Archive for December 27th, 2009

December 27, 2009

something’s gotta give

Yesterday, my sisters and I went to the movies. We saw a matinee of It’s Complicated. This was also the choice for a hundred lady members of the AARP. We were the absolute, without a doubt youngest people in the theater.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the film. It’s exactly the kind of movie I fall for. Romantic and silly. Over the top sets. Beautiful wardrobes. A cast overflowing with actors who are interesting to watch.

I wanted to crawl inside the screen and live forever with Meryl Streep as my mother, or me as Meryl when I qualify for my own AARP card. To be wealthy enough, with a fulfilling career, happy family, dream home… it’s what I want. I want that upper middle class American dream. It makes my insides curl up to think that I might have it some day.

But it’s not really what I want.

This week is the last in a decade, so people feel obliged not only to reflect on the best albums/books/movies/moments of 2009, but on the best album/books/movies/moments of all ten previous years. I was thinking about movies, in particular, and found myself thumbing through Wikipedia, keeping a list of what I’d seen from each of those years that seem so long ago.

And I’ve never thought of myself as much of a film junkie. I like movies. I go to the movie theater every two or three months, I guess. There have been times where I venture to Blockbuster every other week or so, but mostly I’m content to watch my favorites over and over again. I have plenty of friends who watch almost everything. I have plenty of friend whose lives require Netflix accounts. I thought my habits were moderate.

I was alarmed when my list reached 50 in only 2000, 2001 and 2002.

So I watch a lot of movies. I’m also susceptible to the spell of TV on DVD.

And books. I often want to curl up inside books and live forever. And I remember this one moment of clarity, when I was in college and really struggling, and I curled up in my bed and started another novel ordered from interlibrary loan. I am not reading to enjoy, I thought. I am not reading to enlighten, to learn, or to respect.

I am reading to escape.

I am well aware that I operate inside of a bubble. I am not constantly in touch with the realities of the world, or even the realities of my own life. This is conscious. I have carefully crafted this bubble I call home – I let in only the people I want, only the issues I want, only the tasks and goals I think I can achieve – and I really do like it that way. After struggling for a long time with myself and my relationships, I’m under the illusion that I can handle more because of the bubble. That without it, protection, fear and anxiety and depression would keep me from doing anything. If I have a safe place, I am free to take risks within it.

Books and movies and television. Stories are my safe spaces. Where things begin and then end. Characters meet conflicts. Action rises and resolves. Words follow other words on the page.

That’s why I love movies like It’s Complicated. They are unrealistic and romanticized and false. They are silly and vapid. But they are stories that have limits – people behave in predictable ways, stories will resolve, things have already happened. That is what I want – for my life to reach a point where I’ve already made the right decisions and now I can just enjoy the things I made. I can be Meryl Streep and have silly romantic follies but can come home to my loving family and job and house and just be DONE with all the uncertainty of youth.

But I might not have a family. If I do, my children will be messy and not Hollywood beautiful, I will hold on to baby weight and struggle with my husband. If I have a husband.

There are a thousand reasons why my dreams will never come true. Maybe dreams of Meryl Streep are culturally created fabrications, a waste of my time and efforts.

And a thousand ridiculously awful things will happen even if they do. Cleaning my bathroom won’t help me write difficult papers. Right now I am comfortable in my cocoon of a home, full of family that I trust and love. I relax. I play games. Read books. Watch movies. I don’t accomplish anything when I’m escaping. And it keeps me from doing things I need to do. Something ridiculously awful happened to my best friend, and I should be seeing her. Instead, I’m in my comfortable white box of space, typing words because I can’t figure out what to think about what happened to her.

Ritually attending to my personal, emotional needs – like I do here often in this blog – soothes, but begets more and more self-centered-ness.

Constant escapism brings issues. I’m aware of that.

But I’m also interested in it. The stories. The ability of stories to take me away. To take others away. Whether that escapism has value in society, or in my own life. Whether you can do it while maintaining artistic craft, quality.

When I go to visit my friend – probably tomorrow – I will bring her a story.

I am a flawed individual with a myriad of issues. My boyfriend – a man who has known me for over six years – tells me weekly that I am too hard on myself. I am constantly evaluating whether or not I watch too much TV, whether I read the right books, whether I eat the right foods whether I am making the right choices.

But for some things, I refuse to feel shame.

On It’s Complicated –

Jane may be too perfectly dressed, coiffed and housed to be plausible. But Ms. Streep makes you believe in Jane, or rather makes you want to believe in her, from her casually chic wardrobe to the indulgent smiles she bestows on her children and lovers, all of whom need nurturing. The truth is that everyone needs a little coddling, which could be the key to Ms. Meyers’s peculiar talent: She pampers her audience shamelessly. Manohla Dargis