I Want My Life to be Like an 80s movie

"in your eyes ..."

Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no … John Hughes did not direct my life

–from Easy A (2010)

 

Love Story

Catherine Middleton and Prince William on April 29, 2011

I don’t think it’s just because they’re royals that we waited so eagerly and watched the Royal Wedding so excitedly a couple of weeks ago. It’s because there’s something in us that springs to life whenever we witness two people madly in love saying “I do” … why some of us, despite our grandest efforts, are suckers for chick flicks and shows like Four Weddings and A Wedding Story.

Because we were hardwired for romance.

It’s like we have these little clocks inside of us that begin spinning and chiming a tinny tune at the sight of a misty eyed groom beholding his veiled bride gliding down an aisle or the first chords of Pachelbel’s Canon in D major. Some of us are more easily reduced to soppy messes than others by all of the furnishings of authentic love (the title of my blog should be a pretty good indication of where I stand) and the pleasure we take in discussing Kate Middleton’s elegant wedding gown or the way Mr. Thornton kisses Margaret Hale at the end of 2004’s North & South must be somewhat checked and classified as “guilty.”

While those others–jaded, cynical, disappointed, unaffected, stoic, unromantic, what-have-you–may scoff and shake their heads at our “silly, girlish” (said pejoratively) fascination with wedding gowns and flower arrangements, there lies inside of us a little girl who never quite grew up–a little girl who once upon a time crowned herself with dandelions and dreamed of being a princess made beautiful by the love of a prince.

"Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze" -- Amanda Cross

At the core of this–our wedding mania and obsession with red roses and soft candlelight and stolen glances and dancing slowly–is our most intimate, naked, vulnerable desire:

To be loved.

To be wanted, accepted, pursued, chased and adored, whether we be princesses, paper bag princesses or queens in our own right. Beneath our feminism and self-love and independence–all constructive things, mind you–there is still a yearning, an ache to be cherished and held, to have someone see our light and our dark and love it all. For someone to see our value as diamonds and rubies, our dust and dirt as malleable potential. For someone to say, I would do anything for you and really mean it.

Despite how happy we are and how much we’ve come to terms with our circumstances, the heart knows what the head ignores and our throats constrict and our eyes overflow at the most genuine displays of true love. Despite what we know about waning romance, infidelity, unhappy marriages and patriarchal impositions and traditional gender roles and soiled diapers, overflowing trash bins and bad breath, we can’t help but sigh just a little whenever a bride and groom march down the aisle for the first time as man and wife.

Not everyone’s storyline heads in that direction but they make peace with it and some choose alternative lifestyles for themselves which is courageous and tough. And fairy tales, romantic comedies, and Jane Austen novels tend to conclude at the first kiss, the marriage proposal, or the ride into the sunset because what comes after is the lost luggage, mortgage payments, dirty socks on the floor, runny noses, and trial after trial after trial (or so I hear). And perhaps for some, period romances and Harlequins and flirting with strangers become an escape from the monotony of married life because reality never lives up to the fairy tale.

But why?

Because we were hardwired for romance.

"I am my beloved's and he is mine" -- Songs of Solomon 2:16

Human love, while ecstatic and wondrous and beautiful, can only reach so far, hence the Harlequins and heartbreak. But beyond that, the reason why we ache and dream and crave, is because we were made by love, to love, for love. Because human love may be brief and may end catastrophically and nearly destroy us, but we don’t die because a greater love story runs in our veins and sings us back home again and again and again.

Masked in the filthy robes of lust and desperation is our inherent need to be loved unconditionally and to be seen continuously as a breathtaking bride meeting her perfect bridegroom at the altar: the place of unity, sacrifice, and eternal promises.

As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you — Isaiah 62:6

From the moment we were born, our cries filled the air with the longing to be held and loved … the ache only intensified as we grew older and began watching Disney and royal weddings. Our hearts beat to the rhythm of love and our own personal love stories become apparent in our visceral/spiritual reactions to the sun setting in a wash of pink and gold; church bells chiming ancient prayers on lazy Sunday afternoons in the spring; the seamless orchestration of perfect moments when all of our senses are aroused … He has set eternity in our hearts and romance in our souls.

