I’m pretty sure that every movie I’ve ever seen has had the same subplot – finding your soul mate. (If that’s the main plot, it’s a chick flick, and I don’t watch it, unless my soul mate drags me.) Single life might be fun and all, but no movie ever ends with, “And then the spell was broken and he was single again!” Even The Change-Up ends with both main characters, Dave and Mitch, in loving relationships.
Every movie I’ve ever seen has had the same subplot – finding your soul mate.
The Change-Up is a movie that some might say is not realistic, because even though Dave is married, he is still somehow able to hang out with Mitch. Dave (Jason Bateman) has a wife and three kids, and is a lawyer who – as is every lawyer in every movie ever – is about to make partner. Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) is a perpetual single guy whose fridge is a morgue to half-eaten take out so that the smell won’t escape and take over his apartment, and is the embodiment of the guy everyone went to high school with, who was cool back in high school, so he decided to stay that way forever.
Dave misses the single life – he rushed through it to get to his goal, but now he feels like if he could just go back, knowing what he does now, he would do things differently. Dave would like to be able to read an entire book – on the toilet, preferably – go to a restaurant and order six desserts, not have to call his wife before going to the supermarket, and even visit the aquarium, which he apparently is not aware that you can also do with families. Mitch is jealous of Dave’s life as well, or at least he says he is, because when someone says he’d like to have your life, it’s only polite to say you’d like his. They express this feeling the weekend before every major obligation of their lives (mergers, big breaks, and a wedding renewal, because “as long as you both shall live” has an expiration date, apparently), and the next thing you know, their wish comes true.
Of course, as soon as they switch bodies, what happens is exactly what happens in every other body switch movie, such as Avatar, Freaky Friday, and that other one with Lindsey Lohan. They learn that the grass might seem greener, but if it’s your grass, you have to mow it and water it and keep your kids from digging it up looking for buried treasure. Mitch, for example, learns that it’s not easy to deal with whatever twin babies throw at you at 3 in the morning. I’m a father of four kids, and I don’t even know if I can handle twins. One of my biggest parenting crutches has always been my kids’ age difference. (“Why does he get one?” “Because he’s younger than you.” Why does she get one?” “Because she’s older than you.”) And when one twin wakes up, both wake up.
Dave, meanwhile, learns that all the highlights of Mitch’s life are pretty disappointing. He learns that his single days are gone, and not just because he got married. They’re gone because he’s past the age where it was time to move on. Single life is fun, but being the last man standing is not. It’s like continuously watching the beginning of a movie because that’s your favorite part. You don’t get the payoff at the end of the movie, and eventually, you’ll scratch the DVD. The end of the movie, as we pointed out, is people finding their soul mates.
Of course, that’s not where the story ends in real life. Movies end on that happy ending, and people think that’s it – marriage is a happy ending. You got the item you wanted, and you level up. You get your trophy (wife), like anything else you’ve strived to get for two hours, and then she sits on your shelf forever, aside from occasional dusting. The movie ends at marriage, so people think that from then on, you live happily ever after, and family life is supposed to be smooth sailing. You got that item, now it’s time to put all your focus into leveling up on your job. But can you say this when it comes to your job for example?
“I got the job! Now I can put that to the side and never show up, and I’ll focus on getting a motorcycle!”
No. Getting a job is just the beginning. If you want to keep getting what you want out of a job, you have to keep showing up and putting the work in. If you want to keep getting what you want out of marriage and family life, you have to do the same. Marriage is not an ending, it’s a beginning.
Marriage is an evolution into a new state of being. The Hebrew word for love is “ahava”, coming from the root word “hav”, which means “to give”. The more we give, the more we love. The more we put the work in, the more we get out of it. Nothing worth having ever came easy.
But in today’s culture, the word “have” means “to own personally”. I have a motorcycle. I have a family.
Sure, it looks like hard work with no end in sight. But like the characters in the movie, it’s not always what it looks like.
Take small children, for example. Small children are something that God provides to give married couples a common enemy and hopefully keep them on the same team. A kid is like a boss that makes demands on your time and gives you nothing substantial in return. He will never do anything for you that you couldn’t do yourself with less effort, and will never tell you anything you didn’t know that will actually affect your life. At most, he will get you things so that you don’t have to get up, provided those things are less than 3 feet off the ground, and even that will be an argument. Generally, unless you’ve made a very big mistake, your spouse does more than that. But the benefit from kids is …wait for it…“nachas” – the pride you feel when they do something that exceeds the simple tools that you gave them to grow. “Look what he did! By himself! I didn’t know he could do that!” And that reward is something you will have forever. It’s something that won’t go away. Ever.
The reward for buying ice cream is ice cream. Ice cream is the best, plus it cools you off. But in a few hours, the reward will be gone. At worst, you will hate yourself for eating it, and at best, you will have nothing to show for it but a stain on your shirt. The reward is proportional to the work. If the line is too long, you don’t bother going for ice cream. The longer it takes to accomplish something and the more work goes into it, the longer your reward generally lasts.
So with kids and family, it’s all about the nachas factor -- that family of kids and grandkids and a loving spouse with whom to grow old, for the rest of your life. Just think, when you are 80 years old, and it’s Passover, and you are sitting around your table and your grandkids steal the afikomen and won’t give it back unless you promise to buy them a laser tele-transporter to Jupiter, it will be worth it.