The Notebook is a great movie. I saw it in theatres in high school on a double date. Remember Ryan Gosling’s character’s name? Noah! Jackpot! I was a very popular dude that Monday back in school. "Wait Ryan Gosling’s name was Noah and his name is Noah...." Then they quickly realized that the name Noah is the only thing Ryan Gosling and I have in common.
We all know the problem with The Notebook and similar romantic films. My rusty car is not a charming symbol of societal differences; it’s just a liability. I don't own a row boat and I don’t have Ryan Gosling’s abs. And when I finally did say “I love you” for the first time, no original song was composed for us with each chord and lyric pulling on just the right strings, eliciting maximum crying potential.
But we fall for it every single time. Girls go all gooey-eyed, swept away on the wings of romance. Even some guys leave a theatre thinking they could pull off a Love Actually speech without missing a beat.
And this becomes a problem when we apply these rom-com values to real life.
I’m getting married in a week. I am in love with my fiancé Aliza but I didn’t “fall” in love, and way way way before love came respect and admiration. In the beginning, my heart did not fall in love with her heart; my head fell in love with her head. As an observant Jew, we are not physically intimate in any way before marriage. That only leaves room for getting to know the person. Our first five dates were three to six hours long filled with walking, talking, eating, walking, listening, drinking, talking, listening, and learning. Slowly learning. I wasn't bothered with plotting what line I could use for the momentous, climactic kiss because there was no kiss to be had... Just listening and learning.
I learned where she wanted to live, her siblings names, her greatest values, her moral compass, what made her feel fulfilled, her career and personal goals, how she grew up, what role her parents played in her life now and then, her favorite kind of music, her pop culture knowledge, her care for politics or lack thereof, what Judaism really means to her, her love of life, how she envisioned her home, and most importantly that she loves soup. In four dates, I knew all this and so much more.
By our fifth date I knew I would marry her. That day we spent 18 hours together. And there was a moment which I later learned was the same moment she knew it was right too, when we were sitting on a balcony in Jerusalem covered in a blanket of stars and glowing lights from the homes perched on the mountain below and she was sitting on a swinging, elevated lounge chair. She said, "Push me?" And I said, "Of course" and I pushed the swing. And that was it.
I know what you're thinking: "THAT was a corny, romantic, Hugh Grant, superficial moment that you just criticized! You’re a hypocrite!"
But I don't think so though.
A simple, pure moment like that could never have been possible without first making sure that in a book of 100,000 pages, we were on the same one.
You can only love someone as much as you know them.
What's the point of the romantic scenes without first knowing that your values and goals and general visions of your future align? It would be like buying all the artwork for the 40-story skyscraper that your constructing, before securing the dry wall. Some beautiful stuff is bound to all fall down.
Aliza gave me a powerful quote the other day: You can only love someone as much as you know them. Hollywood romance often turns this around. Fall in love now, ask questions later.
"Fall" in love. The verb alone is enough to make you question it. When in life do we want to "fall"? No control, speeding downwards, just wishing it will work out. Why do we want that for ourselves in the most important relationship of our lives?
Photo from chanablumesphoto.com
I want to change it. Let’s "fly" in love. Yes, it sounds ridiculous and straight out of a commercial for a new perfume by Beyonce, but c’mon, let’s give it a shot. Flying is a choice made with trust and precision. And best of all it is freeing. That sounds much closer to how we feel in a healthy committed relationship.
I realize that just because we learned about each other first and loved each other later doesn't mean we won't make mistakes and still stumble. But I believe that because I have only been talking and listening to my fiancé for the past six months I have, at the very least, set myself up for less stumbles, and have God-willing put us on a trajectory that leads us to true love and genuine respect.
If not, I'll get a rowboat.