Friday, November 11, 2011

Oh Gulp

I made a promise to myself when I arrived on the shores of Greece: that I would forever leave junk t.v. behind me. I would move forward a better person.

It didn't last long.

At the end of a busy day when I have driven myself into a state of almost hysterical exhaustion, Real Housewives or Cake Boss seem to be the closest thing to having someone sit on me so that I stop moving. I slip into a comatose state, sip tea, and tension seeps out of me.

Of course - the goal would be not to get into that state in the first place; surely then (hopefully) the pull of terrible reality t.v. would slacken. I'm working on it.

I think part of the attraction, though, is that reality tv is an extension people watching - my favorite pastime. Of course, it is a highly dramatized, extensively staged, sometimes (almost always) unrealistic version of reality, but that does not prevent some very pertinent truths from escaping out of the woodwork.


One Sunday, after a week of hiking around the area with a little too much intensity, when I truly needed nothing but to reach a state of absolute vegging, I stumbled upon a new show.

Made in Chelsea follows a bunch of upper class young Brits around. It's a smorgasbord of fabulous clothes, lovely parties, and extensive holidaying. Sprinkled with visits to bank managers to see about pulling out yet some more money, and random attempts at getting a job, it all makes for a show that no one should ever watch.

One story line in particular, though, seems to encapsulate much of current dating life in all its sadness. Playboy Spencer is in love with Caggie, and has been for about half his life. She kind of likes him, but for some reason won't actually date him. She encourages him, pulls back, crushes him, regains his trust, encourages him, pulls back....etc. In an effort to get over Caggie, Spencer randomly dates other girls, but never for long. All Spencer wants is Caggie.

Finally at long last, Spencer gives up on Caggie and finds a girl who he seems to really like. She is a "dancer" (yes, that kind) - definitely not part of the normal Chelsea crowd. They date for a while until one day, when Spencer lets his little dancer know how he is feeling. He tells her that more than anything, he just wants to take care of her. He wants to protect her, make sure she never wants for anything, make her feel safe and give her whatever she needs.

She gives him a disgusted up-down, curls her lip, and proceeds to beat him soundly into the ground. No one will ever, she says, take care of her. She will never be indebted to anyone. She has taken care of herself all her life and done a damn good job of it - why should she stop? She doesn't need Spencer. She doesn't need anyone. Dancing pays really well, and it makes her feel empowered.

So she breaks up with Spencer.

Spencer crawls back to Caggie, confused, but ever hopeful that maybe now she will go out with him. She does her typical flirting, then shoots him down when he seems too encouraged, and the cycle continues.

Spencer comes to the conclusion that he really has to change. He has to stop going out with other girls, and just wait patiently for Caggie, no matter how long it takes. He makes a concerted effort to be the man that she might go out with.

Finally, it seems as if he is getting somewhere. Things get to the point where once and for all he asks her if perhaps she could love him; he just wants to take care of her. She tells him - after two of her friends tell her that she is not being quite fair to Spencer by dragging him along all the time - that once and for all she never will love him "in that way."

Spencer, speechless, stumbles away, leaving Caggie to toss her hair, roll her eyes slightly, and muse aloud about how Spencer just wants too much. In the same breath she also muses on the lame-ness of men.

In the meantime, Spencer in a slightly bewildered way, is talking to his best friend. He is admitting that he is a throw back to a different time - a time when a man won a woman and cared for her. "All I want is someone to look after."



A few things strike me about this. A woman can be such an inspiration to a man. She can move him to be better.

Women can also be bitches. With characteristic indecisiveness, instead of breaking off with a man or rejecting him with a nice clean cut, a woman will drag it out forever. I have seen it happen too many times, and it makes me feel embarrassed for my sex in general.

Most importantly though, I am reminded of a realization that made an impact on me a few years back.


One of my favorite novels is Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. It is brilliantly written with an absolutely swoon worthy hero.

The biggest thing though, is that it presented to me this crazy complicated idea of love, in a way that I had never thought about it before.

The love story between Harriet and Peter is a long drawn out complicated one, traveled by two overly intelligent, incredibly sensitive people. Many issues come up, but one of the biggest is from Harriet.

She holds Peter off because she has forged her own path for so long, and become so used to providing for herself, that to give it up means she is losing part of her identity and throwing away her independence.

The crux at the heart of everything is that, as lowly novelist marrying an aristocrat, Harriet believes she will become dependent on Peter, and forced into a position of continuous gratitude for all that he has brought into her life. She can not fathom that.

However, when Harriet can't hide anymore from the fact that she does indeed love Peter, what she also awakens to is that the best way she can love him back is to allow him to give her the world, and lay it at her feet. The biggest sacrifice she makes is when she consents to his generosity and accepts the weight of gratitude.

Contrary to expecting gratitude from Harriet for all he has to offer her, and something that she had ignored because she could not quite believe it, Peter is profoundly grateful that he has so much to give. It is he who feels immensely indebted when he finally attains the desire of his heart. It is Peter who feels bowled over and astonished and given the world, when Harriet finally consents to being loved.


If your five year old presents you with a wilted dandelion as the supreme gift of her affections, you do not tell her to throw it away because it is ugly, you put it in a vase and exclaim over it, because it is a gift of love.

Sometimes then, love is not about how much you give, but what you allow yourself to receive. Women have lost touch with this, and as a result have helped mold a generation of young men, aimless and searching, with no direction for the boundless energy they possess and nothing to inspire them to greatness

Don't complain about the wimpy, aimless young men out there ladies: the solution lies with you, in the generosity of your hearts.


Even from here, across the ocean, I can hear a series of gulps.