Inconceivable

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I don’t think it’s any great secret that I have some strong opinions.  Some of these opinions are so strong, in fact, that I don’t really think of them as opinions; to me, they are facts.  Undeniable, irrefutable, indisputable facts.

Connery was the best Bond.

Coke is better than Pepsi.

The best ice cream in the world comes from Sherman’s Dairy in South Haven, Michigan.

Beer tastes better from a bottle.

The book is always better than the movie.  Always.

That last one has just been shaken, which has then shaken my world.  I don’t want to believe that a movie version of a book could ever be better than the book itself.  Can’t be.   I just can’t accept it.

Some movies come pretty close.  In Cold Blood was a fantastic adaptation, faithful to the book in every possible way.  Mystic River almost got it.  Even the Harry Potter movies were more faithful to the books than anyone expected (other than Ron Weasley being more Comic Relief than Loyal Sidekick in the movies, that is).  True, there were a lot of details left out, but it would have taken twenty movies to contain all of the detail that Rowling included in her books.

Most movie adaptations are laughable at best, leaving audiences to wonder if the screenwriter has ever even read the book.  They show an appalling lack of respect for the author.  Love Comes Softly and its sequels were decimated by whoever thought it would be a good idea to re-write Jannette Oke.  The Three Investigators movies were a joke.  And I won’t even discuss what happened to Little House on the Prairie when it moved to TV.

The book is always better than the movie.  Always.

So I just read The Princess Bride, because it had to be even more magnificent than the movie.  Right?

Now, if you disliked the movie, don’t tell me.  I love it, and that makes it another one of those “Amy Facts.”    If you have seen the movie and you don’t get goosebumps at the words “Hello, My name is Inigo Montoya . . .” then we cannot be friends.  It’s as simple as that.  If you’ve never had a romantic fantasy involving a handsome man murmuring “As you wish,” then you have no romance in your heart.

I hated the book.  Hated it.  Every word of it, every minute spent reading it.  Hated it.  Perhaps it is because I saw the movie first, multiple times.  Maybe it’s because I read the “Anniversary Edition” of the book, filled with author’s notes and background information.

William Goldman didn’t write The Princess Bride.  He “abridged” it from an older work by someone named S. Morgenstern.  He never obtained the rights to do so, and as a result spent years bogged down in legal battles.   From his notes, it seems that he was a sad and depressed little man trying to find a way to connect with his son through a book that had been special to him as a child.  Goldman was in the final stages of a dying marriage overrun by passive-aggression and manipulation, and the story-behind-the-story is soul-suckingly sad.  Heartbreaking.  Depressing beyond all comprehension.

Okay, maybe I related a little too strongly because I am in the midst of a divorce, and I sometimes wonder if I am losing touch with my children as they grow up.  Perhaps I pity Goldman so much because I relate to him and I don’t want to explore those feelings just now.

Watching The Princess Bride makes me believe in True Love.  It makes me believe in and wish for the whole fantasy of a love that’s meant to be, of that perfect kiss.  It makes me want to believe in Happily Ever After.  Reading it reminded me that it’s all just a fantasy.  That it wasn’t Westley and Princess Buttercup falling in love, but Cary Elwes and Robin Wright collecting a paycheck for a job well done.

The book killed the fantasy.

At the end of the book, we learn that the adventure continues.  They don’t escape happily on the four white horses.  They are captured again; Inigo nearly succumbs to his wounds.  Buttercup almost dies in childbirth on a lonely deserted island near a whirlpool, and her baby daughter is subsequently kidnapped.

No, no, no.  I want my Happy Ever After, damn it.  I want to see Fezzik’s shy smile before he catches “the Lady” and sets her upon her horse.  I want to know that Westley and Buttercup go on to share the greatest kiss of all time, and that Inigo finds a new purpose in life.  I want my Happy Ending for everyone.

Anything else is inconceivable.

Believe

I think I was probably thirteen or fourteen years old when I went to the wedding of a family friend and heard the minister talk about true love.  He reminded all of us that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, and then went on to explain to the congregation that this means there is a perfect match for each of us. For every man, he said, there is a woman bearing his rib; for every man, there is a woman who makes him whole.

Let’s explore this a little, shall we?

So there is one perfect match for me.  Okay.  What if he lives in Timbuktu and I never meet him?  What if he died of Reye’s syndrome when he was eight years old?  Wait — maybe he’s alive and well and right here in Michigan, but he’s gay. That is the kind of luck I have.   Maybe I already met him when I was too young and too picky, and I never gave him a chance because he was short.  Maybe he is married to the wrong person.  Or maybe I met him and missed my chance because I was already married to the wrong person.

And really, who is to say that my husband was “the wrong person”?  We shared some good times along with the bad, and we made three incredible children together.  Maybe he was my perfect match but we were just too stupid and selfish to figure out how to stay married.

No, I don’t believe that there is only one perfect person for each of us.  Life just can’t be that cruel.

“The heart wants what the heart wants.” I’ve heard this saying so many times over recent weeks.  True romantics who get all misty-eyed and emotional, who gulp and sniffle while moaning that they couldn’t help themselves, couldn’t help falling in love because it was just bigger than they were, an irresistible need to be with a soul mate after eyes met across a crowded room.

Come on, let’s be honest with ourselves.  The only thing that meets across a crowded room is libido.  The only thing bigger than anyone is desire, and the mating that follows has nothing to do with anyone’s soul.  Rather than the heart wanting anything, it’s more along the lines of “the dick wants what the dick wants.”

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Okay, so maybe I’m a little angrier than I realized.

I read romance novels.  I love movies like Somewhere in Time and Heart and Souls.  I sing along with Don Williams about believing in love.  I believe that I will fall in love again, and that I will someday be happy with a man who treats me the way I deserve to be treated.

I believe in love.

What I don’t believe in is fairy tales. Destiny.  Kismet.   In real life, Prince Charming became a bad guy on General Hospital.   Princess Buttercup married Sean Penn while Westley ended up playing a campy villain in the next generation’s fairy tale movie.

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I had the whole eyes-across-a-crowded-room experience once.  It was my first relationship, and I was hopelessly immature about it; I cherish my memories of him, but it wasn’t the kind of love that lasts a lifetime.  He taught me about love and about sex, and about letting go when it was over.  He didn’t break my heart.  He woke it up.

There was no crowded room the night I met my husband.  It was just him and me, with his shy smile and the bluest of blue eyes.  We rode in his pickup truck to a hockey game, where he apologized for swearing in front of me when the Orlando Solar Bears scored on the Kalamazoo Wings.  We bumped into my sister and her family, and he didn’t know I heard him tell her that I was beautiful.

Me, beautiful.

I kept the ticket stub in my jewelry box.

We fit.  We laughed together so easily, and talked about past loves, past hurts.  We fell too fast.  Bought a decrepit old house to fix up and started making babies and for the briefest of moments it looked like all of our dreams were going to come true.  But somewhere along the line, we stopped laughing.  The renovations on the house never happened, and we fell out of love as easily as we fell into it.

I still believe in love.

I’m not going to make eye contact with some stranger across a crowded room and fall hopelessly in love.  Nor will I ever tumble head over heels because a man says I am beautiful. I know better.  I am not going to create impossible dreams of a glorious future with anyone.  I want reality.

I believe in reality.  And the reality is that there is nothing magical about true love.  No Kismet, no Destiny, no “meant to be”.  No perfect, mystical, once-in-a-lifetime, pre-destined match.

Love is just . . . love.  That’s all it is.

Believe it.