A loaf of bread, a glass of wine and…oops!

It was a tiny, perfect moment in time and place. Late spring twilight, a shady bistro in a back street of Montparnasse. He was young, robust and handsome; she was shy and gorgeous, with eyes you could bellyflop in and the awkward grace of a gambolling filly. The Beaujolais was emboldening, the gypsy violinist was a healthy three tables away. The waiter was wise enough to leave the couple in peace. The young man touched the back of her hand and murmured, “You are beautiful. Like a May fly.”

Well, sure — he was Ernest Hemingway. He could carry off a line like that. If I ever tried it, I’d be met with a gasp and a hiss: “Look like an insect, do I? You creep!” I’d be wearing the Beaujolais bottle. I’ve never had much luck in the honey-tongued murmuration-of-sweet-nothings department. Love — or the intimation of it — ties my tongue in a clove hitch and turns my brain to gumbo. I still remember the first time a girl looked in my eyes and whispered, “I love you.”

“Oh. Thanks,” I said.

It got worse. When I finally met the Love of My Life, I was smitten by — well, all of her, actually — her wit, her grace. I fell for the way she walked across a room and the way she examined a head of lettuce so intently. I loved her smile, her laugh; I loved the way she tucked in her chin when she did the Hully Gully.

But mostly I loved her nose.I am a Nose Man, and I like them strong and forthright. Not for me the perky turned-up pugs so beloved of Hollywood nymphettes and rhinoplastic surgeons. Hers was magnificent — fearless and prow-like. It bespoke a flourish of trumpets and the presence of a fierce Roman goddess.

It was twilight in another restaurant in another place — Thunder Bay, Ontario. There were no gypsy violins, but the wine — a Niagara Cabernet — was emboldening enough. I took her hands in mine across the table. “Your nose is beautiful,” I murmured. “Like a tomahawk.”

“Hey!” I yelled at her receding back, “I love tomahawks!”

Ah, well. Simone de Beauvoir, a very wise lady — with, come to think of it, a fairly imposing rostrum of her own — once said: “The word ‘love’ has by no means the same sense for both sexes, and this is one of the serious misunderstandings that divide them.”

True. But somehow we work it out. Just as we figure out what to do with our noses when we kiss. Inuit, the stereotype goes, rub noses. The rest of us, when going full frontal, veer to port or starboard by some unspoken mutual consent. We manage somehow. Even with Roman noses. In life and in love, compromise is everything.

As a certain Mister Youngman once said: “The secret of our successful marriage is that we take time to go out to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, wine, music, dancing …

“She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.” Hmm. Wonder if I can sweet-talk Old Hatchetbeak into going out for a bite to eat — a little candlelight, wine …

Arthur Black is the author of 11 books of humour and three-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.