“She had reluctantly accepted suffering as an inevitable component of deep passion, and was resigned to putting her feelings at risk. If you asked her what it was she was gambling her emotions on to win, she would not have been able to say. She knew what she didn’t want, however…” - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
I am unlucky in love. That’s not entirely true, but it certainly has a ring to it. I’ve been very happy at times with different people, but I often find myself at odds with reality, in love with someone too late, liking entirely the wrong person, or attracted to some kind of identical male version of my own personality. I think they call this condition “life” and there’s really no cure for it but to keep trying new tacks, and being ever sure of what it is that you do not want.
I used to have an unfortunate habit of liking someone intensely, deciding that they were the only one for me, and awkwardly spending as much time as possible with them hoping that they would fall in love with how wonderful I am, instead of boldly asking them out. I cut to the chase now, and ask guys out. No more wondering, no more fretting about whether you’re doing the right skit or if you’re seeming charming enough. For instance, one night many months ago when I was dropping my then boyfriend off at his home I was staring out the window, trying to look pensive and lovely, sort of a wistful expression on my face and he looked at me lovingly and said “You know, you look just like Gene Hackman in this light.” So tread carefully, gentle reader, when trying to be impressive, it rarely works out the way you hope it will.
Asking people out is not for the faint of heart. The last time I asked someone out for a friendly cup of coffee, this person waited five days to respond and then told me he’d rather “Keep things on a professional level.” Yowza! I used to worry more about such things, especially things that hurt my feelings, but there’s no time for such nonsense. As I told someone else, sitting in a car crying my eyes out to a man who couldn’t love me the way I need to be loved, wholly and without reservations, “Why would you ever want to live with a surfeit of love when there is so much love to give?” I’m really terrible at letting go of the people I have loved. Which gives people from the past a dark and disappointing power over your life. That I still think of any of them is something I need to work on, allowing that my love for them cannot bridge the gap between us and cannot cover their lack of love for me.
But everything teaches, if you let it, and you learn to be generous no matter the cost, trying not to let anyone unlearn you along the way. With all that in mind, I turned to my friend the Internet to see if they could help me figure out where I got into trouble. Oh what wonderful resources I discovered, including this article that advises, among other things, the wearing of a bracelet that reads “SINGLE” to let a boy know you’re single and not being “too nice” or people will think you’re fake and that one should “be an all around great person” as if such a thing was possible.
1. Changing Yourself to Become Someone They Like
Cher (Alicia Silverstone) does her best to become the sort of girl that the man of her dreams could fall in love with, and let’s face it, we’d get all interested in the environment if it meant we could talk about blue fin tuna decline with Paul Rudd. Cher does her best, but it turns out that she’s pretty terrible at changing who she is, and while she never makes any enormous leaps, she adjusts course slightly, which is often all that any of us need. Also, though there’s a lot of grumbling and handwringing over the idea of changing yourself for another person, it’s sort of sweet to think of being inspired towards bettering ourselves. To want to seek the good in life together is a lovely sentiment, before everything descends into weekend long Deadwood marathons and eating the same ramen meal eight times in a row.
2. Kissing a Mirror
I’ve often had the brilliant idea that it is best to love someone who shares not some but all of your interests, including books, movies, music, food, museums and sartorial choices. While this works out brilliantly when it comes to fascinating dates and amusing gifts for birthdays or the holidays, this unfortunate idea makes you blind to your own personal defects and causes you to loathe those things in your beloved that you despise in yourself. Without any means of reparation. Loving someone just like you is also the easy way out. Loving someone who is good for us, who makes us stronger and brighter is difficult at times, but differences are necessary for growth and love.
Honorable Mention: Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
3. Inappropriate Ages
While I’ve never fallen in love with someone wildly outside my age range, I concede the possibility that it seems like a pretty terrible idea for longevity in love.
