Like many of us who constructed our notions of romance in the ’90s, I decided that John Cusack holding up a boom box in a driveway was the ultimate expression of affection. With “Say Anything” my ideas of romantic love were cemented – there had to be drama and grand, butterflies-in-the-stomach moments where the music swells and time stops.
I was extra-screwed when it came to concocted ideals of love. Not only did I grow up watching movies, I grew up acting in them, too. Movies were pretty much my whole life and they shaped my ideas of how the world worked. I spent 18 years with my nose in a script and since I was working so much, I had very few real-world experiences to contradict the fantasy.
My very first kiss ever was in the film “Matinee” when I was 13-years-old. I had to spend 2 long years after that, desperately hoping that someone would want to kiss me without being paid for it. As I grew up, it was my job to reenact the exciting parts of romance: the flirty looks across the room, the accidental touch of the hands. Love was always well-lit and deliciously drama-filled. Not only did I buy into this system, I was promoting it to other poor suckers, too.
I spent my late teens and early twenties bouncing from one new relationship to another. My co-stars often fit the bill quite nicely. They were always good-looking and tended to be the Dark Artist type that I liked. They were also attractive out of sheer convenience and wide-spread availability.
But as soon as things got comfortable, I’d bolt, looking for the excitement and the “zsa zsa zu” as Carrie Bradshaw would say. I reveled in my relationships, as long as they looked like a romantic montage sequence. The moment things became a little routine, I went on the hunt for the next spark from across the crowded room.
The problem with that tactic is that I never got any deeper than the initial attraction. I didn’t move beyond the shiny new phase to get to a soul-level connection. And that’s where the real intimacy is.
So, what happens, when you’ve found your Forever Person and Happily Ever After includes gastrointestinal issues and disagreements about where to spend the holidays? Movies never include these complications, unless the characters are about to break up. How does a girl who was raised on carefully-scripted love learn to grow up and have a real, lasting relationship?
I had to reject everything that I had been taught by rom-coms.
- There doesn’t need to be a tumultuous break up in the second act and he doesn’t need to run through the rain to prove his love.
- Romance isn’t limited to him delivering breakfast in bed with a red rose, unloading the dishwasher after a long day is totally swoon-worthy.
- Real life issues might take longer than three scenes to resolve and that’s okay.
- He doesn’t need to complete me, I came into this world fully-assembled.
- There is a ton of good stuff that comes after the credits roll.
I’ve now been happily married for eight years, but there are still moments when I fall back into my old movie ways and crave those new relationship butterflies.
But then I remember to appreciate the parts they never show in the movies. It’s about knowing you have someone you can trust, who is always in your corner and thinks you look sexy in your sweatpants. When my husband listens to the silly details of my day and brings me a glass of water for my nightstand, that’s where the real love exists. And when you can find the zsa zsa zu in that – that’s when you get your happily ever after.
(And if I really need that butterfly feeling, I can always go watch a Joseph Gordon Levitt movie.)
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