Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Numb3rs, The Princess Bride and Fairy Tale Endings

When I was a kid, one of my very favorite movies was The Princess Bride. I must have watched that movie fifty times, if I watched it once. The sword fights, the witty repartee, the sheer cheese - it was possibly the very best movie ever. But there's something I never admitted to my friends at the time - not even my friends who were girls. Don't tell anyone, but I rather appreciated the whole fairy-tale, once in a century "true love" of Wesley and Buttercup. It settled rather well with my general sense of justice, that this very special love would be bestowed upon commoners - and I was always something of a romantic. The latter being something that even my friends of the female persuasion would have gagged at, because while I broke the general convention that girls are icky and had a few close friends who were girls, they were not so much the pretty pink princess types. One of them had a habit of beating up boys who dared infer that she was anything less than capable at boy type games...

Just last night, I was watching the season finale of Numb3rs, which is my absolute favorite show currently on the tee vee (though I don't actually watch the tee vee and have no idea what else is on for the most part - I watch stuff online, mostly CBS). There are a myriad reasons I love it, not the least being the fact that several main characters are math and science profs who are portrayed as real human beings. But my very favorite aspect of Numb3rs is the dynamics of the interpersonal relationships. Across the board they are realistic and compelling - it's rather hard not to really care about them.

My very favorite relational dynamics is that of Charlie, Don and their father. But that one aside, I am also fond of the relationship between Charlies and Amita. It has been rather exciting watching their relationship evolve into something truly remarkable. And the season five finale was the culmination of that, with Charlie proposing to Amita at the end. It wasn't that proposal that got me though. It was in the previous episode when Amita was apologizing for not answering Charlie's earlier "would you love me if" question. It was really a small thing when it had come up and there was a larger discussion going on, but when Amita went to apologize, she had tears in her eyes, because she realized that in ignoring that question, she had implied that her love was somehow conditional. Of course plot rules and their "moment" was disrupted by Amita getting kidnapped, so that the resolution came at the end of the following episode. But that whole scenario, minus the intervening kidnapping and rescue, was one of the most romantic moments I have ever seen on the screen - as much due to the buildup that began in the first episode of the series, as was due to the phenomenal acting.

For years now, I have appreciated that people fall in love like Charlie and Amita. I have also appreciated that the standard many would hope for is more like Wesley and Buttercup's, "once in a century" sort of love. But I also appreciated that that depth of feeling is something that other people, people who aren't me achieve. I understood that my capacity for romantic love was far short of that mark and always would be. While my love for my boys scales far beyond what I ever thought I could possibly feel for a women, they are my children and I figured that made for a rather special case. I resigned myself years ago, to loving a partner on a very different level. Had you asked a few months ago (and my therapist did), I would have still told you that I had reached my capacity for feeling with the mother of my children.

And then Juniper happened to me. While ours is far from a fairy-tale ending - or more accurately, a beginning, I now know that I am capable of a depth of feeling that I knew I would never come close to. I love her with a passion that occasionally manifests as actual physical pain. I am not alone and don't feel alone. I have a lover who shares everything with me, my pain, my mistakes, my dismay, my joys, my beauty and I share hers. A million miles away, yet right here with me, loving me and sharing my life. And I'm with her, loving her and sharing her life. Neither of our lives are all that perfect right now. Indeed both of us have a lot of unpleasantness to deal with at moment. But having each other makes it tolerable.

It's not fairy-tale love, but I suspect that it's as close as real life can get...


Jason Thibeault said...

Can't speak to Numb3rs, but Princess Bride is my bag. I still watch it every few months. I have a 2009 "storybook" calendar up at work, in fact. And yes, the hyperbolic nature of their epic love, through which Wesley even cheats death, definitely appeals to my romantic side.

Real life does not work like the fairy tales. But when you get something that shows any similarity to it, it's pretty magical, huh?

Stephanie Zvan said...

A couple of my friends have license plates that read "twu wuv" and "evr aftr." They've been living their fairy tale since they met nineteen years ago. If I recall correctly, he started it by collapsing at her feet.

And Numb3ers rocks. It's so refreshing to see a story about grown-ups.

Abby Normal said...

Princess Bride is definitely in my list of top 10 movies of all time. I was old enough by the time I saw it that romance was not something which embarrassed me. For me, that media was Robotech.

Ostensibly it was a cartoon about humans in giant robots battling alien invaders. But the real reason I tuned in each week was to see what was going on with the love triangle between Rick, Minmei and Lisa. Would this be the week Lisa finally revealed her love for Rick. Would he ever be reunited with Minmei. When will he realize what he has right in front of him in Lisa. And don't even get me started on Max and his forbidden love with one of the aliens. Honestly, Days of Our Lives has nothing on Robotech. Yet, as far as conversations with my friends, it was all about the robots.

I'm a fool for love, a hopeless romantic, and a number of other cliches I'm sure. I wouldn't want it any other way. The heights of joy to which love can bring you when you have it, the depths of pain to which it can send when you lose it, the raw intensity when you surrender yourself to it, its perfect.

The most wonderful thing about love is it requires you to put aside your ego, to focus outside yourself. It gives you the courage to be more than you thought possible. Those worries that hold people back, looking bad, getting hurt, failing, losing, even dying, all fall away because when you love it's not about you. It's all about them.

Now I know some readers are probably thinking that's over the top. That I'm talking about losing yourself in deference to the object of your love. But that's not it at all. All that person is doing is trying to hold on to what they love. They're making it about themself.

No, losing yourself does not serve anyone, especially not your loved one. A loving parent punishing their child for misbehaving is painful for both parties. So why do it? Obviously, because you love them and it's what serves them best. That's what makes Casablanca one of the most romantic movies of all time. Rick's love is so pure he doesn't give thought to himself, but sends away the woman he loves in order to better her life. What's more, it's not a tragedy, but a defining moment allowing Rick to move on from the bitterness of his previous life. That's what I mean by surrendering to love.

That's a bit of my personal philosophy anyway. So far, it's working pretty well for me. ;-)

Jason Thibeault said...

I have a friend named Abby who I just brought over into the "loves Casablanca" camp scant weeks ago. I know you're not her, because of the Robotech bit, but still... uncanny.

Abby Normal said...


Sorry for the slow reply. I usually only blog while chained to my desk at work.

To add slightly to the coincidence factor, my only brother's name is Jason. Though I know you're not him because... Actually you didn't happen to change your last name in the last couple of years, did you?

I should mention Abby Normal is a pseudonym, an hommage to Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, and according to my friends, entirely fitting.

Anyway, kudos for your taste in movies and successful indoctrination of a new Casablanca fan.