Honorable Mention: Harold and Maude
4. The Best Friend
When Harry Met Sally
“I’ve got to ask her out without actually asking her out. One step forward, two steps back, that’s the key to progress.” - Peep Show
Trying to turn the best friend into the boyfriend is a time honored technique espoused by just about every movie, as it turns out. Though I can’t say I particularly approve of it as it’s never actually worked for most people I know — except one of my professors spoke about how he’d always had this best friend named Susan, and when they were going off to college he thought to himself “You know, I hope whoever Susan ends up marrying doesn’t mind if we’re still friends.” And then a bit later thought “Wait, I could marry Susan and cut out the middle man.” Which is of course the best plan, and they’ve been happily married for ages. So then again, grasping at straws has made me think maybe this isn’t such a terrible plan!
5. The Crazy Person
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Falling in love with someone “exciting” and “different” often seems to lead to one being involved in crimes and murders or worse. What can seem thrilling or interesting (dating a pot dealer! who keeps large sums of money in his glove box! ha ha no I never did this, it’s hypothetical wink wink maybe who knows 2007 was a very weird year!) can often turn out to be destructive and demoralizing. Plus, patching it up with someone who is always flinging themselves about the room moaning or who is living in a constant state of paranoia is exhausting.
Honorable Mention: Raising Arizona and Fear
The Loved Ones
I’ve only ever stalked one guy in my life, some many years ago, which seems like a remarkably reasonable number to me, all things considered. And mostly it happened because I got delusional like crazy about the fact that he loved the band Smog and was an ardent fan of Flannery O’Connor. Normally a fairly reasonable person, I sent him a message through last.fm and set about finding out everything I could about this poor mild mannered boy from Georgia. The strangest thing was the compulsion I felt, the things I found myself doing as if I was not the one doing it, sending long emails and trolling his old livejournals. He, being either crazy himself, or sort of afraid for his life, I’m still not sure which, accepted my insane attempts at worshiping his perfection and tolerated my ardent attention but remained creeped out (as well he should have been. Like I said, I can’t quite explain what happened). He still says hello to me now and then, though I’ve long since realized he’s a nightmare and I’m a nightmare and obviously no, just no, no, never, no. Still, I would never go as far as the ladies on this list, I limited myself, even in those days, to penning lengthy emails and carefully worded IMs.
Honorable Mentions: Fatal Attraction, Play Misty For Me, Misery and Swimfan
7. Falling in Love with a Gay Guy
There’s nothing less productive to a working romance than falling in love with someone who will never be interested in you. In any way. At all. Because they do not like women. Not that they don’t like you, you’re lovely. But no, they don’t like you at all. Like that.
Honorable Mention: Chasing Amy
8. Liking the Wrong Person
Holly Hunter is one heck of a capable news lady, except she has a certain weakness for beautiful, accomplished men who aren’t quite right for her. I hear you, darling. She spends much of her time wanting William Hurt to love her and ignoring the absolute perfection of Al Brooks, who is much more on her level. Who doesn’t melt for Al Brooks saying “I love you, how’s that for burying the lede?”
9. Waiting Too Long and Hoping for the Best
“I guess it made more sense to commit to nothing, keep my options open. And that’s suicide. By tiny, tiny increments.” - High Fidelity
You can’t postpone happiness, you can’t keep people and things on the backburner and hope that they’ll keep until you’re ready for them. You can’t swoop in and out of people’s lives, expecting them to stay as you left them, waiting patiently for you to get your act together and come back and love them. People don’t exist in a steady realm, a constant state of being. People are always changing, becoming something else when you look away for even a moment, which is why it’s foolish to say “If we’re not married to anyone else when we’re 40…” because that isn’t how it works. Always be a Plan A kind of person.
Honorable Mention: Gone with the Wind, High Fidelity
10. Being Yourself
Everyone has this hope that it all comes together and you meet someone who gets your jokes and loves to laugh and wants to say the right things to you when your grandmother dies and tells you you’re beautiful and commits to working hard side by side and thinks about the future and plans, but not too much and a million other sundry details, but most of all likes all of your light and your dark. It’s possible to like someone as they are, once we are satisfied with loving ourselves for who we are, we no longer need to project and change and dilute and configure others. Happiness is infectious and the most contented people that I know are the happiest.
And actually, this isn’t a terrible technique at all. It’s really the only one there is.
Honorable Mention: The Princess Diaries, 10 Things I Hate About You