‘Love’ American Style

Johnny Wingnut

penguincoffee.jpgI know you’ll be “surprised,” but a lot of folks aren’t wise to the fact that Love American Style isn’t real life. If you’ve bought into Hollywood’s idea of happily ever after along with their love litmus test: permanent biochemical induced love feelings, stick around; this post is for you.

 

Ya know, I like a good chick flick, now and again, probably just as much as the next well adjusted (or trained, as the case may be), red blooded, American male. But lately, I get the feeling that mass media, which includes film, television, and news, is downgrading our interpersonal relationships. The Hollywood fairy tale has elevated expectations to the point that if real life doesn’t mirror Pretty Woman, we feel like we should cash in our chips and start over again, ‘cause ya know, I’m just not happy. And lately, (you look pretty good and all…well, you used to) but now that my brain has been fairly efficiently rewired to expect air brushed skin and perfectly proportioned measurements, I’m thinkin’ hell, I can probably do a little better than what I’ve settled for, so adios senora and hola muchachitas.

 

 

But surprise! Those relational utopian bastards in Hollywood didn’t tell pop culture that the whole thing was a ruse. Instead, they taught us that the “perfect” relationship is…perfect. That’s the dirty little intimate interpersonal utopian lie the film jocks have sold us. Subsequently, when real life doesn’t measure up to the pie in the sky expectations mass media has lovingly nurtured in our psyches, we figure it’s time to look for a new model, because this one’s totaled. Pop culture is in the market…as it were.

Well, Hollywood might be sellin’ but this meat eater ain’t buyin’. Married for the last ten years, I can tell you I love my wife dearly. In fact, I’m more in love with her now than when we got married, more in love than when I fell for her some 25 years ago as a freshman in high school. Yeah, I’m livin’ the Hollywood dream, baby, but it ain’t all wine-n-roses. That’s because I can also tell you that at least three days out of every month she hates my face; that sometimes life with your soul mate gets pretty damned ugly; that there were times during the first seven years or so when I wanted to quit. I didn’t, and thank God neither did she. It took prayer; it took perseverance; it took faithful friends to hold me accountable when I was pretty much refusing to love and honor my wife; (that was during a time when I had just “lost that lovin’ feelin’); and it took work…LOTS of work. It took a willingness to sacrifice self, not necessarily for one another, but for the relationship. And in retrospect, I know it has all been worth it: all the “disagreements,” all the unpacking of each other’s baggage, all the sexual frustration, all the financial disputes, all the late night puke cleaning drills with the kids and, yes, all the “I’m just not happy anymore” feelings. I wouldn’t trade any of it. That’s the price of Hollywood’s best kept secret. In a word, it’s called commitment and those high brow celluloid pushers don’t want “Buffy” and “Thor” to know that’s the good shit.

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~ by johnnywingnut on November 26, 2007.

14 Responses to “‘Love’ American Style”

  1. I’m afraid I was educated re: the difficulties of my 9 years of shackin’ up by The Brady Bunch, Married With Children and my parents and am not feelin’ so chipper about it all lately. Thanks Johnny, ’cause I’d really like to blame the media for this one, as I do most other ails.

  2. I’m like Debbie Downer on this one.

    Love, American Style. If it weren’t fucked up, would it really be American?

    Wa Wa Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  3. Everybody has a movie. Some people like perfection, others not so much.

    I figure I’ve had a good day if things don’t end up like Die Hard 47: Attack of the Screaming Mimis.

    I’m not sure if that says more about me, or more about the movies. I’ll have to ponder that.

  4. Well freida and OmniP, the post is skewed to be sure, but I feel ya. I guess in all my wingnutiness…or maybe wingnaughtiness, I have the belief that mass communication via media in all its incarnations is pretty much consistent with the garbage in/garbage out concept. One can’t help being affected by it, even if you’re cognizant of what is happening.
    Peace

  5. I’m the only one of my siblings who never divorced, and I owe it all to one thing. After my husband and I were married and the kids started coming along, my husband and I made a deal. Whoever asked for a divorce had to take the kids. It must have worked, we’ve been married for almost 35 years. I have one kid left at home and he’ll be leaving for college next year…we’ll have to come up with another excuse to stay together. 🙂

  6. Johnny – Great post. I’ve been served with divorce papers, but it didn’t take. The gravitational pull of my tits? My paycheck? My sweet, gentle demeanor? The kids?

    Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes.

    And what you said….it’s never perfect. You just need to take the good with the bad and hope for the best.

  7. “[G]ravitational pull of [your] tits” eh? That reminds me of the concept of orbital resonance. Apparently, heavenly bodies in close proximity to one another can have an attraction in which there is an energy transfer.

