Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Love (Not) Actually

The other day, I came home to find Saffy and Amanda on the sofa deep in discussion. This, in itself, was not terribly unusual. Put two women together on a sofa and within minutes, even if they’re complete strangers, they’ll be exchanging all their deepest and darkest secrets.
            No, what made this tete-a-tete unusual was the fact that the girls were practically hugging each other, their eyes shining with the kind of luminosity you normally associate with someone seeing God for the first time.
            Amanda turned to me, her skin glowing. “He said, ‘I love you!’”
            “Can you believe it?” Saffy urged, unlocking herself from Amanda’s embrace long enough to clap her hands.
            I must have looked confused because Amanda added, “Roger! Roger told me ‘I love you’!”
            Frown lines formed on my forehead. “Who’s Roger?”
            Saffy’s impressive bosom inflated to a dangerous volume. “Oh. My. God. Where have you been? Roger is the guy Amanda has been dating for the past two weeks! The derivatives guy she met at the Harvard reunion three weeks ago?”
            “Two and a half,” Amanda corrected shyly.
            “Sorry, two and a half! Isn’t that amazing?”
            “But who says ‘I love you’ after two and a half weeks of dating?”
            “Someone who loves you!” Saffy said. Amanda nodded happily.
            “It’s just like in the movies!” Saffy added with a sigh.
            As I later yelled to my best friend Karl, “What is wrong with women? Life isn’t a chick flick!”
            “Don’t tell them that,” Karl said.
What really infuriates me about chick flicks (quite apart from the fact that no guy I personally know has ever accidentally bumped into Cameron Diaz in a deserted English village at Christmas or had lunch with an orgasmic Meg Ryan) is the ease with which everyone says “I love you”.
After the first meeting and maybe a couple of dinners, the hero suddenly blurts out “I love you!” and the heroine, after the initial shock, blinks back tears, the violins soar, the camera wheels around them and she says, “I love you too!” Or worse, the hero proclaims, “I’ve always loved you. I loved you before I met you!”
And then every woman in the audience past the age of puberty sighs while the guys shift uncomfortably in their seats. And not in a good way, either.
What a load of crock. Frankly, it’s false advertising. It creates unrealistic expectations in anyone silly enough to watch these movies. How is it humanly possible to love someone before you’ve even met them? And what if you’re just not ready to say “I love you?” back? That’s just blatant discrimination. Or worse, what if you say “I love you” and the other person says, as happened to one of my male friends, “Uhm. Thank you!”
Because “I love you” is not a simple phrase to utter, least of all by men. It’s kind of like that disabled kid in the comics who shouts out “Shazam!” and suddenly turns from puny stripling into the strapping Captain Marvel. Saying “I love you” has consequences. People don’t walk off into the sunset after giving voice to it. There’s no fancy-schmancy script that says “The End” as soon as you say it.
Yet, thanks to all these ridiculous romance comedies, we’re led to believe that it’s so easy. Apparently, you could be hired to water someone’s pot plants and suddenly be roped in to write a best-selling love song with an aging but still very attractive pop star and live happily ever after (thank you Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant for that insane but admittedly catchy fantasy in “Music and Lyrics”).
Which is why I love movies like ‘Alien v Predator’, and ‘Underworld’. The idea that there are sexy vampires and werewolves, or warring extra-terrestrials is, for me, so much more realistic than the idea that people can actually meet at a party and say “I love you” by the time they’ve finished dinner.
“That is just so unromantic,” Saffy huffed. “I’m sure Roger is the real deal!”
“Uh huh,” I said. “And by the way, Amanda, what did you say in response to this declaration of love?”
Amanda hesitated. “Um…”
Saffy stared. “Please tell me you said ‘I love you’ back!” she pleaded.
Amanda looked embarrassed. “Well…”
“You didn’t say anything back?”
“He took me by surprise!” Amanda bleated. “I wasn’t expecting it! Alright, alright! Jason is right! It’s too soon!”
I was triumphant. I punched the air. “I knew it! It’s a whole lot of crock!”
Saffy looked at Amanda with disappointment, her fantasy of happily ever after evaporating. “Huh. I sure didn’t see that coming.”
“Roger that,” I said.