Note: There should be a picture of a 1970s-ish couple here, which came with the frame.
Now look at these two.
The idea, I think, that the Carr picture frame company is trying to get across here is that if you buy their frame, you, too, can nonchalantly sling a racket over your shoulder, you, too can hold three tennis balls in the palm of one hand, you, too can fearlessly fold your collar over a zip-down sweatshirt, and goddamit, you can wear wristbands if you want to, too.
When you buy a Carr frame you get these people along with it, absolutely free. If you like, you can just leave them in there and hang them on your wall to remind yourself that love does indeed exist in its purest form. In fact, considering that this photo is the model, the portrait against which all portraits will be judged, it’s entirely possible that Carr, ltd. is saying that what we have here, locked in 5 x 7 glossy, is the absolute, ultimate relationship.
The absolute, ultimate relationship may be nice if you happen to be in it. But there can only be one absolute, ultimate relationship in the whole cosmos and face it, it’s pretty likely that even if you are seeing someone, your relationship ain’t it. If you’re looking for Truth in Romance, it all comes back to these two. They are packaged not only as lovers, but as an ideal. This is the picture you see on the mantels of everybody you don’t know, and it is precisely that universality—everybody knows these people, even if no one has actually met them—that makes them absolute and ultimate. They are together and they are smiling and that is all you know about them. They are frozen in the bliss of an eternally perfect relationship.
Carr has to be working in cahoots with The Man on this one. These people are shoved down your throat. You have no choice but to buy them when you buy a frame. Until you unscrew it, take out the metal backplate and that piece of brown cardboard from the middle, you absolutely must look at them, you are forced to deal with these people. You have to. Then you have to ask yourself why you and your significant other never play any tennis, or maybe you think back to the one time when you did and you couldn’t serve and then when you finally hit a good one you got in an argument over whether it was in or out, which eventually became an argument over who’s selfish and what the hell do I want from this relationship, which eventually became a discussion about stopping the car and letting me out right here and never calling me again because I’m changing my number.
Beyond the fact that They Are Love, here’s how you can tell that these two are in an ideal relationship. First of all, check out this guy’s beard. Perfect, neatly trimmed, just like the ladies love it. This guy has hair all over his face yet he’s still sensitive; he has mastery over his manhood. That dynamic of macho control carries over to the wristbands. This guy sweats and he accepts it, but that’s no reason to get his grip all slimy.
Now look at her body language. Notice her racket is touching his heart. It’s the tennis motif that makes this photo stand out, so the racket, the sword of the game, the thing that makes it all happen, ultimately emerges as the ultimate symbol of the active principle of their relationship. By touching his heart with that wand, she’s getting a vibe straight from her man’s very soul. Also notice that she is closed, her arms folded, while he’s spread out and embracing. These are opposite forces that play off each other. Carr Frames knows that when you’re looking for a lover, you’re looking for what you don’t have, whether it’s a huggable, warm personality or an hugging, extroverted character. Also he has wristbands and she doesn’t, which has to factor in there somewhere.
Though he’s undeniably a handsome devil, this guy isn’t afraid to be honest about his body when he’s with his woman. He probably smells pretty bad, what with just having played three sets and all, but he’s not ashamed to put that right arm flush against that barn door, go ahead, put that pit in her face. Because she accepts you, man, she knows you’re trying. You’re a little fat, you have kind of bad teeth, your clothes are kind of cheesy. But that’s OK. (The vivid colors of the original are unfortunately lost in this black-and-white reproduction—his shirt and shorts are white with brown stripes and her jacket is custard yellow with blue piping.)
And then, of course, there’s this whole issue of the three tennis balls in one hand. It’s an assertion, again, of unleashed full-throttle testosterone fury; most wimps can only hold two balls at a time. It’s a cute little prankish gesture toward his lover, kind of like giving her rabbit ears, that shows th thateir relationship has its light side. It’s also really phallic.
In the next few days, you may run into these two when you’re out looking for Valentine knick-knacks. They can be intimidating. But at the same time, perhaps they are a constant, energetic reminder of what a crazy game love is, with its foot-faults and aces, its unforced errors and its triple match points. Then again it’s just as possible that they’re models hired by the frame company, that they’ve never met each other, and the only thing on either of their minds is how to get the other into their hot tub tonight.