We are being romanced with a love divine, a love primordial, a love of one million happily ever afters.

How will your heart respond?

Your Precious Heart

"A woman's heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her" -- Maya Angelou

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life — Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

Lovely,

Your heart is so precious, so soft and so valuable. Protect it from harm. Keep it safe. Matters of the heart are not for the weak, so keep it strong by remembering it is priceless.

This doesn’t necessarily mean going into hiding, making yourself scarce and cold and unavailable. If that’s not your true nature, then you don’t have to assume an unapproachable demeanor to prevent a sick and broken heart.

It just means realizing that you are precious and beautiful beyond measure, and that your heart is full of bright and lovely things. It means your heart is not a freebie, a giveaway, a sold-to-the-highest-bidder (or any bidder–how often is our criteria for getting involved with someone simply that they like and accept us?) You’re infinitely stronger and better than that. Tell yourself this every morning as you wake up and every night as you go to sleep.

Blessed am I among women.

Eat Proverbs for breakfast. Wear your armour. Speak blessing and gratitude.

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life" -- Mumford & Sons

Make no apologies for who you are, for desiring true love and pure romance. Don’t downplay it or hide it or bite your tongue for fear of scaring someone away. The right person will treasure and value these things and will be drawn to them.

Make no apologies for your femininity, for the desires of your heart, for reveling in your softness and sensitivity and genuine tears, for your gold and your shine. These things are precious and should only be treated like the finest of diamonds.

If you get this, if you really get this and truly know who you are, then perhaps you wouldn’t treat your heart like a chipped and stained ceramic mug donated to goodwill to be purchased by those with dirty hands and greedy lips. Perhaps then you wouldn’t ask, “Do you think I’m pretty?” to anyone who walks by and base your worth on their answers or silence. And maybe then clumsy kisses with frogs just wouldn’t seem fit for a queen. And maybe then you’d derail the train (or jump!) before the wreck.

You are gold and diamonds and pearls. Your heart is a handcrafted, lovingly designed and masterfully painted china teacup, a precious gem set behind glass at Tiffany’s and only you have the key.

“How much?” he asks.

“Priceless,” you answer with a wink.

And someday, perhaps you’ll find someone suitable enough to be entrusted with the key. Listen to your heart. It will tell you.

In the meantime, you’re a queen. It’s time to start treating yourself as such.

"Only do what your heart tells you" -- Princess Diana

Wives and Daughters and Being a Lady

Elizabeth Gaskell, 1832: portrait by William John Thomson

I spent last night in bed recovering from a hectic week watching a gorgeous BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters. I was trying to find BBC’s Sense and Sensibility on YouTube but for some reason couldn’t; I ended up stumbling upon Wives and Daughters instead. Having already watched North and South, I am now interested in all things Gaskell and am anxious to read her novels.

As you probably already know, I’m a sucker for period romances and all things Austen and Brontë. I’m very fond of 18th and 19th century literature and have seen nearly every BBC adaptation of  Austen and the Brontë sisters’ novels. (As a general rule, the BBC adaptations tend to do a better job and remain truer to the texts than Hollywood). So it was no surprise that I fell madly in love with Wives and Daughters and wish to watch the 301 minute TV mini-series again and again and again.

clockwise from left: Anthony Howell, Bill Paterson, Francesca Annis, Keeley Hawes and Justine Waddell in "Wives and Daughters" (1999)

But something in me last night was especially receptive to what God was speaking to me through this movie, especially in the areas of being a woman of worth, and true romance. Yes, God can speak through movies. He can speak through anything really, but tends to use the Arts to speak to me. Years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she likes to watch movies by herself, with God. For some beautiful, unknown reason, the viewing of Wives and Daughters corresponded perfectly with what He has already been teaching me about myself and developing good character.

Molly Gibson (Justine Waddell) is the perfect example of a True Lady: she’s steadfast, intelligent, kind, quietly confident, fiercely loyal, selfless, modest, and speaks her mind when it is right to do so (I’ve noticed this is a common trait among Gaskell’s heroines). The only time she is gossiped about and has scandal associated with her name (this is Victorian England, remember, and these things were detrimental to someone’s reputation) is on behalf of her stepsister.

