Tootsie Rolls: Dessert or Desperation?

I apologize for a new entry being so late-coming (to the 3 or 4 who actually read my posts, haha. As I may have mentioned before, my husband is gone for the time being. I miss him. However, he is also hoping to come home in the next few months. I am definitely a romantic comedy fan, and always have been. However, I find myself drawn more and more to romantic comedies now, in the wake of his return (and because we have no cable or internet at home yet), than I was even before he left. The other night, I wrote a journal entry trying to delve into why that may be.

However, I don’t have that journal with me at the moment, so I’ll just follow what I remember of the train of thought.

I know this growing fixation is probably not a good thing. Any objective perspective could look and see it is the symptom of a deeper issue: missing my own leading man. It is easy to idealize someone in their absence, and logically, I do comprehend that idealization could be at play here. I’ve heard it said that romance movies are in reality porn for women, because like porn, they build up unrealistic expectation. Hollywood is more than well aware of what wonders good looking people, good lines, good lighting, and a blissfully vague ending can do, especially to a female audience. Have you ever noticed that–how vague and limited the endings of most romantic comedies are? I realized it while watching 10 Things I Hate About You (romantic and, in my case, nostalgic of the movies of my teens). They end up together, yay. But they are only “together” (or dating or whatever you want to term it). We don’t know how long they will be together. I mean realistically, do we expect high-schoolers Patrick and Kat to be together for the rest of their lives? Not really. But the permanence of ther relationship is not presented as a noteworthy issue–only that their relationship is restored, and they are “together now.” For the audience to walk out on that emotional high, the movie strategically closes as Patrick and Kat make amends.

That same night, I watched Runaway Bride. This one does address relationship permanence: they (finally) get married, yay again. But again, this movie closes strategically, too. We never see Maggie and Ike wading through the waters of their differences. She’s a country girl, and he’s a city boy: if nothing else, that would bring to surface some differences, one would think. And even getting married, there are the issues like kids or no, where to live, who does what chores, etc. Granted, it’s mundane, but it is a part of the process. The only process really seen in the movie is: they hate each other, they fall for each other, one kiss changes the course of everything, and suddenly they love each other and decide to get married. We are given no idea of what their life looks like after the marriage. What are we given? A wedding on an autumn-y hilltop, with family and friends celebrating, and most of the loose ends (aka, people who were single) tied up. Screen fades to black, and cue collective audience sigh. And again, we (I am including myself in all of this) have no thought of will the relationship weather the tough times, or will they agree on how to raise children. We have the romance; we have the ideal. That’s all we need.

I realize all of this stuff. I know romantic comedies are heavily idealized, strategically ended, and carefully marketed. You, dear reader, probably know this logically, too. And yet, we gobble them up like kids in a candy store, undiscerning and quite frankly, uncaring about how healthy of a meal it makes for. And I find myself right in there with everyone else, stuffing my cheeks full of Tootsie Rolls. Here’s why:

I miss it.

Like it or not, romance changes things, and it doesn’t have to be photoshopped/idealized Hollywood romance to do it. Before I met my husband, I wasn’t really a touchy person. I didn’t hate it or anything, but it wasn’t exactly on my list of the top ten things I needed in life. When my husband and I started dating, hugs from him and being held by him were the butter on my bread. In his absence now, there is no physical affirmation or even legitimate substitute for it, so there’s nothing at all. (Don’t get me wrong, my friends are great, but friends can only go so far.) Then I watch a romantic comedy, and that bittersweet longing is awakened. I think, I want a hug like that. I want to kiss like that again. I want to have a moment like that with him again. And with his return being so close, it’s hard not to think about it. Before, I could just tell myself, Don’t get your hopes up; you’ve still got a long time to wait. Now that excuse is not as legitimate; the time is coming. And like gophers in the spring, that desire pops its head out from underground and starts intruding into the world above. Watching these movies only encourages it, and it’s frustrating because it encourages something that I can almost have, but not yet. In some weird, voyeur-ish way, though, the movies settle the uprisal, at least for an hour or two. Something in me thinks, Even if I can’t have it right now, at least let me see someone having what I want, even if it’s all just an act. Because against all the logic and rationale that says, “This isn’t real,” is The Moment. The moment where you look on screen, and either verbally or nonverbally, you see the couple say to each other, “I love you, and I would be perfectly content and satisfied with the rest of my life, as long as you and you only are with me in it.” That’s the moment you watch the movie for. It’s The Romantic Comedy Message that has been variated on a buzzillion ways, and yet it still gets us in the heart every time. In fact, we can never get enough of it.

I know “this too will pass,” especially once my husband is home. Life will continue on with all its ebbs and flows. But the controversy will remain: how much candy is too much? And if our hearts are hungry, should we really even be going in the candy store in the first place?

Who knows–maybe we aren’t just kids in a candy store. Maybe we’re starving kids in a candy store. Perhaps we’re not so discerning because we are so desperate.

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