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Frank Capra isn't directing this life

December 06, 2007|Andy Cowan | Special to The Times

Dating can be stressful enough when it isn't holiday time. But December brings another potential layer of angst: the doomed-to-failure pursuit of the perfection seared into our memories of holiday gatherings with loved ones. The rub is that many of these memories are phony, based on holiday movies of phony gatherings with loved ones. It's a safe bet the actors who made them were thinking, "My real-life holidays were never like this! Oh, well, time to 'act' like they were."

For the daters among us who don't celebrate Christmas, this time of year presents a whole other challenge. With few, if any, warm, perfectly phony Hollywood memories of Hanukkah from which to draw, we're left with the scatological sight gags in Adam Sandler's "Eight Crazy Nights." Not exactly a recipe for feeling all warm and cozy inside.

Those who celebrate Christmas enjoy something else we don't -- a sanctioned excuse for hitting on the opposite sex: mistletoe. The only thing we make a point of standing under on Christmas is the sign to a Chinese restaurant. I needn't read the fortune in my cookie to know an unprovoked kiss isn't in my tea leaves.

The bottom line is this: I need to make Hanukkah resonate as much with me as Christmas ultimately did with George Bailey in the granddaddy of all Christmas movies, "It's a Wonderful Life." It's time to reinforce the importance of family and friends, and think about where I'd be without them, and where they'd be without me.

What if I had never been born?

Let's see. As a kid, George saved his brother's life in a sledding accident. I never saved anybody's life, though I prevented my sister from seeing "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" once. That's about two hours of her life. Whatever she wound up doing instead had to be more productive than watching a never-ending string of Windex jokes.

I've never been married, so I haven't exactly changed the life of a woman the way George/Jimmy Stewart changed the life of Mary/Donna Reed. If I'd never existed, I doubt if my longest "main squeeze" would be traipsing around in her spinster outfit, having given up on the prospects of love. She wound up marrying somebody else. Without me in the picture, she still would have married somebody else. But she wouldn't have priceless memories of all those nights we watched "Seinfeld" together. She'd have memories of the nights she watched "Seinfeld" with some other guy.

By standing up to Mr. Potter, George helped shelter and feed an entire community. As a kid, I stood up to my parents, who didn't think I was responsible enough for a turtle. And I wound up sheltering and feeding an entire turtle . . . until it died a few weeks later, that is. Had I never been born, who knows, somebody else could have been around to forget to feed it even earlier.

One's life does have meaning, and reconnecting with this lesson is what the holidays -- no matter which you celebrate -- are all about. I miss my turtle. I miss "Seinfeld."

I feel like running back home and gathering around the Hanukkah bush, as my niece and nephew hug me (I don't have my own kids) and this girl I just met off the Web (I don't have a wife) stands by my side, as lifelong friends stop by (if they feel like braving the airport for the 3,000-mile trip) and chant holiday songs (how many times can you sing, "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel"?). And I imagine that uplifting moment when a deserving angel earns his wings . . . namely me, as I fly this coop for a little peace and quiet.

The End.

Writer, producer and performer Andy Cowan can be reached through his website,

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