Although not as pretty and flirtatious as her stepsister Cynthia (Keeley Hawes, who reminded me of a more finely featured Keira Knightley), a fact even her dear father will admit, it is her good character and pure heart which attract the love of the admirable Roger Hamley (Anthony Howell), someone she quietly loves without silliness and strain. While Cynthia gets more than her fair share of attention from men and more marriage proposals than she can deal with, Molly is wise enough to know that a good man’s heart should not be trifled with. She is constant and unwavering in her love for Roger, and when he becomes engaged to Cynthia, her inner torment is heart-breaking to watch.

"I wish I was pretty," Molly says to Cynthia

But good girls finish first in Gaskell’s story, and everyone gets what they deserve. The whole time I was watching, God was speaking to me about my character and how He is developing it for the better despite all the trials and slip-ups. He was showing me how often I can be like a Cynthia (to whom Gaskell is still very sympathetic, by the way, which is something I love about her. No one’s black-and-white). Silly, fickle, viewing attention from men like a game, a way of measuring worth. In a rare candid moment, Cynthia confides in Molly: “I just like to be liked!”

Oh, how familiar those words are.

But being like that, placing flirting and attention above true love and romance, is not without its consequences. It is far more rewarding to be like Molly, who waits patiently for her good man to realize he’s loved her all along. The scenes in which he realizes this are easily some of the most romantic I’ve ever witnessed. The way he looks at her is so pure, so loving, without selfish desires or expectations … it’s something worth waiting for I think, and much more valuable than tallying up the empty, shallow glances of men who simply want something other than one’s heart.

I love scenes in many period romances where there’s a ball, and two characters realize they have feelings for each other while they’re dancing. The band plays on, other couples continue gaily dancing, the candles flicker to a soft background glow, and yet it’s as if time stands still. All that matters is the other person and your heart pounding in your chest as you slowly and delicately, as well-composed and graceful as your dance steps, fall in love. I saw this in Wives and Daughters as well as The Young Victoria (2009).

Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend in "The Young Victoria" (2009)

When I watch Queen Victoria and Prince Albert fall in love as they engage in a dance, and Roger Hamley’s eyes burn with the realization of his love for Molly Gilbert as he gazes at her across a crowded dining table, God reminds me:

This is the love I have for you. This is the love, and more. My love for you is without agenda, without expectation, without limit. When I gaze upon you all I can see is your enduring beauty and loveliness and grace. I desire you. When I see you dancing with others who are not good for you, or when you’re sitting it out, pouting that you don’t have a partner, I’m dying for you to see me waiting patiently, hand outstretched. When we dance, I want nothing more than to have the world stop and nothing else matter but looking into your eyes and you looking into mine.

Eternal Sunshine

don't you forget about me

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot,

The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind,

Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.

— Alexander Pope, “Eloisa to Abelard”

In a previous post on the perils of modern dating, I mentioned that we can’t erase the memory of a failed relationship or disappointed romance from our minds; instead, we live with the consequences and move on. But sometimes, it’s not that simple and we’re plagued with memories at random for the rest of our lives …

In one of my favourite movies, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004), Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (the lovely Kate Winslet) attempt to erase each other from their memories when their relationship sours. With the help of Charlie Kaufman’s clever writing and Michel Gondry’s unparalleled imagination, they come to the conclusion that erasing each other is a big mistake and it’s worth the risk to work at their relationship even though they know they’ll drive each other nuts.

In the case of Joel and Clementine, everything turns out beautifully, and revisiting old memories as they’re being erased proves just how much they love each other despite all the fights and issues. In that quirky love story, a relationship that was on the ruin is restored and perhaps now more mature and understanding than ever.

But what about real life? What do we do about the memories that play over and over in our minds like a bad movie? How do we keep from going back to those events and analysing them from every angle? How do we prevent temporary paralysis and sadness when we hear a song that reminds us of someone we loved or revisit a place where we had an amazing time?

