh, how I wished for a Dirty Dancing summer vacation spot where my own Johnny Castle could snap my spaghetti arms into proper form and use his pelvis to move my hips across the dance floor. Challenging authority, family struggles, summer flings—these are critical components to the teenage years. But when I thought about my future, after Ren was on his way to connecting everyone within six degrees and Johnny was tearing up dive bars and being channeled from the dead through Whoopi, it was Sleepless in Seattle that left a lasting imprint on my view of love and romance.

Sleepless in Seattle. Huge box office hit, chick-flick extraordinaire, the movie gave hope to millions of women, young and old alike, that there was someone out there, perhaps someone they’ve never met, who matched their soul perfectly. A bona fide soul mate.

The story centers around Annie (Meg Ryan) and Sam (Tom Hanks), who, through a series of cosmic signs, the audience is led to believe are soul mates, even though they don’t know each other from Adam. No. There is no Adam. It’s an expression; one that my dad used frequently as I was growing up, making me wonder to this day who the hell is this dude Adam—the one no one knows but everybody knows. He’s like the square root of -1, or i. An imaginary person that is thrown out there but has no relevance beyond a simple reference point. So in algebraic terms, (Sam + Annie)/i (where i is Adam) = Soul Mates. Wait. If you don’t understand this without the confusing addition of my algebra, we have bigger problems. First of all, who ARE you??? Second of all, go rent the damn thing. Seriously. It’s Sleepless. In. Seattle.

The point being, Sam Baldwin, aka Tom Hanks, screwed me for life with his cute kite-flying, Brooks Robinson loving, “it was magic” professing ways. He and Annie proved it: everyone’s got a soul mate, so from the age of 16 onward, I was on the lookout for mine.

It’s hard not to think about the concept of a soul mate with absolute bitterness when you’re fresh off a divorce. After all, didn’t the same guy who so many years ago knelt on one knee at the site of our first date and waxed poetic about trying to find a ring that sparkled as much as my soul tell me a few short months ago that we were never really compatible? Indeed, when that ring comes off, there’s a certain amount of cynicism that creeps in about this idea of a soul mate—enough that makes me want to call bullshit on the whole thing.

But as I said, at one time I did believe in a true soul mate with absolute certainty. First, as a 16 year old awash in hormones for Donnie Wahlberg, whom I was certain to marry as he shared the same first name as half the men in my family. Then as a 19 year old, when I fell head over heels for the man who was clearly my soul’s counterpart—after all, isn’t destiny the yin to will’s yang? Could there be a bigger sign?

Isn’t that how you know you’ve found your soul mate anyway? The signs? Oh, did I have them! Our very first meeting had the markings of providence all over it, as we spotted each other in the crowd and had our “love-at-first-sight” movie magic moment, complete with slow motion and pixie dust. And later, just as Annie peeled the apple with one fluid motion as Sam reflected on his late wife’s talent for the same, I saw the hands of fate bringing my ex and I together when on one of our first dates we both ordered the same Subway sandwich—tuna fish with olives—and the sandwich artist marked the wrappers, “His” and “Hers.”

So convinced was I that our union was a match of two souls finding each other in the vast playground of human interaction that I inscribed the biblical quote, “I have found the one whom my soul loves…” on my wedding invitation. There was no question in my mind as we said “I do”: the two of us were meant to be.

So how do I reconcile the fact that, clearly, we weren’t? In hindsight, I see the signs screaming “perfect match” through the lenses of realism instead of lovestruck adolescence. After all, technically it was love at second sight, as we had met briefly two months prior, an event that had no hint of flirtation but was crucial to the playing out of our cinematic “across the crowded room” scene. And if I’m honest, our sandwiches weren’t exactly the same—his had banana peppers with a dash of salt and pepper, none of which I’d be caught dead adding to mine.

So what about these so-called signs? Dismissing them completely negates my gut feelings, and if I don’t trust my gut then what does that leave? I’d end up wrapping my legs around that pendulum and riding it like a bronco in the completely opposite direction. Sure as shit, I’d fall for someone so completely wrong that not only would the warning signs be flashing, but the bells and alarms would be going off too. All of which I’d steadfastly ignore because (a) I can’t hear warning bells when I’m hooting and hollering and holding on for dear life, and (b) I don’t believe in signs anymore, anyway.

The truth remains, a bronco’s gonna buck. It might be fun to hop on for giggles, but the ride only lasts 8 seconds for a reason. And there’s a whole mess to clean up for 8 seconds of fun; after all, the rodeo clowns only have smiles because they’re painted on. No…ignoring my gut isn’t the way to go either.

