Crinkle-eyed and pouty-lipped, I stared at the television for several dour seconds before I made my announcement:
"I don't want to watch this any more."
My boyfriend leaped for the remote, asking what I would better like to see. He pressed a button and Josh-Meyers-romancing-Laura-Prepon-via-candle-lit-dinner-in-a-crappy-record-store blipped off the screen to be replaced by Fox Nightly News. Or maybe it was My Own Worst Enemy. This is not the point.
The point: That 70's Show finally did me in. For 22 years I've watched Disney princesses get whisked away by their princes and Meg Ryan find her soul mate so many times it's stupid; but you can only watch movie stars meet their perfect endings for so long before you realize that nothing of the sort has ever happened to you.
It's ruining me. In my moodier hours (beginning at approximately 10 o'clock in the evening and lasting until I have been satiated with at least seven hours of sleep) I find myself getting angry at my boyfriend - my very kind, sweet, accommodating boyfriend - for not decorating his record store with rose petals and ambient candle light. This is ridiculous. My boyfriend does not own a record store.
Pop culture took it upon itself to give us all fantastically unrealistic expectations for our love lives. Chuck Klosterman writes about this in his "low culture manifesto," Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs:
"Whenever I meet dynamic, non-retarded Americans, I notice that they all seem to share a single unifying characteristic: the inability to experience the kind of mind-blowing, transcendent romantic relationship they perceive to be a normal part of living."
So here we all go marching around thinking something's wrong with us because - dammit! - no straight man has baked me a pie or kissed me in a sea of billowing parachutes for at least twenty years. What's wrong with me?!?
Somehow pop culture guilts us into thinking that our relationships are inferior because they don't look like the movies. I think about this every day as I scrunch my nose up at fairy tale endings. I call it the stuff "stupid"; good old Chuck calls it "Fake Love," which Coldplay, for example...
"...manufactures...as frenetically as the Ford fucking Motor Company manufactures Mustangs...'For you I bleed myself dry,' sang their blockhead vocalist, brilliantly informing us that stars in the sky are, in fact, yellow. How am I going to compete with that shit? That sleepy-eyed bozo isn't even making sense. He's just pouring fabricated emotions over four gloomy guitar chords, and it ends up sounding like love."
My condolences to the Coldplay fans.
In short, mass culture makes us want for things we never would have desired had that red devil not whispered in our ears while four gloomy guitar chord coated in fabricated emotions played in the background. When I finally turn away from the gooey mess, I realize that not only am I OK with my love life, I'm pretty damn happy.
I, for one, have chosen to take me cue from Paul Joannides' sex tome: The Guide to Getting it On:
"When it comes to frequency of intercourse, people who ask 'What's normal?' usually aren't asking the right question. If you are in a relationship, good questions to be asking are 'Do we have intercourse as often as each of us likes?' 'Do we have intercourse more often than one or both of us likes?' The reason these questions are more important that 'What's normal?' is because the only thing that matters about sex is what feels best for you - whether it's three times a day or three times a decade."
Just replace "intercourse" with "supernaturally romantic scenarios" and you'll see that - grace and glory be! - somebody is finally telling us that it's OK to just want what we happen to want and not what everybody else has got their grubby hands grappling after. So maybe I don't want to find out that the guy I hate online is the one I've been flirting with in the coffee shop; maybe I don't want to have to haul the dirty dishes home from the record store so I can wash them in my sink!
This morning I woke up (7 a.m.) to the sound of the upstairs neighbors (not mine; my beau's) fighting. From above I could hear stomping and the woman shouting that she was going to leave. The man went mumblemumblemumble, to which the woman replied that if she couldn't go out that door, she would go out the other one.
Some minutes passed, marked only by muffled yells and stomping. Then I heard a rumbling on the porch above, the tinkling of the wind chimes on our downstairs porch and a thump on the ground. Through the slats of the window blinds I could just barely see the woman hurry off toward the parking lot.
I turned my attention to my boyfriend, who slept beside me. Ten feet below the commotion upstairs, he was stretched out with his arms bent behind his head in repose, as if sunbathing. His elbow poked into my side. I dressed quietly and went to wake him up before leaving. He bear-hugged me onto the bed in a primal act of farewell.
Satiated with a minimum of seven hours of sleep, realizing that this is indeed my real life (no parachutes, no record stores) I am able to say that I am want for nothing at all.