The AFTERWORD for a client project that published in February 2018.
When Jack (the author) and I were talking about that book—his second and the complement to his debut title published last year—I thought it was the perfect sequel. And as we developed his first draft, the subject of conversation turned slightly to a title (I had come up with WISHBOOK as the title for his first book).
It just happened that at that time, going into Fall 2017, I had received an invitation to an event. It requested an RSVP and indicated I could bring someone with me. It had a little—more decoratively done than what I’ll put here—checkbox next to my name: □ +1
Plus one. Of course, I’d seen that many times and knew what it meant. I had laid the invitation on my desk on top of my notes from the discussion with Jack. As I looked at the two—the juxtaposition of a 3 x 5 piece of elegantly scripted cardstock and a sheet of paper with my scribbles, block printing and indecipherable (as to its meaning) doodle in the top right-hand corner—it struck me what most men really want.
A companion. A +1.
Not just for sex, though it—physical attraction—can be a compelling reason and might be (often is) what brings two people together at first. But a lifetime is more than just sex, if we are granted a long one, it is a journey of highs and lows, ups and down… of travail, sometimes tragedies… and triumphs. A broad spectrum of what tests us a human. How terrible it is—would be, in my experience—to go through all of it alone. It makes me think of one of my favorite songs, Nat King Cole’s ‘Nature Boy.’ Because in it I see me and how I feel. It’s a beautiful song and has one of the best lines in any song, ever:
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.”
So, I thought ‘Plus One’ might be a good working title for Jack’s new book and ran it by him for consideration, though I thought a better title was ‘out there.’ And Jack’s lovely bride, Ariane, came up with something perfect (you’ll see it further below). Though this book is for women, just as Jack did with WISHBOOK (which is for men), it needed a title relevant to the opposite sex. Many (most) men grow up sports-oriented, and their life is rife with playing them, talking about them, watching them… and it all rolls into that much they experience is colored by sports allegory, metaphors, and philosophy. Sports are full of measurables, statistics, and metrics. And so is life as it should be. Peter Drucker, the famous/iconic business management guru, is attributed with variations of this statement: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” So, Ariane’s brilliant title fits perfectly in making it match with how most men see things: the scorecard of their life. Are things getting better… or worse? Are they winning… or losing?
And that leads me to something else that happened, that puts in context all that Jack has written in this book and in WISHBOOK, his first. What we (women and men) really want from—and in—our relationships. I think it is the ultimate definition of ‘winning’ when it comes to relationships.
Bear with me as I tell you a little personal story:
Twilight Zone marathons date back to 1980 on regional TV and the past few years—celebrating New Year’s Day—has resided with Syfy (a cable and satellite channel owned by NBCUniversal). Being a big fan of it (and Rod Serling), it’s usually on in my house when it airs (even though it’s also available on demand—without commercials—at Netflix). So, over the years, my daughters have become fans, too.
One episode that my two youngest daughters caught on New Year’s Day was, ‘The Trade-Ins.’ Afterward, it came up in discussion when I noticed that my daughter Alpha had tears in her eyes. So, I asked her, “What’s wrong?”
“That…” she gestured at the television.
“Why are you crying about it?”
“Because the old man was willing to live with pain if he could be with his wife.” She looked at me and asked. “Do you like it, that episode?”
“It’s one of my favorites.” But I knew it hadn’t always been. As I’ve gotten older, it became increasingly so, and I wanted Amelia to know that. “But I didn’t really understand and relate to it until I was much older than when I first saw it.”
Alpha is the Queen of All Questioners but not complicated. She asks simply… why (as I had just done to her). And that’s often the hardest question to answer. It requires that you pin down your reasons. She slid back in the chair, so I knew she wanted to talk about it.
I said, “Well, the story’s about something that is true. Love—real love—has nothing to do with the outside and everything to do with the inside.”
“What do you mean?”
I sat back too. “It’s not the person outside that counts… it’s the person inside that you fall in love with. And it’s that person, who they are and who they become over the years that you stay in or fall out of love with. It’s a two-way thing. Because it’s not just them. It’s about you, too… who you were, who you are, who you become… inside. Not what you look like then, now or tomorrow. We all age. We all are not as young, handsome or beautiful as we once were. That doesn’t matter. It’s what’s inside us.” I leaned toward her. “You asked why I like this?”
“It’s because they loved each other for who they were inside and given a chance for only one of them to change their outside would have jeopardized that. Their love, what they had together, was stronger—more important—than the lure of youth and beauty.”
Amelia smiled, got up and gave me a neck hug then headed to the kitchen. A few minutes later I heard her talking to her twin sister, Beta about it. Smiling, I listened to them, and the song ‘12th of Never‘ sung by Johnny Mathis came to mind… hauntingly beautiful: ‘You ask how long I’ll love you, I’ll tell you true. Until the Twelfth of Never, I’ll still be loving you…’
* * *
Quite simply the happiest people I know have what the two characters in ‘The Trade-ins’ have. What Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis sing about the importance of, in the two songs I mentioned above: Real love without expiration. But you have to work for it… you have to work at it. Listen to what Jack says in his two books, he knows what he’s talking about. Put it into action. Trust me. The effort is worth the reward.
The cover and link to Jack’s new book follow below.
-Dennis Lowery, January 2018
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