Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Of Perpetual Hollyhocks and Train Wrecks

I don't like chick flicks.
I know, you're all shocked. After all, all women are supposed to love watching the six-hour version of Pride and Prejudice. I don't. My mind turns to jelly long before the halfway point of the film.
Maybe I should see a doctor. Maybe I was born with a genetic mutation. Maybe, as Val thinks, I'm just "terminally rational." Maybe all the eye-rolling that chick flicks induce prevents me from watching most of the film. Whatever the case, when I see a film in which an Independent Woman who has Had Her Heart Broken Before falls for a man who is a Complete Jerk...But In A Cute Way, and then Reforms Him, Kissing Him Passionately as the camera rotates around the blissful couple and Violins Swell because, after all, even though they Just Met, they were Meant To Be Together and Kiss Passionately on a Mountaintop in the Sunset for Forever...I don't sigh, I gag.
It makes me mad when the girl falls for the creep/misogynist/boy who seriously needs to grow up. I don't believe in destiny or soul mates. I don't think you're going to get a guy to fall madly in love with you and fill your house with rose petals by playing hard-to-get or always talking about your "feelings."
Life and love don't come with stirring orchestral accompaniment. First kisses are awkward, not transcendentally moving. Men who aren't suave and debonair make better sweethearts than Mr. Darcy. Love doesn't happen after two dates, terribly romantic though they may be. And you're better off not sleeping with a guy who doesn't know your mother's first name.
In the spirit of my traditionally hopeful but thoroughly pragmatic realism (I promise it's not the same as cynicism), I'd like to share a favorite saying, written by Jenkin Lloyd Jones, whose words, written dozens of years ago, were never more applicable than they are today:

"There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young who hold hands and smooch in the drive-ins that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks, to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and ravishing wife. When the hollyhocks wither and boredom and bills appear, the divorce courts are jammed.
"Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration...
"Life is like an old-time rail journey–delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."
(quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley in a BYU Devotional address, 25 September 1973)

I do not mean to be an unromantic party pooper. I believe in romance. I believe in eternal love. I even believe in violins =). But I know that successful marriages are built on love, respect, and dedication, not on chemistry or destiny or kissing on mountaintops. I know that love means having to say you're sorry again and again. I know that love is a choice, not a feeling, and that it grows as two people share all the joys and sorrows and triumphs and challenges of life together, as equal covenant partners, with their eyes on their ultimate shared goal. Mutual attraction is pleasurable, and staring deep into the eyes of your significant other can be romantic, but mutual dedication is so much more fulfilling, and looking into the eyes of the person to whom you are bound, not by destiny, but by covenant and by shared struggles and shared joys--that, I think, is heaven.

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