Thursday, 1 March 2012

Happily Ever After

Yes, you've probably guessed it: I have started watching the second season of Ally McBeal. If you didn't guess that, then either you'll never be Sherlock Holmes or you've not been reading this blog too long. As a child one of my favourite stories was (and still is) The Prisoner of Zenda. A dashing hero and a heroine who is not only beautiful and refined, honourable and in love with the hero, but also tragically bound to another. There's a bittersweetness to their love, but it doesn't destroy it. Just lately I have been reading The Three Musketeers (which I wrongly assumed myself to have read years ago), in which is a tangled web of broken hearts. The cardinal, scorned by the queen, seeks to turn the king against her. The queen, hurt by the king's unwarranted cruelty and neglect, turns to the adoring, admiring duke. I don't know how well this ties in with my thoughts, as I have yet to finish the tale.

I have also been reading Middlemarch, in which a young lady mistakenly falls for an erudite old man, discovering too late that his life is far too dry for her. Now I'm watching Ally McBeal, which is always about hearts getting broken, and people worrying about eternal love! Back in 2004 I was supposed to be married. Luckily, it didn't come off. Funnily enough, in the episode of Ally McBeal I just finished, a young lady remarked of her run-in with doom, "Just think how terrible it would be if I'd married a man who didn't love me!" Of course, my situation wasn't quite the same. For one thing, I wasn't a choir director dating a Church Minister! Less facetiously, that fictitious relationship was just a few months from start to end, whereas my fiancée and I had been dating for about four and a half years, and engaged for most of that.

The last year was a mess, in short. I'd finished uni, so would drive to Wales to see her, where she still studied. Long drives are awful, and I was a lot more flappable in those days! I'd be stuck behind a lorry for half an hour, stuck in a chair for the full length of the trip, and arrive very frustrated. A top tip for youngsters who are attempting to make a long-distance relationship work, don't go straight from a stressful environment to trying to cheer up someone who is on edge because she isn't enjoying her degree. It won't necessarily work! Indeed, that final period really demolished my conception of myself for years afterwards. I mentioned The Prisoner of Zenda above. The hero in that endures all sorts of travails for his love, but after about six months of being greeted with snappishness, which induced snappishness in me, I reached a nadir I never thought I could come to. I have no idea who started the fight, but the result was that she burst into tears, and I irritably left and had a drink in the Student Union.

Sorry, you were probably expecting from my use of nadir and the claim that I destroyed my self image that I threw her out a window or somesuch. I'm far too prosaic for that sort of behaviour, and far too sensitive, as you can see by my esteeming going away in a huff as a bottomless pit of evil. The thing was, she'd always been accustomed to burst into tears, and I'd always consoled her, but this time I just gave up. I'm more mature these days. Not only would I not regard that sort of behaviour on my part as reprehensible, but I wouldn't be in a relationship where weeping was a regular feature! Call me picky, people! At the time, however, I really did feel bad. I felt there was a change in our relationship then, but I later realised it had been a lot earlier, back in September, when she had hinted she wanted to leave me. I'd misinterpreted that as her needing reassurance that I wouldn't leave her.

Even that isn't accurate. Before she came to university, she had been seeing a guy, and had broken up with him to date another fella at uni. She ever after regarded the uni guy as a diabolical love-rat, as he soon realised they were ill-suited. A more decent human being than that guy one would be hard-pressed to find, but she had had a tough time, so it was easier to put people into black or white boxes rather than search for nuance. I got put into the good box, but I doubt it was ever meant to be. At first I wasn't in love with her, then we broke up for about eight hours, and I realised I was, but the guy she dated before uni is the man she married when she went back home, so I rather suspect that was just meant to be. It's rather sweet, if you think about it. Friends think I should be angrier about it, and about two years after she left me I was, but I have always been soppy about love. Even during the dark days of my depressed years, when I believed I'd never find anyone, weddings always cheered me up!

There's just something so wonderfully cheering about seeing two people displaying how much they love one another. Not every wedding I've attended has worked out, mind you. I can't pretend that I live in a fantasy land where everyone makes the right choice all the time. However, most have, and in one instance I shan't specify, when the marriage broke down, it did eventually (tortuously!) lead to something better. That is the thing about "Happily ever after" as I said to one half of that marriage in its final days, it does not exist. I think Pratchett or someone else once quipped that you could only ensure a perfect marriage by murdering the bride and groom immediately after the vows. Nobody has a perfect marriage, and nobody has a happily ever after, because we don't live in saccharine fairy tales. We can have wonderful lives, and I know a lot of people who I don't believe will ever separate. Some (of my generation) have been together for a decade or more, and the other week I was reunited with a couple who have known each other since they were eight years or so old!

These characters in Ally McBeal keep worrying about the future and eternal love, and that's fair enough. Everyone does worry about those things. But if you worry about them too much, you can end up doing some really dumb things. I was thinking of them too much when I refused to accept that my fiancée and I were just miserable together. I was thinking of that oft-quoted bit of St Paul about how Love is always patient, when I ought to have been thinking, "We've had a good run, but this just isn't working any more." I've seen that happen to other people, too, and sometimes one party was to blame, and then again there have been situations with no fault on either side.

