Saturday, September 5, 2009

50 Days of Mark

I have a confession to make. For the first time in my life, I went to the movies alone this week. It wasn't really on purpose, but I wasn't about to let a great movie like "500 Days of Summer" leave my town without seeing it.

The movie begins expressly providing a disclaimer that it is "not a love story" but rather "a story about love." Although I genuinely appreciate fabulistic romance films such as "Penelope," "Enchanted," or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," anti-fairy tales also provide essential messages to those of us living in reality. "500 Days of Summer" is a prime example offering an important lesson in perspective.

The movie's strength lies in the fact that it looks at the same story multiple times. It is a movie of contemplation ("Why do I feel this way?," "Why can't I get over her?," etc.) and reflection, providing viewers with a unique story arc. The movie begins at the relationships climax—Tom and Summer have just "broken up" (in quotes because relationships are painted in shades of gray)—and the director spends the rest of the time jumping between points in their relationship showing us Tom's journey of healing.

The movie reminded me that sometimes falling out of love is necessary and—considering the fact that I've only fallen in love once—I've been lucky enough to only need to fall out of love once. One particular set of montages comes to mind. Tom poetically lists the things he loves about Summer only to say how much these characteristics irritate him later in the film, demonstrating the perspectives of in and out of love. I found this to be the only way to recover from my first breakup.

Things ended abruptly with Mark, my first boyfriend. He was preparing to go on his mission and close to going to the temple. He said that he didn't feel comfortable seeing someone and going to the temple. We basically left it at that. It was hard for me to go from being in a relationship and talking to him on a daily basis to almost nothing overnight. It took all of my emotional energy to keep from saying what I felt deep down.

I didn't want him to leave. I didn't want things to end. BUT I wanted what he wanted because that makes up a great deal of what love is (think "Wall-E" or "The Gift of the Magi"). Only now do I recognize the fact that my understanding of "love" is unavoidably romanticized. On a research trip shortly after the breakup, I fell apart a few times when someone with the same curly strawberry-blonde hair passed by or just the wrong song played on the radio.

Months later, I came to the conclusion that I was not letting myself heal. I needed to revisit and rethink the time I'd spent with Mark. I needed to look for the negative and I wasn't used to that as a reformed cynic and romantic positivist. The good nature and mystery that attracted me to him in the first place ultimately tore us apart. He intrigued me because he was so much like me and helped me understand so much, yet whenever I came close to asking about certain things, he would change the subject.

In the end, all of the thought and energy that made me think that he was the one left me with an important lesson. After months of healing, I finally picked up the pieces and felt comfortable enough to date other guys and after a little more time think that I could feel the same for someone else. That guy has yet to come around, but—now—I am grateful for everything I learned from that process despite those tough times.


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