Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Living (ever after)

I love television. Just love it. Don't get me wrong, I'll take a book instead of... anything, even human contact, anytime of the day... But I do love tv shows. I also love dancing (I'm not the best at it, but I still love it). Both of these loves led me to watch So You Think You Can Dance.
For those who don't know it, SYTYCD is a reality show with the purpose of finding America's favorite dancer.
Well, I was watching the performances last week, and there was this one that caught my eye in a way that no other did. These two dancers, Jason (to whom I was pretty much indifferent, and he's left the show already) and Jeanine (for me, the best female dancer there is this season) peformed this routine, which I thought amazing and gorgeous. And the story behind it is: they're two childhood friends, like, best friends since forever, but they find themselves attracted to each other; now, they don't know if they should risk it all and take it a step further. Though really wanting to, they're not sure whether they're ready for it. It's a dance, in other words, about the obstacles they gotta face in order to be together - that is, themselves.

Gods, I could watch that non-stop. Absolutely loved it! I love the way she throws herself in his arms, with total disregard for herself. And I love how, in the end, she's just unable to resist, and pulls him closer. U know, whenever I watch it, I find myself rooting for them (the characters) to be together! No wonder, it IS a story after all. Just a very short musical one. And as it finishes, I have a smile on my face, glad they're finally "together". Yeah, I know... it's not real! Whatever.
But that got me thinking: and after?
But nobody wants to hear about that, do they? After all, one can't keep on reading the same book forever, or watching the same movie. We gotta put it down some time, leave the movie theatre eventually. So, the story's gotta stop at some point - and what moment would be better than when the hero and the heroine finally get together, after all their troubles?
But doesn't anyone ever wonder what happens after? Cus I do after this dance; "will they make it?".
Take Romeo and Juliet, for instance. One of the most famous love stories in the world - if not THE most famous. (As for me, I've never been a huge fan... I like the poetry in the lines themselves rather than the story. I always found both of them rather stupid... let's not go there, though...). But let's face it: when the play starts, Romeo's talking to Friar Laurence about his eternal love for what's-her-face. Rosaline. And the good friar is reproaching him, saying that, before Rosaline, there were other girls to whom Romeo'd also sworn undying love, and accuses him of being an inconstant lover. Juliet, on her turn, has never seen a man except those from her close family. Get the picture?
I mean, c'mon! Do we really think it's gonna work out between the two of them, in case they survive?! Get real... and it's much better for Romeo to die, cus he'd be in endless trouble if he deflowered the little Capulet girl, eloped, and then gave her back to her family cus he fell for someone else, as usual... the Montagues would never hear the end of it...
This is the thing that gets at me: we never know anything about the "ever after". Happily? Maybe not...
And perhaps there's a reason why we know nothing of it: take Othello and Desdemona. When the play starts, they've just gotten married! The whole fight to be together's already over! But the play's not about their fight to marry. It's about their ever after - which, as you may know, doesn't last long. Due to Iago's cunning (u go, boy!), Othello ends up distraught and devoured by jealousy (hence, the whole "It is the green-ey'd monster" line), and eventually strangles the innocent and completely clueless Desdemona to death. Not a happy "after", obviously.
Another famous story is that of Odisseus and Penelope. It takes Odisseus 20 years to get back home after the Trojan War. However, he never gives up, for he desires, more than anything, to go back to his country and wife. Cool, u think. Nevertheless, that doesn't stop him from sleeping with all the Circes and Calypsos he runs into along the way... whereas his faithful wife, Penelope, keeps on weaving the damn burial shroud, and undoing it every night... Some people say it's a story about fidelity - I beg to differ... Anyway: in the end, he and Penelope are finally left alone to have the life they've always longed for. But! When Odisseus was called to fight in the war, he'd just married her; after that, they spent 20 years apart. I mean, he spent 7 years sharing Calypso's bed. That's much more than he'd ever had with his own wife. He doesn't even know her that well, nor his only son. It's not his fault, of course, but still! After all this time, what kind of life will they have together? They're not in the prime of life anymore, u know... but of course, Homer wasn't interested in telling us that. But it's definitely something to think about...
The same goes for Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, the main characters of Love in the time of Cholera. Florentino and Fermina had been sweethearts when they were young, but were separated by her father. Well, check this out: the rejected lover spends the next 50 years waiting for Fermina's husband to die (and no, he doesn't do ANYTHING whatsoever to speed up the process... talk about being passive...). As expected, her husband Juvenal eventually dies, leaving Fermina a widow - and that's when Florentino makes his move, and after some wooing he manages to get her back. Problem: they're almost 80 now. They know very little about each other. Again: how will their life be? Gabriel García Márquez doesn't dare going there either. Too bad. Like I said: most stories, no matter how good they are, become extremely cliché if they choose not to tell us about the "afterwards".
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice. He owns half of.. what's the county? Derbyshire. He's ridiculously rich; Elizabeth, however, is the 2nd daughter from a relatively poor gentleman. Her mother is rather vulgar, just as the two younger daughters, always running after soldiers and making fools of themselves - under whole heartedly consent of their mother. Elizabeth and her eldest sister Jane are actually the only ones poised in that family. So, Elizabeth herself will be able to hold her own beside that fantastic husband, effortlessly, methinks. But the unlucky Mr. Darcy will, in fact, have to put up with Lizzie's family, including Wickham, Lizzie's youngest sister's husband - just the guy Darcy hates the most in the whole wide world... great family he's marrying into! Well, to me, that sounds like drama drama drama! The book ends, but there's still shitloads of story to be told! How will dashing Mr. Darcy cope with all of that???
