First off, I’d like to start by confessing to you that I am a recovering romantic judgmentalist. I am not proud of this, but it’s true. I am working on it. They say the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem, so here I am admitting it – I have a problem. I used to be much worse. An example you ask? Sure.
Crammed into the back seat of a van full of college girls, the pretty blond girl next to me began to tell us all the story of how she met her boyfriend.
A friend had shown her his photo. Pretty Blond Girl thought he was hot, so she had her friend show him her picture. Get this; he thought she was hot too! They exchanged numbers, and now they instant message all the time. (I had a hard time writing this because it’s so boring.)
Please forgive me online dating friends. This was circa 2004, and I realize it could be seen as the primitive evolution of Tinder. But, like I said, I am a recovering romantic judgmentalist.
This was also before I had heard the expression “resting bitch face” and before I knew I would spend the next ten years of my life trying not to kill the older men who would tell me I would be pretty if I smiled more. This was before years of waiting tables would teach me that if I had to roll my eyes, to do so privately.
Needless to say, I found Pretty Blond Girl’s story terribly depressing. One look at my face, and she started laughing. Playfully slapping me on the arm she said, “Oh I’m sorry; I know you aren’t a romantic, Beth.”
What?! Excuse me? I am not a romantic? I thought of myself as a dark and brooding free spirit, in love with life, in love with love! I dyed my hair black and had an affinity for wearing vintage nightgowns over my jeans. I carried a copy of G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, JD Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, and The Love Letters of Dylan Thomas with me at all times. My theme song was Cat Steven’s Can’t Keep It In (in case you don’t know this song, he can’t keep all the love in). No one was more romantic than me!
But, snap. She called me out.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg. A friend recently reminded me that I once told her that chick flicks were just emotional pornography, fueling dissatisfaction with real relationships, the desire for self-objectification, and a deep lust for materialism.
Pretty harsh, I know. Truthfully, there are some romantic comedies that I love and many more that are incredibly funny and well made. I really do appreciate the need for fantasy and escapism. I however, personally, am just not a rom-com kind of girl. There is something that they do in me that almost always leaves me feeling annoyed, or worse, deeply depressed.
Who knows, maybe it has to do with the way I was raised or a desire to separate myself from girls I knew growing up. Perhaps it’s related to insecurities I have carried with me over the years. I don’t know. But when I think about love, I look for truth and I look for beauty. And when I think about art, I almost always look for love. And in my experience, life is a lot more like The Hunger Games than Wedding Holiday in Manhattan (that’s a movie, no?).
So, if you are still reading this and haven’t yet discounted me as a cynic, thank you. Please don’t give up on me yet. I assure you, I love love. I love romance, butterflies, and first kisses. I cry at weddings. I love my husband more today than I did on the day I married him. That cliché is true for a reason. It’s in the messiness that comes after the “I do”, when Happily Ever After has been shot to hell, and you have literally failed a thousand times…well that’s when it starts to get good.
Heaven. Co-written by the great Krzysztof Kieslowski before his death, and directed by another one of my favorites, Tom Tykwer, Heaven is a slow, visually stunning film with little dialogue, and a performance by Cate Blanchett that wrecks me, it’s so beautiful. The film has a palpable electric stillness that flows throughout. It is not realism, but poetry, full of symbolism and big moments disguised as little ones.
I loved this film as a young person in film school. Now, years later, as a wife and a mother, I feel an ownership of it deep in my bones. The story of being broken, wracked with guilt and regret, living past hope in a world of overwhelming corruption and injustice, when despite your best intentions, everything has gone wrong. In the midst of ugliness, when you have long since given up, someone sees you at your darkest and loves you. They receive your confession. They take on your baggage as their own. Two people becoming one. Outlaws on the run.
Here is a painting of agape. Here is a love story of transcendent hope.
Well, Pretty Blond Girl, if you are reading this, I am sorry I judged you. I met my husband at an awful red neck bar. We shot vodka that tasted like hair spray. He had corn rows. Our most memorable conversation was about Post-it notes. And to me, our romance is epic. We don’t always get to write our stories. I wish you and Hot Picture Guy, or whoever you are with, lover, family and friends, all the best.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Elizabeth Dzhiganyan is excited to be a new contributor to The Greenhouse Journal. She is a wife, mother and writer and lives with her family in Tujunga, CA
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