Sometimes, it would be great to have someone from the fictional Lacuna Inc. take over your brain for a little while and erase specific memories which do nothing but hinder you from moving on. Can you imagine the freedom of living your life without the haunting, taunting memories of an ex or their unbidden appearances in your dreams at night? Perhaps you could also erase the memory of someone you dated briefly, or someone you felt strongly for–relationships or situations that did nothing but leave you with hang-ups and emotional scars. Imagine leaving every relationship or date unscathed, as whole as you were before it began. No issues, no baggage, no long-term damage.

On an extreme level, maybe your previous relationships and dating experiences are marred by shame and regret; physical or emotional abuse have you wishing for Eloisa’s forgetfulness.

"Adults are, like, this mess of sadness and phobias"

For years, scientists have been working on developing a drug that will erase painful memories. Pills that make memories less overwhelming to patients by removing proteins from the brain’s fear centre are being looked into, specifically for veterans and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Recently, a team of researchers at John Hopkins University have made headway in this arena by focusing on nerve circuits in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for recalling fear in humans and animals.

In an article in the Daily Mail, lead researcher Dr. Richard L. Huganir is quoted as saying:

This may sound like science fiction, the ability to selectively erase memories. But this may one day be applicable for the treatment of debilitating fearful memories in people, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome associated with war, rape or other traumatic events.

As is usually the case with scientific developments involving the human brain, ethical and philosophical questions arise. While this forthcoming drug or procedure may benefit those with debilitating fear, will the future see people undergoing the process to selectively erase the memories of relationships gone bad? I made a strong case for such a drug at the beginning of this blog on a hypothetical level, but when I did a Google search of the scientific developments taking place to actually erase memories, I felt a little unsettled at the implications.

I’m not very plugged in to the scientific world so I was unaware that such things were happening, but I’m always interested in the psychology behind these things and considering whether or not these developments would contribute to positive changes in humanity. Kind of like the drug that would eliminate menstruation, the answer is complex. While it would definitely improve the quality of life for those with uncomfortable issues (post-traumatic stress disorder or women with painful and excessively heavy periods), I believe they would take away things that make us human–dealing with and learning from our past experiences and the process of menstruation. If we took those away, would we still be humans in the same way?

Maybe I’m conservative and cautious when it comes to scientific progression and have to remember that it is constantly in a state of flux and advancement. Or maybe, like my mom, I’m just plain leery of drugs and would much rather let the body do its thing with the help of natural remedies rather than chemicals.

So, let me pose this question to you: If such a drug were ever made available for purchase, would you take it to erase painful memories? Do you think this would be a good thing? Would memory erasure make people happier in the long run?

The Dating Game

SCORE!

In the weird and wonderful, oftentimes cruel, dog-eat-dog world of dating, sports metaphors abound. Playing the field; scoring; getting to first, second, and third base; getting back into the game, etc., etc., etc.

Dating is a contact sport , and if you’re not careful and you don’t protect yourself, you’ll end up getting hurt. I don’t want to get into personal details here, but I would like to carry the sports metaphor further to compare a broken heart to being injured, and the long-term benefits of sitting on the bench and watching from the sidelines before dusting yourself off and getting back in the game.

You see, too many people jump right back onto the field and start playing the game at full force after their heart’s been broken or a relationship has failed without taking a time-out to pay attention to the “injuries” that resulted from romantic contact with another person. No one’s going to tell you to get back into the game when you’re bleeding and broken.

Instead, it’s advisable to take a breather. Sit it out for a little bit. Nurse your injuries. Wait until you’re 100% recovered before jumping back in. The advantage of sitting on the bench is that from there, you have an excellent view of the field and can study and observe the way the game is played. You can think back on what exactly happened to get you injured and how you can prevent that kind of injury the next time.

 

we can't erase someone's memory, unfortunately, so we rest; relax; recover; rally!

