Saturday, May 06, 2017
It's Saturday night and I wanted to watch something so I chose Intervention, a movie written and directed by Clea Duvall where she actually gets to play a lesbian in an increasingly constricted relationship and chooses to tell her sister and her husband to stop hurting each other and get a divorce. Clea is not alone in her desire to set up the intervention; she has her brother Jack who has chucked everything to travel the country towing a trailer with a barely 20-something girl still dressing like a teenager hanging out for the summer between school years and Annie, who set up the intervention because she says she is tired of watching her best friend Ruby and husband Peter slashing at each other. Meanwhile Annie drinks her way through most of the movie while organizing the intervention because she is not ready to marry her fiance and knows she cannot postpone her wedding a 5th time.
Like all those movies where nearly 30-somethings are working out their issues during a wedding weekend, bachelor/ette party weekend, or intervention, it is clear from the outset that the relationships will end up on their ears and the happy ending will not include the instigators.
The thing about interventions, especially when they fail to involve people who really do need help and don't have court-ordered interventions, the point is that the couple in the crosshairs aren't really the ones who need help and everyone else is going to have to examine their navels closely. The fact is that people who set up couples' interventions, and the people who express their concerns at the outset and refuse to go along, are really the ones who need help. Their friends were either too polite or embarrassed to stage an intervention, or even talk to them about it, or weren't aware that was an option. In short, the movie is another chance to get together, get drunk, and air out the emotional linen among friends and family.
Isn't that always the way? Our thoughts are on someone else's problems while we avoid our own problems and issues entirely. After all, they need help and we love them enough to help them. That's the thing about interventions and offering help to someone else, it's easier to focus on someone else's problems than to admit there are things we need to work on.
While watching these almost middle-aged couples sort out their lives, I was immediately reminded of Meathead and Gloria's disintegrating marriage. Meathead was predictably clueless and Gloria was needlessly dismissive and cruel. Gloria was bored, showing signs that if she had to spend one more minute in Mike's company she'd take his head off and castrate him with the rough and sharp side of her tongue. Luckily, Gloria had Edith Bunker to talk to.
Gloria asked her dingbat mother if she had ever gotten to the point where she just could not stand Archie -- and Edith said yes. She gave Gloria the best advice I'd ever heard.
There comes a time in marriage where even the sound of your spouse's breathing is enough to send you running to the kitchen to find the sharpest knife in the drawer to plunge into your once beloved spouse's throat. I would imagine the modern day parlance would be a throat punch. Your spouse's existence is beyond tolerance and you cannot stand it any more. This is the point where most marriages and relationships end up on the dump or out with the trash. You have fallen out of love with your spouse. You could, as most lawyers advise, get a divorce or you could wait to fall back in love with your soul mate. That is what Edith urged Gloria to do -- wait until you fall in love all over again.
As I watched Ruby and Peter I remembered that point in my own marriage when my ex-husband and I publicly cut each other to pieces over cards or during parties. On some level it was witty and funny, but on a personal level it was painful. I considered the knife, but now see I would have happily opted for a throat punch wearing brass knuckles if the choice had been offered. I hadn't seen the episode with Edith told Gloria what to do, and I'm not sure it would have mattered. We would still have divorced because I never actually wanted to be married to him after all. I got pregnant the night we got engaged and marriage seemed the best solution at the time. Mom told me the day we got married I didn't have to marry him and that we could work it all out. I'd have the baby and she and my father would adopt the child. Unlike Edith Bunker's calm dingbat wisdom, my mother could've said nothing that would have hurried me to the altar faster. The thought that she would raise my innocent child turned my blood to ice and all my protective instincts and hormones rushed to surround my unborn child. No child of mine would end up being raised by the woman who spent my entire formative years torturing me as she would undoubtedly torture and abuse my child, especially if it was a girl. I got married that day and have regretted it most of the rest of my life as I struggled with marriage, adulthood, and responsibility and longed for the life I had planned: going to college, getting a degree, and writing a breakthrough novel -- or becoming the first woman judge on the Supreme Court of the United States -- or the first woman driver to qualify for and win the Indianapolis 500. I was 18 and, though I felt I was ready for responsibility, I was nowhere close.
There was no one to do an intervention for me and I doubt I would have sat still for it. There was no Edith Bunker to help me over the hurdles and listening to my mother was akin to praying mantis courting rituals.
There is the fairy tale fantasy of happily ever after and the reality that comes with children and marriage and life as you know it ending while clinging to a past where you remember you thought you were happy and the future lay before you like a brand new Yellow Brick Road stretching along a glittering path where the Emerald City of Oz beckoned on the horizon. The Wicked Witch waited with fireballs and flying monkeys to bar the path, but you're wearing rose-colored glasses and only the good things are visible.
As I have said before, we are creatures who live mostly in the past where the grass was greener, children behaved, and people were civil and kind, socially duplicitous but at least everyone got along. Instead we live in a society populated by people ready and willing to trample your rights to speak while insisting that the only speech that matters is their own as they bully dissenters with libel and slander and name calling fit for a prison school yard and we have only ourselves to blame. While we gave out prizes to children showing up and soothed their hurt feelings by putting ourselves in their places, we forgot -- or failed to remember -- that helping a butterfly out of its cocoon denies the butterfly the struggle that gives it the strength and power to emerge and become a beautiful butterfly able to spread its wings and flit from flower to flower to feed itself and help pollinate the crops so there will be food and flowers for future generations.
Few people learn that it takes persistence and patience to get through the bored "I hate you" stage so you can fall in love again and remember what it was that brought you together. It could be the crooked quirky smile or the way he makes you laugh when you're in the midst of a pointless fight or it could be that her feet are cold on the hottest day of the year or how comforting his arms feel when he steals the covers so he can spoon you. The point is that sometimes you have to wait for the heart to catch up with the brain and few people take the time or feel they have the time to wait. There's always something more important than now and you and us. Sometimes patience is all you need but you have to wait and listen carefully for patience.
That is all. Disperse.