When I can’t sleep or I have a small slot of time to myself, I zap around on cable in search of an old movie. Preferably romance. 1940s.
What can I say? It’s therapeutic.
And if not the 40s, the 50s or 60s will do the trick, because the bottom line is: I’m a sucker for depictions of courtship in simpler times.
I long for the clarity, though I know it isn’t real.
I long for a more innocent version of myself, with dreams intact.
I long for the absence of complexity and pressures that accompany relationships in complicated times. Perhaps they accompany all relationships, and all times are complicated.
I also long for the sensation, however brief, of hopefulness that comes before the messiness of post-divorce life.
The particular messiness when you’re dealing with a less than cooperative ex and of course, your kids.
It is strange to admit to this contradiction – waxing wistful over “old school” courtship – as I am an avid believer in gender equality while recognizing (and enjoying) our gender differences.
I am also happy that we have made progress in the past two generations. I’m certain that part of my mother’s discontent with her lot in life is due to the constraints of being a housewife in the 50s and 60s. She had stowed her dreams of pursuing a career in medicine.
As for my yearning for simplicity, I’m guessing it is shared by more women than would actually admit as much. And this yearning is also a reflection of my own post-divorce history.
Naturally, I would be bored to tears with anything so one-dimensional as boy meets girl, boy marries girl, girl stays home and does domestic duty. Of course, the fictionalized version (with laugh track) results in Happily Ever After – as conceived on an RKO lot.
Then again, perhaps the reason I love the films from the 40s is because those were days when we saw examples of strong, opinionated, but still “desirable” women on the big screen – like Katherine Hepburn or Rosalind Russell.
The Past Plays Tricks
As for why my mind wanders to a place that I know is both unreal and deceptive, surely nostalgia plays a role as does a vague memory of a simpler time, and possibly memories of my own “one who got away.”
In fact, the man in question was a Cary Grant-style romantic. He sent beautiful flowers for no reason, made thoughtful gestures throughout the relationship, and the way he looked at me! I could swim in his deep blue eyes.
The best part?
He believed in me – deeply. He listened to me – with focus and appreciation. We discussed what mattered to each of us – at length.
But there were issues, of course, because we live in the Real World. He had kids from a first marriage, and I wasn’t ready to take that on. And I don’t deny the possibility that my memories are tinged with nostalgia, which frequently rewrites history in a more positive light than it once existed.
“… with the increasing rate of divorce and separation in modern society, we are witnessing a greater tendency to search for ex-lovers… At the basis of such searches are two reasons… The substantial reason is related to the value of nostalgia of which idealization of the past is an essential element. The technical reason refers to the fact that it is now easier to track down these ex-lovers and communicate with them.
Does this mean that social media makes it easier to scare up an old beau?
We know that’s true. (Consider how many have done exactly that.)
And the occasional idealization of the past? Am I alone in expressing how soothing it is?
Simple Courtship in Complicated Times?
A “simple courtship” is nothing but a pipe dream. Or rather, the courtship may indeed progress in a simplistic fashion – but if it does – are we missing what we ought to see? Have we stayed at the surface when we should explore each other in more intimate and intricate ways?
If we settle for a simple courtship, will we wind up with a “simple” relationship? Is that what we truly want?
And even as I ask myself these questions, I know the answer: “Superficial” is not for me.
Life is complicated. Love is complicated. Parenting is complicated – in all its configurations.
When I consider the complexity of starting life over after divorce – it’s no wonder that any of us would fall back on nostalgia. But adults must move beyond an idealized view of the world, and reality dictates that we function in the here and now – and do so with our eyes open.