Again, I am left with the question of soul mates and signs. How do I give them credence when my own reality has proven to be a far cry from Annie and Sam’s blissful reunion at the top of the Empire State Building. More importantly, how do I raise my daughters to have a heart for romance but also to keep a realistic eye open in a world that bombards them with images of handsome princes swooping princesses onto their stallions and riding off to faraway lands?

It’s one thing to offer a child some perspective on the realities of love and partnership when both parents are in the house. “See, honey, what they don’t show you is how five years from now, the handsome prince rolls his eyes every single time Snow White asks him to help gather the dwarfs’ toys. And don’t you know, that just makes Snow White want to bake him one of the witch’s “special” apple pies! But then…sometimes The Prince will keep those little dwarfs from waking up Snow White in the morning so she can sleep a little longer, and he might even bring her a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll when she wakes up, and, well, that just makes Snow White want to give The Prince an extra special treat at nap time…”

But how does the conversation go when they are experiencing the trauma of divorce? “Well, sweetie, even though what Snow White and The Prince have seems like true love now, one day they are going to be so tired from working and playing with the dwarfs, that they’ll look at each other and not even want to kiss like they do in the movie. And you know, that’s exactly when the old, evil Queen will put on lots of makeup and pretend to be a beautiful princess. And don’t you know, that silly prince will end up falling for that mean old lady’s trap. Boy, isn’t he gonna be in for a surprise when she takes off her makeup?!  And aren’t those dwarfs lucky that Snow White loves them so???” That’s hardly appropriate, even if it is subliminally hilarious in my twisted mind.

I don’t know…I don’t really want to feed what feels like a myth and let them buy into the hype in the hopes that it might actually work out for them. Nor do I want to completely dismiss the dream of them finding a soul mate by telling them the whole idea is rubbish and that we are simply animals abiding by the laws of nature. That doesn’t feel exactly honest, either.

Perhaps the reason I’m so loathe to cock a leg on the whole soul mate thing is because part of me still wants to believe. I want to believe that there is someone out there who fits me like a puzzle piece, who can finish my sentences, not in exasperation because I’ve told the story a thousand times, but because we’re on the same plane. I want a partner who understands that my fierce independence is not belittling his importance to me, but instead is proof of my confidence in him as an amazing individual in his own right. I want to believe that as strong as I am, there is someone out there who has talents and love to share that will make me stronger, as my own talents and love will do for him. I don’t want to believe this. I do believe this.

Just as completely dismissing my gut feelings and ignoring the signs would only lead to disaster, I think giving up on the idea of a soulmate would have the same devastating consequences, only in that I’d be settling for a Walter when in my mind only a Sam will do.

I suppose just as in everything else, temperance and balance are in order. There’s a sense of peace in that perspective, and it’s one that is equally applicable to my girls. Maybe instead of searching so hard for that one specific puzzle piece, you focus and work on other parts of the puzzle. Get the edges together first and then work on the middle. And even if it’s the last piece to fit, in the end it’ll snap right in where it belonged all along.

Okay, okay. Even after all of my hurt, I really do believe in a soul mate…but I’m still pissed at Tom. On principle.

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7 thoughts on “How Tom Hanks Fucked Me and Why I Want to Punch Him in the Ball Sack

  1. Patricia Doane says:

    Great to hear from you after such a long drought. Hope all’s well with you & the kids. I’m in regular touch with Valerie so I know a little of what’s happening in your lives. I’d love to hear you. Take care!

    • If only you would get on Facebook, you’d know all about my life! I’m a veritable open book there! 🙂 Glad to see you in touch too. I’ll try and be better about blogging…

      • Patricia Doane says:

        I have an old person’s revulsion towards having all my personal data open to any & everyone, so, sorry, don’t look for me to ever be on Facebook. As I’m sure you’re aware, there’s enough “Big Brotherism” out there for me to be very uncomfortable with Facebook.

  2. Anonymous says:

    My mother and I agree on two things and two things only: Walter Mondale would have been a great president and there is no such thing as “true love.” My Mom always told me, while I was anxiously watching my 20s disappear without so much as a “significant relationship,” that the man I would marry would be the one I met “when the time is right for both of you.” I met Tom a few months after turning 30 and he was 34. Do I believe he is the *only* one for me? No. But I’m glad it was him. Dave Grohl would’ve worked, too, but Tom is just fine with me.

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