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Friendships Easier Than Relationships

Cheryl Lavin Chicago Tribune

What could be more romantic than a trip to picturesque Carmel, Calif., and a one-of-a-kind memento to cherish forever? How about a kick in the pants? A chop across the jugular? A poke in the eye?

Jenny and Mark had been dating for six months when they decided to vacation together in the Monterey Peninsula. Jenny is an art lover, so she took Mark to her favorite gallery.

“We walked in, and there on the wall hung the most beautiful painting of a woman sitting by a dressing table.

We wanted to buy it, but it was already sold.”

What made the painting even more special was that the woman, seen from the back, had the same build as Jenny. Except for the hair, it could have been her. Jenny and Mark called the gallery owner the next day and asked him to contact the artist and see if he could paint another picture, exactly like “Woman by the Window.” The artist said he would be happy to do something similar, but he couldn’t paint two pictures exactly alike.

Jenny had a great idea. Why not personalize the painting? They would send the artist pictures of Jenny’s cat, Mark’s oriental rug, a vase they had purchased together, and Jenny’s hair. Now it would truly be theirs. Jenny paid for the painting.

Six months later, they went back to Carmel to see “Jenny by the Window.”

“It was beautiful. It captured my heart,” says Jenny.

They picked out a frame - Mark paid for it - and arranged to have it shipped home, to Mark’s home. His place was nicer than Jenny’s and it would just be a short while till they were living together. They were so excited when the picture came, they had an unveiling party to show it to their friends.

Well, you know how these things sometimes happen. A few years later, Jenny and Mark broke up. They were very civilized about the whole thing. They had purchased many beautiful things together and they divided them up in a way that seemed fair to both. Everything went smoothly, until they got to the painting. They both wanted it. Unfortunately, two weeks after the break up, Jenny lost her job, so she had plenty on her mind.

“I lacked the motivation to argue over the painting. Mark bought it from me at a greatly reduced price, spreading the payments over five months. I told him to call me if he ever wanted to sell it and I would purchase it. I thought I could always contact the gallery and have a similar painting done. I later learned this would not be possible since the artist had had a stroke.”

A couple of years later, Jenny was back in Carmel and went to visit her favorite gallery. And what was on the wall? “Jenny by the Window!”

Mark had returned the painting to the gallery and asked the owner to sell it for him on consignment. Jenny figured Mark didn’t want her to have the painting or he would have called her and asked her to buy it from him. It would have been simpler, and he wouldn’t have to give the gallery a percentage of the sale.

No matter what Mark wanted, Jenny wanted the painting and she decided to purchase it under a pseudonym. She had the gallery negotiate the price down and spread the payments over five months. After everything was in place, she told the gallery to tell Mark that the painting had been sold to Mrs. White of the Cayman Islands. Why that name and that address? Long story, but, in short, it refers to a private joke between Jenny and Mark. Mark would immediately know who had purchased “Jenny.”

Jenny had a party, another unveiling, to show off her new old painting. Many of the same people who had attended the first party were there. Friendships are easier to maintain than relationships.

“Now, “says Jenny,” if I could just find out what Mark did with my sapphire and diamond engagement ring!”

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