    Now whenever I think about these things I’ll forever have that association in my mind. Thanks a lot D. I’ll never look at my wife’s tits the same way again:) No wonder I’m always following her around the house.

  8. so life is not Ward and June Cleaver — or Ozzie and Harriet — or even Lucy and Ricky….

    johnny — all well stated —-

    everything in life seems so much more worthwhile when you work and it — and you own it. when it is handed to you or when you take things for granted then the problems begin.

    i am so glad that after all this time, after all your ups and downs you and your wife are still making it work and better than ever…

    the question i have (not to be the downer) – is why does the church FORCE people to stay together when no matter how hard they try, no matter how much energy and effort is expended — it doesnt work. should people be forced into an extended life of misery when making relationships and life work is hard enough as it is?

    i dont get that

    you are a terrific writer…

  9. JW-I’m with DCap on this one. Not all relationships are wine and roses and all the one I’ve seen work is because they were worked at.

    But the wrench in these works is that sometimes two people are bad for each other and sometimes it takes them a long time to figure this shit out. I’ve been married for 17 years now and I know that it’s road with as many smooth sections as it has it has potholes. Ya deal with what comes, right?

    No matter, this was a good piece. It’s nice to know that not every marital spat ends with lawyers sitting at opposite ends of a shiny wooden table.

  10. Spartacus: Yep. You take the good with the bad, man. Also, sorry I missed yer birthday, homeslice. I’ve got one coming up as well…first week in December…Argh! Being over the hill is certainly better than being under it>>>I suppose<<<<
    PEACE

    Thanks for the kind words, D’Cap

    Well, to be honest, I’m not even sure how to answer the question, but I’ll do my best….or worst as the case may be.

    First, I don’t know of any Church (independent or corporate) which has the power to force people to stay together. If organized religion had that power, I would think there would be more evidence of it in the culture. Even so, my UNqualified opinion is that people shouldn’t be forced, but I don’t know of a single example where that is happening. Coerced…yes. Encouraged…yes. But “forced”? No.

    In this case, however, I do think coercion is a good thing. And I do think couples should be encouraged to stay with it, especially if children are involved, but as with most things in life there are exceptions. Even Jesus, (who never condones divorce BTW) gives people the exception of infidelity as grounds for divorce.

    But the reason Christians in general are so anal about divorce is because of Christ’s warning of how serious the issue is. It certainly wasn’t because of any unction in the Torah, however, where divorce was not only included in the law of Moses, but was fairly common place, as it is today. However, even if one doesn’t believe in the Bible, I think a case for staying together in most circumstances can be made on pragmatic grounds related to the antecedents of divorce and the societal stability afforded by the institution of marriage itself.

    That said, I don’t think a case can be made on biblical grounds, to say nothing of pragmatism, for staying in a marriage that is abusive. Abuse, however, is not the norm when it comes to the reasons people are splitting. Most folks are giving up simply because they never committed. That lack of commitment is born out in the majority of reasons people are calling it quits. The top symptom is infidelity, followed closely by lack of communication and a change in priorities, all of which take a huge amount of work and self control. In addition, statistics are that 50 – 60 % of people figure if it doesn’t work out, they can just get a divorce and go on with their lives. The operative words are, “…if it doesn’t work out, they can just…” That’s the kind of expectation these folks have going in.

    I hope that helps, but somehow looking back over what I have written, my answer appears rather feeble at this point. Also, it says nothing of the grounds for marriage before the fact from a Christian (or rather biblical) perspective, or the coercive effect of accountability after the fact in the form of a peer group which encourages couples in its ranks to stick it out.

    Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I am, myself, a divorcee. I should’ve told you that first, then you wouldn’t have wasted all that time reading my reply…lol. Sorry…that’s just more of my Donnie Darko tendencies coming out again.

    Have a good one.

  11. JW- There are numerous reasons relationships fail in our society.

    We are a transient society either because we simply want to explore or because of our careers.

    My ex is a great example. One day she called me, and said she was trying out for a Musical.

    After she found out she didn’t get the part, I asked what would happen if she did get the part.

    “I’d have to move to _______,” which is almost 1200 miles away.

    “When?”

    “Next Monday.”

    Kind of hard to commit under those circumstances.

    Another thing people don’t talk about much is the fact that we live much longer now than ever before, and that definitely impacts our relationships.

    We have more time to experience life, and we do a lot of changing during our lifetimes. (Think of yourself in your early 20’s compared to now, and then imagine looking back when we’re eighty or ninety).

    We’re seeing more and more people with several “Great loves” in their life, instead of one.

