Meet Joe Black used to be one of my favorite movies. There’s a conversation between William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) and his daughter Susan that used to speak to my young tender heart because I thought William’s description of romantic love was so on point.
William: Do you love Drew?
Susan: You mean like you loved Mom?
William: Forget about me and Mom — are you going to marry him?
William: Don’t get carried away.
Susan: Uh oh —
William: Susan, you’re a hell of a woman. You’ve got a great career, you’re beautiful —
Susan: And I’m your daughter and no man will ever be good enough for me.
William: Well, I wasn’t going to say that —
Susan: What were you going to say?
William: Listen, I’m crazy about the guy — He’s smart, he’s aggressive, he could carry Parrish Communications into the 21st century and me along with it.
Susan: So what’s wrong with that?
William: That’s for me. I’m talking about you. It’s not so much what you say about Drew, it’s what you don’t say.
Susan: You’re not listening —
William: Oh yes, I am. Not an ounce of excitement, not a whisper of a thrill, this relationship has all the passion of a pair of titmice.
Susan: Don’t get dirty, Dad —
William: Well, it worries me. I want you to get swept away. I want you to levitate. I want you to sing with rapture and dance like a dervish.
Susan: That’s all?
William: Be deliriously happy. Or at least leave yourself open to be.
Susan: ‘Be deliriously happy’. I’m going to do my upmost —
William: I know it’s a cornball thing but love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without. If you don’t start with that, what are you going to end up with? I say fall head over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy and who’ll love you the same way back. And how do you find him? Forget your head and listen to your heart. I’m not hearing any heart. Run the risk, if you get hurt, you’ll come back. Because, the truth is there is no sense living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love — well, you haven’t lived a life at all. You have to try. Because if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.
William is a romantic. I am a romantic. The pursuit of romance and the thrill of being “in love” have led me down some interesting paths throughout my dating history, but those paths, as exhilarating as they were, have obviously not led to a lifetime of happiness with any of the guys I have dated. All I have to show for my precious time are a collection of stories and some maturation. In re-reading the dialogue between William and Susan, I don’t really agree with some of what William says anymore. I still think his words are beautiful – who wouldn’t want what he’s talking about? But his advice is a little misguided.
The excitement, “whisper of a thrill,” passion, getting swept away, levitating, etc. that William talks about – I’ve felt all that and more in a lot of my relationships because those are the things I sought out in guys I dated. It’s what caused me to fall deeply in “love.” It’s what made me unable to give up on some hopeless relationships until long after their last wheezing breaths. It’s what made me lose myself and pathetically crawl back to guys who didn’t want to be with me anymore. It’s what made me take for granted and abandon the most healthy and mature relationship I’ve ever had. The chemical rush of being in love feels amazing but it’s blinding.
William’s advice to Claire that she ditch Drew and look for someone who makes her feel all these things is naive. Feelings fade. I didn’t levitate, sing with rapture, or feel deliriously happy at the end, or even the middle, of any of my relationships.
Love isn’t passion or obsession, feeling like you can’t live without someone, or falling head over heels. I’ve felt all these things and confused them for love. Love is a choice to commit and sacrifice. Whether you only have to make a choice one time because someone is just that easy to love, or whether your love consists of having to repeatedly choose to love the person over and over, because they get on your nerves, get fat, go bald, cause you pain, lose their job, become terminally ill, etc., love is a choice.
All this is not to say that I don’t believe in falling in love anymore. I want to fall in love, but it should be based on who they are, not how they make me feel.
William says that the way to find someone to obsess and be passionate about is to forget your head and listen to your heart. Rubbish! Following my heart led me spinning in circles when my heart was in several places at the same time. There’s also the maxim “follow your heart, but take your brain with you.” This doesn’t work because the whole reason why you’re in a pickle in the first place is because heart and brain don’t get along. Therefore, heart and brain won’t want to take a road trip together.
I like this one: “don’t follow your head, for it has no heart; don’t follow your heart, for it has no logic; follow your soul, for it has both.”
My soul is telling me to go to sleep now. So I shall.
Btw, this is me lately: Zzzzzzz.*grinding teeth* zzZZzzzzz *grinding teeth* *gnash gnash gnash* Zzzzzzzz. I am so delirious right now.