“And so he solaced himself with pacing up and down the little meadow and writing and carving on the bark of the trees and on the fine sand a multitude of verses all in harmony with the sadness and summoned praise of Dulcinea. But what distressed him greatly was not having another hermit there to confess him.”
-Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
One of my favorite movies of all time is Lars and the Real Girl starring the irresistible Ryan Gosling and a life sized, anatomically equipped doll which Gosling’ s character, Lars, introduces to everyone as his girlfriend. It seems like a bizarre storyline, and it is, but what’s so moving about it is the way in which Lars slowly begins to let people in and discovers how to love, though the object of his affection cannot obviously reciprocate feelings the way a human being can. In an interview, Gosling says of the film that “Love doesn’t need to be a transaction. It’s something you can just…give”. I think this is so poignant. And it really gets to the heart of what the film is all about I believe.
What’s so heartbreaking about the film is to watch as Lars repeatedly misses or simply does not know how to respond to queues from his real life lady interest, Margo. She is clearly dying for some positive feedback, but he can barely say ‘hello’. His social ineptness is soul crushing. And as his imaginary girlfriend is brought into the picture, I think Margo sees his pain, she knows his loneliness and she totally goes along with the whole thing, acknowledging Bianca (the doll) as real because in his mind, she is real. Bianca is there to help Lars communicate what he couldn’t say for himself, to signal to the world, “Hey, I feel lost and alone! And I don’t know how to let love in, but I’d like to try!” Before she came along he was a hermit who kept to himself and shied away from any and all contact with others. It felt safer that way I’m sure. Attempts made by his brother and sister-in-law to invite him in and get him to open up always fell short. I think it was the non-judgmental, non-demanding love of Margo that sparked something inside of Lars, to get him to that place where real love could be possible. Bianca was just a conduit through which Lars could express himself and his desire for something real.
To love someone regardless of whether they love you back creates a very weird sense of loneliness that only those who thrive on misery are capable of managing. I think it takes a lifetime of yearning and longing in order to love without restitution. Because that’s all you know of love–yearning and longing, emptiness and sorrow, disappointment and despair. There’s something about the pain of loving someone who is just out of reach that I find most beautiful and tragic. And I think I may be addicted to that pain.
It’s difficult, I assure you, growing up in a house that never felt like a home, with a family that didn’t feel like family, having loving feelings, feeling compassion for someone (a parent) who never shared their loving feelings or expressed compassion for you all while living right alongside of them. It’s like living with a stranger, or even a plastic dummy. And to me it’s so damn obvious that as an adult I put up walls and push people away to be in that familiar place where I long to feel the love of someone I hold so dear. Unfortunately, unrequited love has become the most romantic idea of love I have.
In my entire life I never saw an exchange of love between my mom and dad, the lead examples of love in my life. My dad withheld his love from my mother just as much as he withheld it from me and my brother. When I got married the one piece of advice my mom gave me was, “never stop saying ‘I love you'”, something that ended for her just as soon as my parents wed. So I think what I learned from that (unconsciously) is that love is a one-sided affair. True love is something to be desired, never to be realized. I thought love was something you were supposed to keep hidden, like a big secret; something felt for someone who remains closed off, inaccessible.
And while I carry on with this recognition that what I grew up with is not at all what I want, I can’t help myself get what I want. I sabotage every chance of love and happiness, not that I’ve had many. When you grow up with an idea about what love is supposed to be but find that that is not at all what love is for you, you tend to idealize this fictional “love” that you sense is somewhere “out there” and you hope to one day stumble upon. So in my real life it is as though I am compelled to create the greatest love story in the history of all love stories. It’s full of heartache and tragedy, passion and mercy. I’ve created in my mind a world in which love is enough to transcend space, time, and humanity.
But I understand now that that’s just a fantasy, a delusion… a fairytale. And I’m no Cinderella, I’m just a fool. There is no prince sending out a search party for me. He’s off galavanting with some other fair maiden. One night of forever with me was enough for him.
Goddamn this lonely life.