Don't mistake me. I don't believe in happily ever after, but I do believe in love. In fact, I probably still place it on too high a pedestal, if anything! Stop undermining my rationality, o villain of a subconscious! :-D I've long admired Audrey Hepburn. Some friends (a darling couple, incidentally) presented me with some pictures of her as a Christmas present, and I have framed two. I daren't frame more, as I think I have said, as I feel that having a room covered with pictures of a dead fashion icon suggests I am either gay or a serial killer - or perhaps both! That really isn't the impression I want to make. But she is beautiful, and her images really bring a light to the room. Like the Princess Flavia, the heroine of The Prisoner of Zenda, she is beautiful but unattainable, as close to fiction as anything, really, given she is both dead, and only her image lives on. Even in the perfect women, I can find fault: I've never been keen on all the smoking in Breakfast at Tiffany's, mind you! :-D It's a wonderful film, that. If you haven't seen it, then permit me to persuade you. I once convinced a friend by telling him it was the story of how two prostitutes fell in love, which was very far from the perception he had of it at the time.

To return to Ally McBeal for a moment, one of the characters, John Cage, is
accustomed to "admire [a beautiful woman] from afar", fantasises about a family life with her, and can't think of a thing to say to her. It's really tempting sometimes not to talk to a pretty girl, as I was saying to a friend this weekend, lest she spoil the image one has formed of her. It is a little silly to think in that way, but sometimes it is so pleasing to imagine a fallacy. The latest edition of the Vegetarian Society's periodical arrived on Monday, and the theme of this issue was relationships - unsurprising, perhaps, given we have just had Valentine's Day. There was a chap in there writing from Yorkshire, where there is a distinct dearth of vegetarians. I have to admit to a little amusement on reading his castigation of you regular folk (for on balance you readers ain't veggies, I'm guessing), and then lament at the way he gets told off in much the same manner when he meets vegans. There must be something odd about Yorkshire if he's running into lots of vegans and not so many vegetarians, don't you think? I'm pretty sure they outnumber my lot many times over!

Erm, I digress. Anyway, I bet that chap will see a pretty girl and be reluctant to talk to her, as he can think to himself, "She's a vegetarian and we'll live happily ever after." It's tempting to behave like that, but we'll pretty soon run out humans, if we all do! Of course, it doesn't help when one honestly can't think of anything to say. Well, anything useful! I can sometimes think of not a single pertinent, clever, witty or elegant remark. "But, Pete, you can waffle for England! Look at this pseudo-philosophical meandering above!" Yes, but sometimes my mind just goes. I had a funny experience a couple of years ago, I guess, or at least fourteen months. I was out with a friend and had had a few drinks so I could talk to girls. Y'see, it predates my therapy. So nothing came into my mind, but I knew that the only way to get anywhere is to say something! So I desperately wracked my brain, certain that if I didn't speak I would just scurry off in silent terror.

I tell you, quoting lines from films people have never seen is probably not the greatest idea I've ever had. The bafflement didn't go away, but I did. Actually, if I had persisted, I might have made something of it, as I had at least effected an introduction, however ridiculous! I had another go the other week at talking to a girl in a bar, and it went better than that, though I still crashed and burned. In a less amusing way, which probably says something in support of the "use unknown film-lines to chat people up" idea. "My name is Luke Skywalker and I'm here with Ben Kenobi!" That could work, although anyone who understood the line would probably be a bit put off by the subtle insinuation of incest. You might say I'm over-thinking that, but it just really makes me back away from the line, my hands held out defensively lest it attack me.

I did write down a few amusing lines and adaptations before Christmas, but I lost the list. I recall there was a Flash Gordon one: "My name is Hans Zarkov! Come with me in my rocket ship to save Earth from Emperor Ming!" There's a risk with most lines that I'll be mistaken for an escaped mental patient. ;-) I have dated crazy ladies in the past, so perhaps this will be a good way of finding more. I have to say I like a bit of bonkers in my beloved, a nougat of nutty in my nearest and dearest, a dash of doolally in my darling. OK, I'll stop with the alliteration. Normal can be so humdrum at times, although I am rather humdrum a lot of the time myself. I like a little shock of unusual behaviour every now and then. So I might give that a go now. I'll go pen some gibberish to some ladies at OKCupid, then try to remember that when meeting someone it is just acceptable to say, "Hi, I'm Blah. What's your name?" I had honestly forgotten that until just now. Trying to chat up folk online messes with one's head sometimes!

So wish me luck as I go looking for love eternal and happily ever after. ;-) Well, as I go looking for someone who fits me and is a bit quirky and kinky in all the right places. Er, and fancies a chat about something or other. Which is likelier? Me winning the lottery without ever buying a ticket or me finding the perfect vegan, wargameress, grammar Nazi, Audrey Hepburn look-alike out there somewhere? :-D Good luck to all of you seeking that special someone, and my hearty good wishes to those of you who already have! God bless you all! :-)

P.S. I watched American Psycho today for the first time in years, and I have to admit it isn't just a black comedy. I'd recalled there being less tension and more humour. That said, several scenes reduced me to laughter, most notably: when Patrick tries to strangle Luis in the toilets, only for Luis to mistake this for an advance and start kissing Patrick's hands. To be fair, it was Christian Bale, and Matt Ross is hardly unattractive himself. I digress!


  1. Hi, I thought this article was very personal and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing.

    I thought you might also be interested in a lighthearted article I wrote about geek dating...

    1. Cheers, dear boy. I remember reading that at the time, though I didn't feel I could add much more than you and the other commenters had said. Or: I'#m happy to waffle all over my blog, but I feel bad to blather at others. ;-) No responses so far from the online ladies - it's almost as if scribing scurrilous notes doesn't win fair maiden. But nor does faint heart, famously! St Patrick's Day this coming weekend, which should see a lot of people out and about, celebrating convivially. A clear opportunity to talk to someone then, and I shall seize that day.


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