    The odds are not in our favor that two people will grow along the same path for 50-60 years. Usually what happens is that one or both people are forced to give up something they want (Possibly something very important to them; a career, education, travel) in order to stay in relationship. Not good in the long run. Tends to build resentment.

    The problem with commitment is easy. Our society doesn’t “force” people to marry, but it sure makes life uncomfortable if you don’t, and I think many people marry simply to be married.

    “I’m such and such age, I’d better get married soon.”

    Also, most people don’t know themselves, therefore making it impossible to know someone else.

    It’s cliche, but so very true.

    And then there’s the ever present cause of pretty much all the shitty things people do to themselves and each other, FEAR.

    Conventional wisdom says people are “afraid of commitment.” Not true. People are afraid of committing, growing to love someone, and then losing them for whatever reason. They’re afraid of losing the commitment, not the commitment itself.

    You see it all the time, people sabotaging themselves, their relationships etc because they’re fearful.

    I think one thing that would help tremendously is if Americans were taught how to be Individuals.

    We are taught that we are alone, which is not the same as being an Individual. The result is that Americans tend to be extraordinarily self-centered, which, again, is not the same as being an Individual.

    Many of us are familiar with a person who provides a perfect example.

    In his/her mind, I’m sure they think they’re an “Individual,” but in reality they are simply disconnected, and the grandiosity, willfulness, condescension etc are the manifestation of denial, and denial is simply a manifestation of fear.

    “I want to connect, but I don’t know how, and I’m afraid. So I’ll make you dislike me, before you have a chance to dislike me on your own.” (Does that make sense?)

    Or they simply could be anti-social, and essentially dead inside.

    Which is a growing problem in this country. The number of people with ASPD is on the rise, and no one really knows why, except I just explained why.

  12. 10-4, fairlane. Fear is certainly a huge factor, as is our tendency to just think about number one and live primarily on an emotional level. Not to oversimplify, but I do see a dichotomy in the way people live (myself included). When I was a young pup I made my decisions, for the most part based on my emotions. My simplistic way of going at it then was, “I’m not happy right now. Therefore, I will make decisions which give me the most momentary happiness.” As you can, no doubt, imagine, my life was extremely volatile at that time. It was only later that I began an active campaign to stop living my life on a strictly emotional level and start living on a more cerebral one, making my decisions based on the twin pillars of thought and principle. My opinion (and it is ONLY my opinion) is that a majority of Americans are living off their emotions, by and large. As a result, they can’t stick with anything when the shit hits the fan. You know…it’s the, “Sorry, that’s a bit uncomfortable (or a lot uncomfortable); I’m outa here,” and “That doesn’t make ME happy; I’m outa here.” God forbid that I would have to make a CHOOSE to love someone–that I would have to keep my word, etc. All I can say is it’s easy to quit and far more difficult to keep your word these days. Not “your” word, but you know what I mean…just in general.

    Off topic: We never did do lunch this week. My fault. Been really busy with the new account. I’ll have to do better next week.
    Until then, I’m out.

  13. JW- No doubt about it. We are flighty for sure, but I think it’s because people, in general, tend to be unsure of what they “feel” because we’re, myself included, so unbalanced.

    But living by your thoughts is no good either because then you end up disconnected, like our stalker. And thoughts tend to be fly by night as well.

    I think a lot of things now, that I did not think ten years ago.

    The key, which is why I said Americans need to be taught how to be individuals, is finding a balance between the two.

    Shit, there are so many factors involved in relationships.

    Another we haven’t touched on is the natural human resistance to change. We want things to always stay as they were/are, and when they don’t we try to resist. But relationships are forever changing.

    Someone gets sick, decides they want to go back to school, changes their mind about kids, careers, goes to therapy. It’s endless.

    Anyone who stops changing may as well be dead, but we fucking hate it.

    When my ex didn’t get the part I said, “Thank God.”

    Complete asshole thing to say, but I didn’t want our relationship to change.

    We’re selfish. “I want what I want.”

    And as Sartre said, “Other people are Hell,” because they want what they want.

  14. Alright…but don’t get me started on that Jean Paul Sartre shit…lol:) I’m hittin’ el hay. Speaking of el hay, haven’t seen Kelso around lately. Is he still one of the beautiful ones, or has he gotten a belly full of the internet. Actually, I have a total love/hate thing with the internet myself. Someday, I’m gonna quit and start living life. You know, it’s like I always say,”I’m gonna quit blogging…no, I mean it this time….no really; I’m not fucking around. This time I’m quiting.” But then I never do. I just keep comin’ back for more. Gotta love it! See you.

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