Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Break Up

That movie. The one with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn. The one with all the buzz: The "Are they together in real life?" "Is it any good?" quandaries. That one.

Don't go see it. Just don't. Not if you're in a relationship, anyway. Don't go see it with your boyfriend. Because if even one of you senses that things are the slightest bit askew, it will spark The Conversation. The kind of conversation that, if things aren't really askew, can only lead to trouble.

Billy and I ended our incredible Sunday by driving the half hour to Middletown, NY to eat some sushi and take in a movie. We both like Vince Vaughn, and have thus far never really been let down by the comedic value of any of the characters he's portrayed. Though not particularly a fan of Jennifer Aniston, I thought the movie sounded funny and light, exactly the type one wants to indulge in on a lazy Sunday.

I'd heard the conversations about the movie. The critics panned it, and I figured that was just more of a reason to go see it. I tend to disagree with critics anyway, finding delight in the stupid humor of movies like Old School and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. And then there were the conversations on morning radio shows. Stories about girls elbowing their boyfriends in the theatre, poking their men in the ribs to illustrate the sting of recognition they were feeling. Stories about the quarrels erupting as the movie goers flooded out of darkened theatres across America, one or both halves of each couple highlighting the points in each onscreen argument with which they identified. I'd heard that the movie was aptly titled, and bound to ignite a few breakups of its own.

Whatever, I thought one day last week, as I applied my moisturizer in the bathroom, listening to the morning DJ talk about how it does, in fact, lead to many relationship-altering conversations. I won't have to have a conversation about it. And as I wiped on some deodorant, I made a mental note of how strong my relationship is with Billy, how if we decided to see it, we would not exit the theatre preparing to battle.

And I was right. For the most part.

I watched the movie and felt grateful that I actually didn't identify with Jennifer Aniston's character. For the first time in my life, I didn't feel buried in the weight of the time-honored woman's mantra: I do everything around here. My relationship with my boyfriend is fair. We do everything we can for one another. We don't crucify each other if things don't go according to plan. We're malleable. We adjust. We accept.

We held hands and giggled about the movie as we left the cineplex. We were even okay as we rolled out of the parking lot. But, merging onto Route 17, one thing led to another. I told him he can be cold. He asked me how. And in doing that, he forced me to dig up the rotted remains of our last fight. And, before I knew it, we were hacking away at the corpse of an argument best left untouched. What began "You can be sorta cold," devolved into "Well, I didn't know it was such a big deal for you to help me. Next time, don't offer." It was back and forth, back and forth; the queasy ebb and flow of that nauseating game, Tit for Tat.

Ugh. It was awful. Just what I didn't want to happen. But it wasn't a fight. It was more like a debate. Even tempered, yet still vicious. Calm, but sharp. We spent the whole ride home detailing our sacrifices, but still trying to be sympathetic to the other's cause. "I understand," I said diplomatically, "that you can't do the things that your average boyfriend does for his girlfriend because of your crazy schedule. I'm just saying that it hurt my feelings to be called 'inconsiderate' when one time I didn't put your convenience ahead of my needs." Naturally, we both hunkered down, secure in the knowledge that we were each Right. We bore down and sunk in our feet and clenched our fingers and maintained that there was no moving us from our individual stances. It's horrible when two perpetually correct people must face off, head to head. It's like running into a brick wall, over and over and over again, determined to convince that wall on each try that it might be hard, but my skull is harder.

My point, in all of our debating, was that, when we fight, he can be cold. He'll shut down for a minimum of a day, treating me like an obligation until he's finally found himself over it and ready to be us again. And, for that period of time, I feel him thinking Okay, I'm gonna touch you. But only because I have to. Not because I want to. And so, I respond by wondering if it's over and if he loves me and worrying that maybe this time (all three times we've fought) would break us. On the contrary, once I have bitched my way through a fight, I'm fine. An hour, tops, and I'm back to normal, as if nothing ever happened. I can't hold grudges. It takes up too much energy. It stresses me out. It gives me pimples. I don't need that in my life. So I'm over it. But, with Billy, I'm forced to wait to be done with a fight until he's decided an appropriate amount of time has passed between spear-hurling and now.

And I never got to make that point. We started a conversation, took a side road, then a corollary, then a tangent, and before I knew it, we wound up discussing something that, forty-five minutes ago, I'd just happily told myself was a non-issue. And, at the end of it all, it was a non issue. We do things for each other. We're happy. What the fuck are we fighting for?

All was well by the time we pulled into the driveway. I set the automatic timer for Monday morning's coffee and he snuck up behind me and hugged me, hard, around the waist, planting kisses along my exposed shoulder. Things are, were, always have been pretty fucking fantastic.

And that movie made us forget that.

So, I repeat, don't see it. Because, for everything that transpired after its viewing, it wasn't even all that funny.


Casey said...

I saw this movie by myself a couple of weeks ago.

Some of the scenes reminded me of my ex-husband; there were some eerie similarities between him and Vince Vaughn.

Near the end, there was a scene when Jennifer Aniston was crying... I won't spoil the movie, but let me tell you - I was crying right along with her!

Sorry to hear about that crappy drive home!

kate said...

you crack me up laurie.

anno said...

Darn. I wanted to see this one, cast my vote for the Jen team. Sounds like if I want to avoid those uncomfortable marital discussions, I should wait for it to come out on DVD amd watch it by myself.

Popeye said...

Yeah, I went to see "War of the Roses" with my ex-wife.

I thought it was kind of funny.

She didn't.