How long were you engaged?
How many hearts have you broken?
Who would you most like to hear from right now?
Who broke your heart?
“I was in love with him instantly. Instantly. Because you see he looked like my father and he acted like my mother.”
– Anne Bancroft, 1984, talking about Mel Brooks.
Just think about that for a minute.
What does your partner find attractive about you?
I used to know this girl, years ago. We were in love with each other. We never talked about it, we never said a word, but we both knew: we were in love with each other. You could just tell.
We both had steady “significant others” at the time. Well, I did. I think she did, but maybe not. I can’t remember. This was years ago, back in film school, and because we were working on the same movie we spent a lot of time together. A lot of time together. Much more than we spent with our “significant others.”
Don’t worry, nothing happened between us.
Well, that’s not exactly true. Nothing physical happened (I’m not a jerk), but it didn’t have to. We were in love, and in the best possible way. “Best possible” because, well, we didn’t have to live up to anything. Nothing was going to happen between us. There was no chance. Nothing could possibly happen. And that was the beauty of it.
Nothing physical happened, but sometimes the physical stuff is the least important.
It was like high school. On the set we could share knowing smiles, make secret eye contact, or just sit together alone silently during breaks. Falling in love is so easy – every raised eyebrow is a valentine, every smile is electric, each eye contact a caress. Everybody could see us, everybody knew. Or maybe they didn’t, I don’t know. It sure felt like it then. It felt great.
And then we didn’t have to go home to each other. We never had a chance, so we never had to live up to anything. We could be perfect – all potential, no obligation. I could flash a devil smile of promise but never had to deliver anything. All ambition, no reality. No gravity. I was a genius because I said I was, because I acted like one, because she believed I was – because I believed I was.
I was a genius because I never had to prove that I was.
All we shared was our best – funny, charming, lovable – because that’s all we could share: the make-believe. It seems like too often our “significant others” get only the worst: the reality, the having to prove, day-in, day-out, who we are. You know, the crap. I don’t know about you, but my killer devil smile doesn’t get too much mileage in the real world.
And I’m not just talking about the people in our real-world lives, I’m talking about our “art” and our passions, too. Our ambitions. It’s easy to be a genius when you’re young and naive and you tell yourself you’re a genius: you just get up and do it, because you don’t know any better. Magic happens because you let it happen. You believe it is possible, so therefore it is. You don’t have to prove anything because you don’t recognize even that obligation. If you wrote something, it was genius. It just was. End of story.
But then you grow up. And before you know it, it’s hard to see anything but the obligation. Is this any good? Can I sell this? How bad does this suck?
It’s not really “negativity” I’m talking about, it’s not about “just think positive,” it’s bigger than that. It’s about, I don’t know, how do I put it… ambition? Magic? Self-delusion? No, it’s about one thing:
Confidence. It’s about confidence.
It’s about the work being good and energetic because you believe it is and that makes it – magically – get better. How could it dare not be good? It’s about that girl being in love with you because you’re being you, because you are loveable, and that makes you more loveable because that makes you even more “you” than you can usually dare to be. And it’s about you knowing this but not needing it – not needing anything at all. It’s about you knowing this so well you don’t even have to dream about living up to anything. You wouldn’t even conceive of the idea of having to live up to anything, not in a million years.
I haven’t seen her in years, which is the perfect end to the story.
I’ll never forget her. Or my devil smile.