I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
In July 2011, New York was Ryan Gosling’s playpen. He was filmed in Astor Place. He brought on Jimmy Fallon. He visited the . By the end of the month, he would appear in Crazy, Stupid, Love. By the end of the month, he would also meet his now-wife, Eva Mendes.
At the time, I was 26, a snooty, sneering critic — the type who circled errors in Fifty Shades of Gray (p. 428, “sandles”), a habit I’d acquired grading papers at a large Midwestern university. Amid the stacks of others’ errors, uncapping my red pen gave me a jolt of ego, as if my worth could only be seen in contrast. I was a goodie two-shoes, refused cocaine, did not smoke, thought pot made me “hazy.” (I was, quite obviously, staying on the Upper West Side. I was, quite obviously, single.) So I read “Page Six” out of a taste for other’s mistakes. And there on July 19, 2011, I ran across an error so confounding, so improbable that, like an Amish teen on a Rumspringa club visit, I stared, mind-blown.
The item was titled — which was bad enough. (Sharers?) But then, this:
“Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling strolled through the East Village Saturday evening after buying frozen yogurt at 16 Handles on Second Avenue. ‘They were walking together with yogurt in their hand,’ a witness said.”
The plural possessive (“their”) plus the singular noun (“hand”) had me in convulsions. I imagined Siamese twins joined at the pinky who separate to film Hollywood hits and get stitched back together for social outings. I could even picture the Pynchonesque doctor, with David O. Russell directing.
Then there was the “yogurt,” sans container. “Cone or cup?” I could see some frozen yogurt shop employee asking, in the saddest scene Patti Smith ever envisioned for the East Village. “Just the hand,” Emma Stone would reply, dimples flaring. “You see,” she’d say, faux bashful, Ryan at her side. “We share one.”
Even the “yogurt” part felt like a misnomer. We were talking about a frozen squiggle of dairy, as impossible to hold in one’s hand as the sands of time.
I clipped the paper, showed my co-workers. Facebook, that overlord of memory, says that at 3:04 p.m. that day I posted a link to the item, without commentary. My feed shows that not one person “liked” it. (“Sad!”) But for years, I was haunted. Who called the Post with the world’s most banal line? And why hadn’t the paper re-hashed the quote? Neither of the star’s reps returned a call, the item said, and a “source close to Stone” denied any romance. So who called? And what had they actually seen?
I could practically hear a frozen-yogurt shop owner straining to act tough on the phone, a gravelly Mafioso of probiotic desserts. “Make sure you mention 16 Handles … Got it? … Now read it back to me, sweetie … Put ‘Second Avenue.’ I don’t want those losers going to another store. They came to my store! My store!”
Or did they? The ludicrousness of the quote negated all authority. A cynic, I returned to my lair, pleased to see the world unfold just as I’d predicted. That September, Gosling was Eva Mendes. By March, Stone was I uncapped my red ink, sure of what I knew.
Then, last year, I saw La La Land, which stars both Stone and Gosling. Escapist trash, with a dose of white-washed music, I decided, uncapping my red pen. But still, I followed the awards show drivel, as the leads were compared to Fred and Ginger, Hepburn and Tracy. And as with those Hollywood couples, the rumor mill suggested their onscreen love was no act. A “source” that Mendes was jealous, while Stone about facing a restraining order.
As such, I couldn’t stop thinking about the yogurt again, and took a look back. The column set the date of their escapade on July 16. Months before, Gosling was with Olivia Wilde. He Mendes on the set of The Place Beyond the Pines, which started filming. Stone, meanwhile, had (a mindfuck in itself) in April and rumors of her romance with Garfield were even less substantiated than the yogurt … making July 16 a rare window when both were apparently single.
Beneath my red pen, it might have all been true, every word.
As Stone accepted her Oscar, thanking “Ryan” her “greatest partner,” I watched her grip the tiny golden man, thinking of what else she had perhaps once held, and wondering about the frozen yogurt.