A classic story is, everyone knows this one, Cinderella. Man, the girl was a maid! A freaking maid turned into a princess! Do we actually believe she'll be able to pull it off? Just like Pretty Woman. It's all very well for Richard Gere to go after the adorable Julia Roberts with a rose in his lips. Every girl's dream. But let's face it: she was a whore. She was really beautiful and gracious, but uneducated and completely not used to that life style. Gere will have to go through the trouble of educating his new wife... that's got all the potential to be something beyond his patience and skills... but, once again, we haven't got a clue as to their trying to fit into each other's lives.
Aha! But there's a very clear example of this situation in real life: Lady Di. Well, she wasn't a peasant or anything, she did have royal descent - and she certainly lived up to the title of Her Royal Highness, The Princess of Wales. But that, apparently, was only in the opinion of the public and the media. According to herself, "My husband made me feel inadequate in every possible way that each time I came up for air he pushed me down again ...". Call me crazy, but that does not sound in the slightest like a woman happily married... Her fairytale wedding was only that: a fairytale wedding, never converted into a happy marriage.
I'd like some story teller to talk about the marriage, and not the wedding.
Now, let's talk business. Dying for love. The Lady of the Camellias: Marguerite Gautier. She's a cortesan who falls in love with Armand Duval, a middle class man, who cannot afford to support her in the ways she's used to. That's ok, though, she doesn't mind it, she really wants to be with him; besides, she's got more important things in mind, u know, with her having tuberculosis and all... eventually, Armand's father, unbeknownst to his son, talks Marguerite into leaving her lover, for that infamous relationship's destroying the boy's reputation. In order to prove her love, she agrees to that, breaking Armand's heart. Well, after many (successful) attempts of Armand to hurt and humiliate his former lover, she dies from her long-suffered disease, alone and penniless. After her death, Armand gets hold of her diary, in which he finally learns about her undying love for him and her TB. Wow, that must've been a little embarassing for him... We don't know what happens to Armand after that. We should. We should know of his suffering, of how he's gonna live with himself.
Lolita Pille, writer of Hell, agrees with me. Hell is this girl from the highest French society; she sees life around her as it really is: desperately empty. She tries to fill that void inside her, with no success - she uses all the existent drugs and has sex with a whole bunch of guys. She's got this inexplicable need of dirtying, hurting herself... until she meets Andrea. He's absolutely gorgeous and fabulously rich, and has never fallen for anyone. Until, of course, he meets Hell. They have this fantastic interlude of 6 months, during which they had eyes only for each other, and lived away from all that chaos and emptiness they'd been drowning in. However, Hell's need of tearing herself apart comes back, and it leads them both into the pit. She can't stand dragging Andrea down that path with her, so she breaks it up. We learn, in Andrea's narration, that he didn't mind hitting rock bottom, as long as he had Hell by his side. We learn of his desperation after she leaves him. And just when he's finally decided to try and get her back, he dies in a car accident. And we also learn of Hell's desperation after his death. Yeah, that's right! Lolita Pille gives us the opportunity of peeping into the nothingness Hell's now thrown into. She gives us the "afterwards", the real epilogue: Hell continues doing all the things she used to before knowing Andrea. She needs to hurt herself more than never now. And this is her speech (it's quite long, hence my cuts):
"We don't know what happens to Armand afterwards. We don't know whether he manages to forget Marguerite. What he does to tolerate life, when the one he loves dies. [...] What if Armand has gone crazy? What if he's died of grief?
None of that. I know the continuation. Armand goes every night to the Queen [a nightclub Hell goes to]. He drowns his pain in vodka. [...] And thinks of the one he's lost. Armand has discovered cocaine and stuffs his nose with it 24/7. And thinks of the one he's lost. Armand doesn't know how to cry anymore. Because crying relieves the pain, and he doesn't want to feel relieved. [...] He'd like, most of all, to kill himself, to blow his brains out, once he has no more reason to live. But he also doesn't have the guts. He's a chicken, a miserable coward. He's incapable of letting go of this abominable existence, he'd rather live in the worst possible way. Armand is an alcoholic, a drug addcit and a suicidal. Oh, but you don't have to worry about him. He won't last very long, and he, too, will die. From an overdose, from a car accident, from a stab in an alley, from an incurable disease... He'll see the smile again only to say goodbye. [...]"
(I apologize once again, it's my own translation from the Portuguese version - which, by its turn, was translated from French).
This answers my question of why Alexandre Dumas, fils, doesn't talk about Armand's ever after.
Relationships, of any kind, are all about the "ever after", not the "before". It's about reminding ur partner and urself why u'r together, why u love each other. Have u ever seen 50 first dates? Drew Barrymore has lost her short-term memory, and her new boyfriend, Adam Sandler, has to win her heart all over again every single day. Cute and all - but the metaphor's clear. U gotta fight for ur partner everyday - not because ur relation may be in danger if u don't do so, but because he/she deserves it. Having a relationship demands taking care, talking things out, and not letting the sun set upon an argument.
Relationships are, in the end, all about this:

It's about making up everyday.


Iris H. said...

Oh, I love it! That spooning right at the end brought such a smile to my face :D

On endings... happy or otherwise...

Iris H. said...

This also reminded me of my favorite TV series, Northern Exposure - namely this one scene that illustrates the open-endedness of all stories, no matter where they stop.