Rom Com Reality
Giving up on love. It’s a typical starting point for almost any rom com. This lovable character at the start of the movie is a hopeless romantic/mess/workaholic with whom we can relate. The kind of person you meet and feel instantly connected with. (I mean, who doesn’t love & root for Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshal.) This lovable, hopeless mess has either just given up on love, been crushed by it or has never believed in it. That’s the moment you know in the movie that they’re about to find their soulmate. Their one true love. And while watching the movie, you start to believe that yes, the love of their life exists. It’s them. They’ve met them! …But life isn’t a rom com and the beliefs we hold last longer than 90 minutes.
During high school and early college years, a lot of my friends started to fall in love. I’d see how they’d believe they need a relationship and a significant other to be happy. If they could just find a boyfriend or girlfriend, then they could start having fun, it would fix their problems and would know what it feels like to be truly happy.
I for one have never given into this idea, for better or worse. I’d see them long for another to be happy or be consumingly sad that they were alone. True happiness for me, or maybe just even a basic level of happiness, has to come from inside you. You don’t need another person to be happy. Too often we lose ourselves in relationships and rely on another to be our happiness.
Roses are red, Violets are blue, I Love You
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not cynical about love. Love is a wonderful gift. Especially that romantic love you can find in sharing your life with another person. I’ve been happy alone and happily paired. The feeling of falling in love is indescribable. The feeling of being in love even more so. Having someone you feel comfortable with and trust enough to show even the darkest parts of yourself to and be met with love and care. Some of the most memorable and magical moments in my life are the ones filled with love. It’s like when I take my dog on a walk & he rolls around in something disgusting. (Bear with me here, this is going somewhere) I say “CHUCK NOOOOO!!!” sternly, he knows this isn’t a good thing, I get upset. Then he meets me with something entirely different. He walks up to me with his head down & a look on his face that he never meant to hurt me, he’s so sad that he did something that made me upset. I give him a pat on his head and a bath to get all the gross off. Love is just that. We come to someone with shame, dirt, baggage and we’re met with love and a helpful hand to take care of it. Many poets, authors, notable figures throughout history have described love or the feeling of being in love in more eloquent and truthful ways than I ever can so I won’t continue to try here. The one sticking with me now – M Scott Peck said, “Ultimately, love is everything.”
Better to have Love & Lost?
Yet, we’re all still Jason Segel and we’re all trying to forget our Sarah Marshal – giving up on love. Being destroyed by it. Consumed by it. Becoming disbelievers in it. Because romantic love has ended for us. Maybe even multiple times. Like a car getting t-boned or Jason Segel dancing naked in the living room (OK, I’ll stop with the Forgetting Sarah Marshal references), I’ve been blindsided by consuming love being ended by the one person I’d truly do anything for. When it hurts to live, to breath, to continue day to day. When you feel like you hate this person, yet don’t hate them at all. You actually feel like you can’t live without them. You hate that you don’t hate them at all. (10 Things I Hate About You reference, I know.) I’ve had a lot of hurt and disappoint in my life, sometimes by the people I’ve trusted the most. But the strongest to experience is blinding heartbreak. When a person whom you’ve shared with and loved made a conscious choice that led to your pain. It’s one thing for someone to need a bit of space, to take time to get back into their own skin and get life back on track. But it’s another for a person to simply give up on you.I find it hard to admit that the person I love has given up on us and the future we could have had together. Is consuming sadness more powerful than consuming love? It often feels that way.
Then after the sadness, there’s always a ping of shame when a relationship ends. No doubt it’s not the strongest feeling at the time it ends, but no matter what it’s always there. Do you delete all traces on social media that you were a couple? Does not deleting then say to your ex that you feel like you’ll still get back together one day? Navigating a break-up is hard enough, let alone when you throw the modern, digital age into the mix. Just imagine the movie Sabrinia but with Instagram, all the pictures of Audrey Hepburn and Humphery Bogart. (Actually don’t imagine that. They made a modern remake of it and it was terrible. Back to my point though…) After a couple of increasingly incredibly painful, blindsiding break-ups, I’ve started to doubt more and more the worth of believing in a serious, romantic relationship. I find myself running through a series of questions over and over. Am I hardwired to only be 6-8 months worth of lovable? Do I have a character flaw that reveals itself to my boyfriend like a villain is ultimately unveiled at the end of a Disney movie for all to see? Am I the villain in my love life even if I’m not the one ending the relationship? Even if I don’t believe all my happiness relies on being in a relationship, my happiness is often destroyed by its ending.
Yet…the most important thoughts that continue to race in my mind: Is it better to be blind to the heartbreak love can bring because you want to believe that soulmates exist? Even if there’s more than one someone for everyone out there, can we forever grieve losing someone we thought was one? Despite all these questions, things change, boyfriends leave, love is lost, but life doesn’t stop. As I continue through life, do I give up on the idea of a true romantic love? Heartbreak is a hard thing to bear but love is a wonderful thing to share. (Sorry for the cliche rhyme.) I don’t have an answer yet and I’m not sure if or when I’ll seek one out.
Should We ‘Shake it off’?
Love ending is never a feeling I, or I think anyone, can get used to. My emotional pendulum is currently swinging somewhere between self-righteousness and self-pity, tempted by drowning my sorrows in vodka tonics to blaring a Spotify break-up playlist containing songs about how I’m better off now. (Running on the treadmill blarring Taylor Swift. Don’t lie, we’ve all done it.) So maybe right now isn’t the best time for me to be pondering all of these questions…. All I really can land on being truth is that each time we are in love is unique and cannot be duplicated, replaced or replicated. But I can find hope in that guess.
Country legend JMM sang, life’s a dance you learn as you go. As I keep learning to dance, I’m grateful for every dance partner I’ve had. The songs haven’t always been great and the dance has always ended. Sometimes we’ve two-stepped and sometimes we’ve regretfully danced the Wobble for a bit longer than we care to admit. And maybe one day I’ll find a partner who dances just as terribly as me and the perfect song won’t ever end. Or maybe yet again I’ll be Jason Segel dancing & realizing my partner isn’t dancing too. (I know, I know. I promised no more but had to do it.) But I guess until then, I’ll put on some T Swift, shake it off and dance by myself.