Pretend this moment is a hot dog and relish it. If you don’t stop reading this column now, it will be the last moment you relish for a good long while. I’m in Lemony Snicket mode, and there is just no stopping me.

Stop writing those belated thank-you cards from Christmas (thanks for the 50 bucks, Uncle Bill; it went right up my nose) and close your “Intro to Ecology” book (you think Stiles is gross, try living in the nostril of a crocodile).

Now that nothing is distracting you, please take this last delicious moment to contemplate the most catastrophic event of our young lives, that schism to rock the ages, the very upheaval of all we know to be true.

That’s right; I’m talking about the breakup of His and Her Highnesses, the God and Goddess of Blondeness, Mr. and Mrs. Pitt. I don’t care why it happened or what’s going to happen next. That’s their business and the tabloids’, not yours and mine. While I admit to originally indulging in a bit of schadenfreude myself, the events are not hilarious but tragic, if only in the implication the breakup holds for us, the 20-somethings and almost 20-somethings of America — the implication that being hot and enormously talented and/or successful doesn’t mean you get to be happy.

Such a thought goes against everything I’ve come to believe. Sure, hot people have had messy split-ups in the past, but this one was bigger because Brad and Jen seemed relatively normal (aka, not followers of a religion created by L. Ron Hubbard. Ahem, Mr. Cruise).

And it occurs to me, not for the first time, that maybe fairy tales are just bulls@!t.

Maybe falling in love and living happily ever after is not how it’s supposed to be. Maybe everyone cheats or beats up their girlfriends or divorces or gets diabetes or ends up living in Connecticut despite doing everything in her power to escape. Maybe misery is our lot, even if we get plastic surgery and hard bodies and bungalows in the Caymans. And maybe that’s the point of happily-ever-afters: to keep us stupidly hopeful for something better than the crap that actually goes on. Maybe all our cheerful poets and romantic novelists are just propagandists for this cult of true love and the good life.

This year alone, I’ve seen longtime couples break up, other couples get engaged and single people gaze longingly at single people gazing longingly in other directions. Love is like the flu. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if love is, IN FACT, not the result of hormones or pheromones or any other mones, but is actually a virus, a virus that just completely messes you up.

We were so worried about not having enough flu vaccines, but we never thought of making a vaccine against love. It would prevent so much heartbreak.

Still trying to accept life in a world where Brad and Jen no longer yanged for each others’ yins, my heart was once again battered out of the blue. A star had blipped out of existence. An abandoned toilet bowl had exploded with grief. Dave Barry had decided to take a break.

A good friend summed up my feelings about this retirement well. “Extreme ESPN Buttf$#k Party.” No, my friend does not have Tourette’s. But you have to understand. When you’ve come to the end of the free ride and all your shallow Western education seems to have turned into a cesspool of forehead-smacking pointlessness, when you freeze up or head in the other direction every time you see the guy you’re head over heels for, when you’re basing your new life philosophy on the separation of a major Hollywood couple, who — let’s face it — aren’t nearly as gifted as they are famous, when you spend nearly every waking hour listening to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” and wondering what the hell is wrong with you, and then Dave Barry decides to “take a break”?!? Trust me, a thing like that will really take the mustard out of you.

I’m not saying Dave Barry is the funniest thing since Charlie Chaplin stuck two forks in a pair of rolls and danced a little dance with them. But he is THE syndicated humor columnist in the country. He is the only non-illustrated thing worth reading in the Sunday newspaper. He gets paid to make jokes about band names and stupid criminals, and people actually read him. That makes him a god to me, just like Brad and Jen are gods to aspiring (re: out-of-work) actors all over the nation, regardless of the questionable levels of talent. All my life, and far longer than the point at which I knew better, I’ve been banking on the fact that sometimes people laugh when I open my mouth and that I am literate, exactly the sort of bank which will foreclose on me in all likeliness in the not-so-distant future.

With Dave Barry gone, I’ve lost my compass. When my mom asks, “Do you know where you’re going?” I can no longer show her that, yes, in fact, I have this clever little instrument that will show me the way.

Instead, I just shrug my shoulders and explain once again that I was just kidding when I told Uncle Bill that his 50 dollars went up my nose. You’d think the track marks would clear up that misunderstanding.

Ah, the evaporation of a beautiful mind. What with drugs costing more than the unemployment checks I’ll soon be receiving, there isn’t much to be thrilled about. All that’s left to relish in life can be counted on one hand. The object of my affection’s unkempt hair. Animal crackers. The fact that on the day this column is published I will be in Washington, D.C., where it will be FAR warmer than it is here. “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.” (Seriously. I read swarms of books in 2004, and the Lemony Snicket books are simply the best thing to hit children’s literature since some guy thought it would be cool to hide a metaphor for heaven in a wardrobe.)

And this column. I appreciate this column. I hope you do, too. And if you don’t, well, for Pete’s sake, please don’t tell me about it. Unless you’re Dave Barry.


Stevens is a hopeless romantic — with track marks.