Living Without Regrets

Last November I traveled to Victoria, B.C. with one of my best girlfriends for a weekend away.  I love Canada and always enjoy a good weekend in Victoria, and this one was no exception.  While I have great food and music memories of the weekend along with a great story about walking 2 miles for a necklace, what has really stayed with from that weekend even 7 months later is a discussion my girlfriend and I had about regrets.

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As we wandered through the streets of Victoria, naturally I started to talk about Canadian TV shows that I liked (what can I say- I watch too much TV and I do love Canada…).  One of the shows I started to discuss is a show called Being Erica which follows the life of Erica Strange (I swear I am not making that name up) as she starts a very unusually type of therapy where she is able to travel back in time to relive and try to alter her regrets.  I know it sounds far fetched, but trust me, it’s actually a very well done show.

Later that night as we sat basking in live music at the Irish Pub, my friend referred back to our earlier discussion and asked me what some of my regrets were.  Honestly, I had a hard time trying to think of anything that wasn’t inconsequential.  Sure, maybe I could have tried out for one of our High School musicals or played sports growing up, but in terms of big regrets- I didn’t have any, not even my choice to not finish grad school.

This is not to say everything has always gone perfectly and I have always made the right choices in life.  I have suffered through the not so great internships and jobs and not always given my all when I could have.  I’m very shy at times when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex when I am attracted and it may have served me to act more boldly.  But overall, I don’t regret any of my experiences, because I have learned something from all of them.

I believe that with the right attitude you can live without regrets- it’s all about how you choose to look at the not so great experience and what you take away from them.  I’ve had plenty of not so great work experiences as well as dates, but each time I have learned more about myself through discovering what I don’t like and why.  This self knowledge that comes with reflecting on negative experiences makes them worth the discomfort and something that I would not wish away.

One of my favorite movies is Apollo 13 (you can laugh at me for this- but I think it is an incredibly well made movie.  The suspense is built so well that even though I know in the end everything is OK and they come home safe- when the radio crackles and you hear their voices come through… oh man, I cry every time.  Every single dang time.).  At the end of the movie when Tom Hanks is talking about their mission he says that NASA referred to it as “a successful failure”.  It succeeded because all three men came home safely, but it was a failure in that they never were able to land on the moon and complete their mission.

I love this idea of a successful failure, and it it the attitude with which I choose to approach my not so great experiences.  They are successful due to what I can learn through the trial, even though they may have been a failure in helping me reach a goal.  So, even though I have had several ups and downs in my life, I don’t have any major regrets, and I don’t believe I ever will.

Looking back on the path of Erica Strange, even though she was focused on her regrets, in the end I believe that by having the chance to relive them and re-examine them, she came to the same conclusion.  Maybe they were not really regrets after all, but turning points in her life, teaching her a bit more each time about who she really is and what is truly important.

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Defending the Romantic Comedy

Over the past week I have read several articles about how the Romantic Comedy may be a dying breed.  It all started with an article in The Atlantic monthly print magazine by Christopher Orr titled Why Are Romantic Comedies So Bad?  That was then followed by several critiques including one on NPR by Linda Holmes, and one from Billy Mernit on Living the Romantic Comedy.  All of that was then followed by a critique of the critiques with a second article from Orr- What Went Wrong With Romantic Comedies: Part 2.  Now, I’m not planning to also write a critique here- but I do want to discuss both the pitfalls and the greatness of the Romantic Comedy.  Why?  Quite simply because I love them.

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I completely agree with Orr that many of the movies in the genre from the past 5 years or so are dreadful.  Romantic comedies today seem to have become completely cliched and full of neurotic women we can’t see the charm in or identify with.  The men are often misogynistic and it’s hard to see how why we are supposed to fall in love with them along with the heroin.  The settings are contrived, the women are sex crazed, and the comedy is often too over the top or raunchy to be really funny.

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Mindy Kaling (who I could write an entire post on- let me know if you want to read that) hilariously addresses this when detailing the types of women often seen in Romantic Comedy today in an article she wrote for the New Yorker in 2011.  Kaling also mentions in the article how embarrassing it is these days to admit that you enjoy these films, and talks about how she is able to enjoy the current offerings by detaching them from any kind of reality.  “I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world. For me, there is no difference between Ripley from “Alien” and any Katherine Heigl character. They are equally implausible.”  Now, I will admit that I laughed out loud when I read that because I could relate- but it also made me sad.

I don’t want to watch a romantic comedy to examine another dimension- I want to be able to relate, to see some part of myself in the characters.  I want it to feel real enough because as a single woman, I live vicariously through these characters for the two hours that we spend together.  I can feel the emotions as if I too were experiencing their love.  And this escape- that’s what I look for in a good romantic comedy.

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 I want it to feel plausibly real.  I want the women and men to have pretty normal lives and regular jobs.  I want there to be moments of truth that I can relate to, such as when Sally (Meg Ryan) is crying to Harry (Billy Crystal) because she found out her ex is getting married in When Harry Met Sally.  Harry asks her if she would take him back now, and Sally says no.  Then why are you upset? Harry wants to know- and Sally responds with “why didn’t he want to marry me?”  That moment hits in the gut because it is so nakedly true.  Other true moments where I have found a moment of pure honesty in Romantic Comedy include Kristen Wiig’s reaction to the announcement that her best friend is getting married in Bridesmaids (simultaneous joy and tears), Bob (David Duchovney) asking Grace (Minnie Driver) if he can hold her hand in Return to Me (I could also write an entire post on the greatness of Bob), and the credit sequence in Bridget Jones’s Diary when Renee Zellweger sings/dances/drinks it out to “All By Myself”.

