Sunday, June 26, 2011

the perfect woman

Perhaps we only ever fully leave our fear behind in other people's stories.

Here are a few truths I know to be absolute. One: women are people. Two: there are no perfect people. Ergo, Three: there are no perfect women.

That little syllogism is a no-brainer, right? Everyone but the most severely deluded acknowledges it to be true, and even though all of us have at one time or another placed another person on a pedestal, after enough time, we have likewise all seen that person get knocked off. What is less widely acknowledged, however, is the fact that there is also no such thing as a perfect person for me, a truth fervently undermined by our current entertainment culture.

As part of the work I am doing on the screenplay I am currently (pre)writing, I have been studying a lot of romantic comedies and have discovered in them again and again the implicit affirmation that "true love" between a man and a woman is something that is "found." This is, I have long believed, a pile of horse-excrement. True love is not something you step into as you wander life's pasture, it something you build in a place you fence off with another person.

Now, I will acknowledge that some pairings make that building more difficult than others. A woman who thinks Barack Obama is basically Jesus is going to have a hard time getting along in a long-term romantic relationship with a man who is fervently convinced that he (Obama, that is) is the antiChrist. A man who only feels happy riding a subway with a latte in hand is going to be hard-pressed to make it work with a girl most comfortable holding hay on the end of a pitchfork. But again; love isn't something two people fall into - they build it - so even an Obamafight can produce some interesting love connections.

I deeply believe this, but have been realizing recently how much the Mythology of the Perfect Hollywood Romance has shaped my everyday thinking. As I have thought about future relationship possibilities, I've spend most of my brainpower trying to suss out how to tell if a woman fits me, what she offers me, and what there is about her that would have to change to make her be perfect fit for me. Although it goes against my core expressed beliefs about relationships, I have taken Divine Will and selflessness right out of the equation, and instead have gone around parroting the very ideology I find so repugnant and destructive in Hollywood.

What has brought me to today's point of self-examination? Well, the only thing that can be consistently shown to change anyone in any significant way - a story. As I have studied these Hollywood Piffles, I have begun to work a contrapuntal theme into my own script. It goes like this:

It is a mystery where romantic love (eros) comes from. It may be fate, it may be chance, it may be a divine nudge; but once it’s there, you have to be willing to sacrifice bits and pieces of yourself and your desires for it, if you want it to last. 

This theme seems as much a no-brainer to me as the bit about there being no perfect woman. But for some reason, only by forcing my protagonist (his name is Joel, by the way... and pleased to meet you) to go through the Grinder of Story to learn this, have I been able to really confront the ways in which I do not live this out in my own life, and to mull over just how willing I am to sacrifice what seems most right for me in order to really love another person. Because while there is no such thing as the perfect woman, there is such a thing as perfect love, and while I may not ever be capable of it, I believe that as an ideal and an aspiration, it is the only Story worth hoping and living towards.

3 comments:

  1. They myth of the "perfect fit for me" is so appealing - in Latin America they call it "mi media naranja" - I think in part because it takes the onus for a successful relationship off the self. The hard part isn't the relationship, in this mythology, it's the search.

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  2. The most disillusioning part of marriage for me was discovering my own selfishness. Before getting married, I honestly thought I was an unselfish person. It was a shock to realize that no matter how much I loved my wonderful husband, I did not enjoy giving up doing things my own way. I think one of the reasons God brought my husband to me (besides blessing my socks off) was so I could face up to this blind spot.

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  3. Your last sentence was beautifully said Josh.

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