Blake Shelton almost wasn’t a TV boyfriend.
But before I get to the sad part, we need to backtrack to the beginning because things started out pretty great. I first saw Blake sitting in that hilarious rotating chair on The Voice, and I liked how he wouldn’t turn around even if people really, really wanted him to turn around. The other judges would be staring over at him because a contestant was singing one of his songs, or one of his wife’s songs, and a joke would just dance in his eyes as he hunched over in concentration, chin on his interlocked hands. And then, if he did decide to turn around for somebody, he would cast a mischievous, wry gaze upon that singer and begin his wooing with a lazy smile, behaving as if he were at a backyard barbecue instead of the batshit Orwellian set of a network singing competition. He was the earthy balance to those totally insane silver hand statues, leaden gods that had punched through the floor to deliver, inexplicably, a microphone and a peace sign. There was a certain old-timeyness to his features and expressions, like I wouldn’t think twice if a sepia photo of him standing with a cannon popped up during Ken Burns’ Civil War. Most of all, there was his rolling Oklahoman accent, which rose above the flashy stage like homemade buttermilk biscuits.
I’ve always had a fascination with the idea of the South because it’s a very exotic place (if you’re Jewish and from Orange County). It’s kind of my Tahiti. When Brent informed me that he was Arkansan on our first date, all of a sudden he was like this merman that I wanted to put in a giant fish tank and monitor with the help of Eugene Levy. Back in fifth grade I decided I had a crush on this kid at my Hebrew school named Andy just because he had blond hair and freckles and was the only classmate I could envision as a farmhand. In high school I secretly listened to Garth Brooks‘ “Standing Outside The Fire” while being ostensibly goth. Just a couple years back (that phrasing sounds kind of countryish, huh?) I purchased a bright blue pick-up truck, telling my mom, who disapproved, that maybe someday I would have to transport bales of hay. Who knew what the future held? Situations come up!
Definitely, there are some negative associations you can make with that part of the country. Like I find Arkansas really beautiful and welcoming, but I don’t deny that it has its blemishes. On a day drive to Eureka Springs last summer, Brent pointed off to the right of the mountain highway and said, “That town down there’s the one featured in that Neo-Nazi special we saw on TV,” and so I requested that we not stop for coffee or anything. And then there’s also a certain enthusiasm for guns and hunting, which brings me right back around to Blake Shelton. For hunting was the obstacle that brought my love crumbling down, crumbling down like an apple cobbler left out on the porch in the sun (I don’t know) after I read in an interview that he couldn’t wait to go and shoot up some deer for his wedding to Miranda Lambert. Right then, I was done with him.
You know who asked me to reconsider? Brent. Not because he can stomach hunting, but because, according to him, our world has become so inhospitable to wild animals that the deer population would starve if the hunters didn’t come out during the season. I still don’t like it. But I’m willing to consider that Blake may have a more complicated relationship with hunting than I previously realized, and I also feel like the deer have gotten the tiniest bit of revenge via the intensely lame tattoo they inspired. His forearm has a trail of deer tracks that looks like a parade of ladybugs, and it’s been made even worse by the barbed wire he added to make it seem manlier— now it just seems like he’s a Pam Anderson wannabe with a parade of ladybugs. So it is with a very cautious eye that I induct Blake into the TV Boyfriend Of The Week club, truly hoping he’s as merciful with a gun as he’s been with the ever fragile, doe-eyed Xenia.