These moments are what keep bringing me back to my tried and true films.  Nora Ephron nailed it every time, but who is writing Sams and Annies today?  We need a new wave of Romantic Comedies that treat women as smart, rational human beings, and gives them real men to fall in love with- men who are not dragged into love kicking and screaming.  I have hope that these types of quality romances will come around again.  Until then, I’ll keep hanging out in the Shop Around the Corner, masochistically reminding myself that I want to be in love in a movie.

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Choosing to be Single?

Yesterday, I had one of those days where it is hard to be single.  Not hard in the emotional, “oh I wish I had someone” way- but hard in the sometimes things are just easier with another person to help you out, kind of way.

I live alone (well, alone with a cat), and usually I love it.  I like coming home and not having to worry that the mess I create while making dinner will bother anyone if it does not all get cleaned up in the same night.  I like to be able to re-charge by vegging out if that is all I have the energy for, and I am completely in control of what will be watched.  As a rather large Introvert on the Meyer’s Briggs scale, I need a lot of me time to feel re-energized and balanced, and living alone allows that.  This does not mean that I don’t get lonely from time to time- but the positives outweigh the negatives, and my cat is pretty good company most of the time.

However, there are times when it would just be helpful to have someone else around.  My predicament yesterday was that my shower backed up- not just running slow, but full on standing water.  I tried everything I could possibly think of, and when none of them worked, I went to the internet for more ideas.  Finally, defeated, I called my landlord and let him know the issue.  He had me call a plumber and it was both a relief and a disappointment.  It was nice to know that I no longer needed to handle the issue alone, but I had really wanted to tackle the problem myself and feel self sufficient.  In the end, it did drain on it’s own before the plumber returned my call, it just took six hours for the liquid plumber to work.

During this whole ordeal I kept thinking how nice it would be to have a guy I could call to come help me out.  This may be very un-feminist of me, but sometimes it’s just reassuring to have a male presence in the face of household dilemmas- even if they themselves don’t know how to fix the problem.  It is a nice feeling to have someone to share the burden.

I don’t run into these types of situations often, but when I do I always find myself contemplating my singleness.  I read an article once that said it takes courage to remain single in our society.  At first I did not think this was true because courage implied a choice and I did not think I was choosing to be single, it was just my state of being.  I also did not feel personally that my single state was me acting courageously, it was simply the only way I knew how to live.  I’ve been single my entire life.  At 29 I still have never had a relationship.  This is all I know, there cannot be anything courageous in that.

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to identify with it.  While I still did not feel courageous, I understood what the article was trying to say.  We live in a world today that is built around couples.  When was the last time you went to an arts event and saw someone sitting by themselves?  It feels like there is an underlying social tabu about not going to events alone.  I actually love going to the movies by myself and do so often, but I feel uncomfortable doing many other things by myself such as eating in any place that is a step up from a coffee shop.

In trying to become more comfortable with doing things by myself I want to take a trip on my own.  This has become a very frustrating process.  When looking through living social getaway packages, they are all directed at couples.  Romantic getaway for two!- they all proclaim.  OK, two is not a problem I think, I’ll find a friend to come along or enlist my Father- he’s wanted to explore some of these places.  But then as I read the details, it’s always for a King room and will have champagne or something waiting.  Not really the vibe you want on a trip with your Dad.  These kinds of promotions only remind me of my single state and make me feel like there is something else I am left out of because of it.

While all of this can be infuriating, I am still going it alone, and in a lot of ways it really is a choice.  One of my favorite go to guilty pleasure movies is The Wedding Date with Debra Messing.  In the movie, faced with the prospect of showing up to her sister’s wedding alone, Kat (Messing) hires an escort to come along and pose as her boyfriend.  One of the main messages of the movie is expressed when Kat asks her date Nick (Hello, Dermot Mulroney!) about a quote of his from an article stating that every woman has the love life that she wants.  Kat is furious-  “Do you think I want to be alone and miserable?” she throws at Nick.

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I agree with Nick, I think the answer is yes.  While I don’t believe that Kat wants to be miserable, I do believe that if she really did not want to be alone she did not have to be.  The same goes for me.  If all I wanted was to go on a date, I could make that happen.  I could find someone to ask out or join an online dating site.  Finding someone is not the problem; finding the right someone is.  I have never desired to be in a relationship just for the sake of being in one.  Yes, it would be nice to always have someone to go to a concert with or to help me with things around the house.  It would be helpful financially to share the rent if I were ever to live with someone, or even to be able to take advantage of those travel deals.  But as great as all of that would be, it doesn’t really mean anything to me if I’m not sharing it with the right person.  I don’t want to have a boyfriend just because it is great to have a boyfriend- I want it to be special.  So, until I meet that person- yes, I am choosing to remain single, and maybe it is a bit courageous.

I’ll fix that drain on my own.  And if not- that’s what plumbers are for.