Last night I watched the classic divorce-the-way-it-should-be movie The Way We Were. And the entire time I was watching it I found myself comparing my marriage to the one on screen, especially the bitter-sweet ending that Redford and Streisand shared. But since my marriage was more bitter than it was sweet, all in all, the entire thing was really an exercise in futility.“Memories, like the corners of my mind…” the beautiful-yet-melancholy song begins. Memories. Aren’t those the things you’re supposed to keep when you split-up with the man you loved? The inside jokes you enjoyed when you were resplendently new; the Christmases, the anniversaries, the firsts you shared? That’s the company line. But all I can remember are the bad times and the disappointments. And sadly, “Disappointments, like the cobwebs of my mind…” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Our love was never an epic; not the stuff movies are made of. We weren’t all about wistful and bittersweet. Nuh-uh. The Right Stuff? That wasn’t us either. You’d never catch us lost in a montage-perfect moment wrestling playfully on the couch, laughing while tossing our heads back and then falling into a full-on, deep embrace unable to contain ourselves. And when we were heading steadily downhill and knew it, we never locked eyes in a moment of abject intimacy. There was no talk about feelings. And there was definitely no laying our cards on the table and making the most of it. We skated right over all that bullshit.
Naturally, after watching this thing, the big bad truth I need to quantify is this: was the movie based on someone’s real life or was it dreamed up by a romanticist who wanted what I didn’t get; a love that was so awesome and painful to give up, I’m still singing about it years later?
From time to time, you do stumble across that urban myth: The Happy-Ever- After People – couples who’ve been together for decades, who’ve survived the thick and thin of married life and lived to tell the tale in spite of it all. And when you ask them how they did it they’ll tell you it took patience. It took working through the bad times and it took a leap of faith to get the job done. But maybe these folks had a little something more on their side; maybe they had the magic for real. Or maybe true love is just a big old combo platter: the stuff of dreams plus a lot of elbow grease and a little luck – like winning the lottery or always having perfect hair days. Maybe. But honestly, I haven’t got a clue how that trick is done. If I did, perhaps I’d still be married today.
All I do know is that it wasn’t that way for me. And my ex was no Robert Redford. If he had been, that would definitely have been a reason to fight the good fight and like Babs, I would have been singing about how it was and all the love and laughter we shared. Still when she asks the musical question “If we had the chance to do it all again tell me, would we? Could we?” I don’t even have to think about it. My answer is a definitive – naahhh!