Love-Birds of a Feather

I’m as much a sucker for a good bird-brained, glutinous, weepy love story as the next guy. But I only like that stuff in fiction, and only in small doses. It’s not enough for me that a love story should have a meet-cute first act and an upbeat dénouement–it’s the stretch between that ought to be uplifting and exciting. Yes, it’s a rather charming sounding concept, at least on paper perhaps, that love would be perfectly lifelong (a lot riding on how long the lives happen to be) and all-encompassing. Yet aside from the exceedingly rare few seemingly flawless pairs for whom there is no apparent need for a world outside of them at all, most of the best relationships I’ve seen or known happen because they comprise two actual individuals, with all of their own unique characteristics, their daily existence intertwining intimately without losing the color and clarity of those individual souls shaped by their distinct thoughts, actions, experiences and inspirations. A true partnership, with all the challenges of give-and-take, beats cloning any day.

That popular book-and-movie of my younger days, Erich Segal‘s ‘Love Story‘, may by now be better remembered for its tagline ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry‘ than for its actual story of an opposites-attract kind of couple barging and charming their way through thick and thin, plucky and witty and utterly devoted to each other [because of course his haughty family has disowned him for linking up with One of Them, not of Us], until she dies–but very prettily, mind you–of leukemia and her grieving spouse is reunited with his estranged father. The whole story I could take reasonably well, but that one phrase really stuck in my craw, negating all of the negotiations it took to get the fictional couple from their meeting to the bittersweet end of their partnership at her death. Never mind that Segal himself seems to have had a great marriage that defied the glossy sentimentality of such a thing, it always struck me as cheapening the very joy of learning each other’s ways and enriching each other by simply being flawed and odd yet willing to figure out how to fit the two brands of strangeness together well. If I interpret the slogan as regarding regrets rather than apologies, it’s less distasteful to me, though I still think if there’s no risk of hurt, there’s little chance of reward either. The ultimate hurt, in this case, being not death (the old inevitable, despite the dramatic awfulness of its being untimely and painful in this heroine’s case) but the possibility of the relationship failing or being destroyed.

I guess it boils down to this: if a so-called love is so flimsy and flighty it can’t withstand mistakes and the necessary if clumsy duct tape and chewing gum sort of repairs we make on it, how can it be worthy of the name love at all? I much prefer the sort where feathers do get ruffled occasionally but the draw of true companionship and care and hilarity and comfort and adventure all together makes it well worth smoothing them back illustration from a photoMore than anybody else I know, I have been lucky in love.

I have never suffered through ill-treatment, being dumped or neglected or abused or any of that terrible stuff. I was raised by kind, loving, enjoyable parents–who still seem to think I’m worth keeping around–and have three wonderful sisters who have also kept my coffers filled with affection and excellent companionship. I’ve had a raft of kind friends who have been constant in their warm and encouraging presence throughout my days. Even the teachers, co-workers, postal carriers and shopkeepers peopling my life’s paths have generally been of a goodly sort. Best of all, I am lucky to know just how lucky I have been. And am.

No, that’s not exactly right: the true pinnacle of all this is that I found a best friend I could love, and be loved by, in the truest sense, for the rest of my life. It’s his birthday today, and I can’t help but be reminded how wildly blessed and fortunate I am in having him as my partner and daily companion as well as my great love. Being the best of friends makes all of the rest of it possible, the love and joy and kindness and life challenges faced together. We are birds of a feather, my love and I, and I wish him a long and marvelous series of birthdays yet to come. And a deeply happy one today, to get the rest of them started.

See you back at the ol’ nest by evening, my montage

‘On Pouvait Dire . . . ‘

‘Ah! non! c’est un peu court, jeune homme!
On pouvait dire…Oh! Dieu!…bien des choses en somme…’

digital artworkWould that I had the miraculous gift of the silver tongue–it’s said that the genuine Cyrano de Bergerac, the writer and duelist enshrined in fiction as some sort of demigod of dramatic speech, was in life something quite near to it as well. As a youthful admirer of the romantic dream, I memorized Rostand‘s most famed soliloquy of Cyrano’s (in English, naturally), but what remains after so many years have passed is not so much the poetry of his slick speech; it is instead a deeper sense that for all my staring at his nose along with everyone else I managed to miss the point.

The story is told in fictional form to so exaggerate the majesty of his nasal promontory that all we see in most readings and performances onstage is a caricature or cartoon man, led by a nose of bowsprit proportions and foolish improvidence to oversized action and wildly improbable joys and sorrows as a result. These kinds of things do happen to real people in real life, of course; even the real man behind the character was larger-than-life in both nose and existence, according to what we know. He did, if his contemporary portraits are anything near the truth, have a substantial prow, and we have his writings–satirical pieces to classical tragedies–to prove that his wordplay was quite substantial too.

But what perhaps ought to be said of him–whether real or imaginary–is that he was a bit of an outsider by virtue of looking Different, and his response was to fight for respect, both with his rapier and his rapier wit. [Given the historical man and the possibility that he was (not surprisingly, given the era and culture and his reputed exploits) syphilitic, he may well have experienced life completely without a nose if he lived long enough.] It’s easier to label and classify others on the basis of unpopular appearance or differing from the currently decreed norms than it is to cultivate what we have in common. Yet we can learn from some of our outlier counterparts if we will stop, for a moment, being so mesmerized and distracted by what makes them seem unlike us, what it is that we have and value in common. Best if we do that before losing the duel.

Though at least, if the duel is purely verbal, there can be some entertainment inherent in getting taught a lesson. I can live with being the unarmed woman in a battle of wits, as long as I get to keep living long enough to laugh about it. I may not be a genius, but that, my friends: c’est mon panache!