Though the acclaimed (and now lambasted) filmmaker, actor, and comedian has shaped my view of romantic relationships probably more than any other creative person, the title of this piece is admittedly an exaggeration. I should also be clear that anyone reading that headline hoping for another attack on Mr. Allen will be sorely disappointed, although your concerns will certainly be addressed.
It all began with a framed portrait of Woody, given to me in my teenage years by my sisters. The picture of Allen in his youth, staring out from his trademark black-rimmed glasses, has followed me from residence to residence and currently hangs on the wall of my bathroom in Brookhaven, Mississippi. I placed it there as a sort of joke, finding it slightly amusing to think of the comedian watching me on the toilet every day. And that’s where the trouble began.
Like many of my generation, most of my romantic life has been based around various dating apps. One night in Mississippi, I was on a first date with a short-haired, cute teacher I’d connected with on one of those digital matchmakers. After a tasty dinner at a favorite Japanese place, she seemed to be having a good time and I was too so I suggested, “If you feel comfortable, do you want to come back to my house?” She gladly agreed and soon we found ourselves on my couch where I kept a respectful distance until I received signs to do otherwise. At some point in our continued conversation, she excused herself to use the bathroom. She returned and announced that she should head home soon. “But you’re not going to let me leave without a kiss, are you?” She remarked with a playful smile. I was surprised by the question and a little put off by the way she’d worded it. Of course, I kissed her. She went on her way.
An hour later, I received a late night text from her. Regrettably, I didn’t save the message but I will do my best to paraphrase: “Hi Travis. I had a great time tonight. However, I noticed the picture of Woody Allen in your bathroom and have to say as a teacher of high school students, I don’t know if I can date someone who supports pedophiles.” The text disturbed me. I took a moment to calm myself and stupidly indulged her with a response, explaining that I had done plenty of research on the matter, listened and read both sides of the issue, and felt confident that Wood Allen was innocent of such charges.
Side note: if you have an opinion on the Allen controversy but have not read up on the investigation, his exoneration, and especially the testimony of Mia Farrow’s adopted son Moses, I highly recommend you do so before making a conclusion.
I was foolish to think we might have an intellectual discourse on the subject. She never texted back. And it was only much later, lying restless in bed, that it occured to me she had asked for the kiss only after she saw the portrait. If she actually regarded him as a pedophile, why would she still want to kiss me moments later? Perhaps it took her a while to process what she’d seen but you’d still think she would politely excuse herself without this final flirtatious suggestion? Or maybe it wasn’t a good enough kiss… I’ll never know but I wish I could say that’s the last time Woody Allen came between me and a woman.
It was another first date. The setting of this one was my favorite Mexican restaurant in Arizona (note to self: I need to stop taking potentially disastrous first dates to my favorite spots). We ordered drinks and food. We laughed at each other’s jokes. Everything seemed to be going just fine until about halfway through my burrito. Instead of another bite, I put my foot in my mouth and brought up “cancel culture”. She pressed for more details on my opinions. I should have kept my trap shut since her whole body language had become defensive. “Well, like Woody Allen for instance, the authorities proved years ago that he never molested the girl but with all this #metoo stuff, he’s been accused all over again and everyone assumes he’s guilty because of the crazy culture we live in.” The floodgates opened. She turned red. She said a lot of things. The part I remember most, and will never forget, is one fiery statement: “Men have been hurting women long enough so now it’s our turn to hurt men.” We quickly fell into silence and agreed to get the check as soon as possible. A couple uncomfortable minutes later, she went to the restroom. She never came back. I sat there like an idiot until the server finally took pity on me, wondering why I was still occupying his table. “She left, mister.” I pulled out my credit card and he stopped. “She paid the bill.” I walked out and swore I’d avoid such an altercation from then on.
So now, when I match with a woman on the various dating apps or happen to meet someone in the “real world”, I make a point to bring up Woody Allen in some way or another before we meet. If weather is mentioned in early small talk, I turn the conversation to “walking in the rain” like the characters from Allen’s 2011 hit Midnight in Paris. If the woman has sisters, I ask if she’s ever seen Woody’s delightful family film Hannah and Her Sisters. I take any and all opportunities to quote the classic jokes from Annie Hall and if all else fails I simply direct the conversation to movies and name him as one of my favorite filmmakers. If Russian literature ever comes up (you never know), I’ll be ready to cite Love and Death as a great satire of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
If she balks at the mention of his name, the conversation is over. If she asks questions, I carefully answer. If she’s never heard his name, I breathe a sigh of relief and make a mental note that she doesn’t know much about movies. If she responds with enthusiasm, I’m practically ready to put a ring on her finger. But there is not a woman I have dated since those two incidents who didn’t have to pass the Woody Allen test.