 

Depending on the person, and depending on the injury, some recovery times will be longer than others. Don’t sweat it. If you force yourself back on the field–or if others force you back on the field–without wrapping your sprains and bandaging your scratches, you’ll be weaker, more vulnerable to offensive play, and contact with another will only bruise you further and possibly leave life-long scars or a bitter limp.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sitting on the bench for awhile. You’re not a freak, you’re not a hopeless cause, and it has nothing to do with who you are as a person. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed and unable to play, or tackled to the ground at every turn, or if no one’s passing you the ball and you feel stranded in the defensive position, then don’t feel bad about walking off the field and taking a seat.

Everyone will have their advice and strategies and stories about how they played way back then, but you can take these with a grain of salt. Take a knee. Have some orange slices. Get to know some of the others sitting on the bleachers. Give yourself the time to fully heal and recover.

… As for me, I’ll be on the sidelines, practising yoga.

Lost in Austen

quote from "Pride and Prejudice"

If you have been reading my blog, it will come as no surprise to you that I’m mad for all things Jane Austen.

There’s no pleasure quite like settling in for the night with a cup of tea and a good book. When that book is written by Jane Austen, all the better. It’s one of the few forms of escapism that you don’t have to feel guilty about engaging in.

I’ve often been called an “old soul” who was born in the wrong century, and reading Jane Austen only makes me more painfully aware of this. Although the 18th century wasn’t without its faults, my waist longs to be corsetted, my feet long to roam the dewy English countryside, and my romantic nature longs to be courted by the most stalwart of gentlemen.

Mr. Darcy emerges from the morning mist to declare his love; millions of women across the globe collectively swoon

In some ways, much of Austenmania can be attributed to the romantic fantasy it presents to the modern woman, without the smut of a Harlequin novel: for a few hours, while you curl up with one of Ms. Austen’s novels or watch a BBC adaptation for the millionth time (guilty as charged), you can escape the present-day nuisances of buggy computers, cars that won’t start, and polluted air and become immersed in a world of horse-drawn carriages, country balls, and polite, spirited conversation.

At the same time, there must be a reason beyond the charms of a simpler time that have made Austen’s novels resonate with readers long past their date of publication. There must be something that is drawing people –mostly women — to her endearing stories again and again, something deeper than her sometimes subtle, sometimes satirical social commentary and memorable characters.

Kissing cousins

For me, it’s the love stories that, although set in a time so different from our own, still manage to speak to our hearts. Miscommunications, preconceived notions, longing looks from across the ballroom, hands hastily touching another’s during an innocent dance, passionate proposals and the satisfying happy ending … this is the stuff dreams are made of.

There’s a profound moment in the 2008 mini-series “Lost in Austen,” in which modern-day heroine Amanda (Jemima Rooper), stuck in the world of Pride and Prejudice, confronts Mr. Bingley (Tom Mison) about his irresistable appeal as an Austen hero to the twenty-first century woman. I can’t remember the exact words, but she says something along the lines of, “I’m in love with your world … the proper manners and courtliness and strict social customs …” With her schlubby, beer-chugging, belching boyfriend back in present-day London, it’s no wonder Amanda can’t help throwing herself at all of the well-bred, polite gentlemen — Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy … even the roguish Mr. Wickham (Tom Riley) manages to claim her affections.

... do you blame her?

I, too, am in love with that world. As much as I appreciate the various freedoms I have as a woman in 2010, I wouldn’t mind time-travelling to an Austen novel like Amanda does and meet some of her handsome heros. The way courtship brought two people together seems so much more civilized and honourable than dating. Even though, as Austen points out in several of her novels, money and social status played a huge role in love and marriage, a slower pace of life allowed for more time to engage in long walks arm-in-arm, long and thoughtful letters, and the cultivation of the art of conversation. We’ve lost so much of that, and reading Austen’s novels makes me yearn to be bowed to, to be sought out through connections for an introduction, to be valued for my quick mind and articulate speech.

In short, what I want — what so many other Austenmaniacs want — is to be pursued by a hero as noble and with the purest of intentions as those within the pages of our beloved books. Is that fantasy? Wishful thinking? Setting ourselves up to be bitterly disappointed?

Perhaps … but one can always hope …

and they all lived happily ever after