While conversing with my friend-girl recently, I discovered she was in a fix, a bind, a predicament. "How do I solve a problem like Maria's?" I wondered to myself, and began humming "The Lonely Goatherd."
"Please stop," she begged. "I don't much care for the sound of your music." Then she proceeded to pour out her heart.
It seems Maria is having some serious guy trouble. It's an age-old story, really. She wants to be a selfless and sensitive partner, attentive to his every need, and forging an unbreakable bond of love that will transcend time and space to create a little slice of heaven right here on earth. He wants to be a selfish, tyrannical brute.
Sadly, I wasn't able to help her, and I felt bad about that. No invaluable advice to offer. No nuggets of wisdom. 3 But from that serendipitous conversation, an all-consuming dream began to take root in my mind-a vision of a nationwide network of facilities created solely to facilitate healthy romantic relationships for people like Maria. In this brave new world, long-term care would meet Dr. Phil in a place I call (brace yourselves for a lightning bolt of pure genius) Assisted Loving.
Go ahead. Mock if you must. But it's time you realize I'm far more than just a pretty face and a bimonthly string of humiliating personal anecdotes. Under this desolate scalp hides a keen business mind, and I smell a surefire opportunity. The time is now. This is the tipping point. If you want to survive and thrive by leading the field to the cutting edge of the state of the art, stick with me, baby.
I hate to sound overly brash, but my business plan is foolproof. No matter how you whip, crunch, or puree the numbers, a demographic tidal wave of frustrated romantics is approaching. From sea to shining sea, millions of husbands, wives, and partners of all shapes, sizes, and legal descriptions will soon be unable to perform many Activities of Daily Loving (ADLs), and will require high levels of trained emotional assistance. And when they do, my friends, the Assisted Loving Centers of America (ALCA) will be there for them.
Just sitting here talking about it, I feel the dream coming alive. Sun-drenched campuses decorated in seductive pastels and festooned with the works of Gustav Klimt4 on poster board. The voice of Mr. Burt Bacharach crooning "What the world needs now is love, sweet love" from every overhead speaker. Certified Nurturing Assistants in Cupid costumes gliding through the hallways. The collected writings of Dr. James C. Dobson5 on every library shelf. It's a stirring, inspirational, tear-inducing image-but it doesn't stop there.
In response to the clear market preference for one-stop shopping and doing everything "in place," ALCA promises to provide a complete continuum of relationship care. Although I believe my Assisted Loving program can, in almost every case, heal and transform the most corroded of human connections, I also recognize that in an evil world, a little rain must fall. That's why, on every campus, patients facing the certainty of total relationship destruction will find an Assisted Leaving Center6 right next door.
Facilitating their escape and minimizing the fallout will be the task of our Assisted Losing program, designed to help patients cope with the court-mandated loss of their children, pets, and half their wine and record collections. And, as a final step on the pathway to healing, they'll learn to forget the pain of humiliating personal failure and their own insurmountable inadequacies through a rigorous program of guided gluttony-a landmark innovation I call The Eating Alternative.
Unfortunately, with bloodthirsty competitors circling like vultures and an IPO on the horizon, I can say no more about this groundbreaking endeavor. Like any paradigm-shattering venture, I know there are certain to be challenges, but I expect to be immune from most of those faced by traditional providers. I'm not concerned, for instance, about a caregiver shortage, because I've never met anyone who doesn't think they're an expert and isn't eager to share. And although litigation is out of control and tort reform is moving slowly, I'm excited about how my Retort Reform program will help lower the voices and raise the level of discourse between warring romantic partners.
The government will eventually try to get involved. I'm realistic about that and I am prepared for the inevitable implementation of a survey process diabolically designed to mirror many modern marriages-in other words, punitive and noncollaborative. While I'm pursuing my selfless crusade, they'll be itching to cite me for inadequate emotional wound care, poor falling in love prevention, incomplete documentation of Activities of Daily Loving, or the improper use of physical or chemical spousal restraints.
I'm not afraid. I'm a visionary, not a coward. And if that's what it takes to heal a hurting nation, it's a price I'm willing-even called upon-to pay. The Assisted Loving Centers of America stand poised to offer a better world, where love is truly all you need. That, and about $7,200 a month, plus a pet deposit.7