Four Reasons & One Realization

When someone who is a writer hasn’t written in a while, there are quite possibly a number of reasons why:

  1. They are busy with life
  2. They have lost inspiration
  3. They’ve written, but decided it’s crap and won’t share it
  4. The ideas are bubbling in their head, but there are too many and not enough ambition or motivation to follow through

I am sure there are more reasons than that, but I have experienced all four of those in the last several months.

It’s not that I haven’t written. I’ve written. I just don’t think any of it is good or complete enough to share it with the rest of the world.

Winter strips me of my humanity. I am a walking, eating, sleeping shell, who wanders through her days, seeking only the comforts of alcohol, a warm blanket, or the vicarious vacation of watching others on television.

Sometimes, there is far too much going on inside my head, or emotionally, for me to even begin to comprehend how to put those thoughts to paper.

Yesterday was Friday. I had no plans. I also had no desire to make them. I was feeling eerily down for no reason, except possibly the effects of my birth control, this weather, or the general existential angst I’ve been feeling for quite some time. I chose to lie on the couch and eat garlic bread and pizza I had ordered. I never order food when I am alone; this was an exception.

Quite drastically, something clicked over in my brain. Sort of like when a record player shifts over the grooves to the next song. I decided that I was tired of being tired. For weeks now, I have been mulling over how, lately, I am the opposite of everything my blog stands for. I have been extremely mediocre—hating it with a passivity—but mediocre, nonetheless.

Part of the problem is that I’ve lost my goal. Somewhere in the past few months I have literally misplaced the part of me that has hope. It’s been a weird sort of depression I’ve never felt before. Usually, I’ll feel ambivalence or deep pain, but never without hopefulness.

In that moment of stark realization, I had been looking at one of those online coaching programs—the ones that, through virtual means, motivate you to strive for your health and weight goals. You know, like having a personal trainer, except not.

It’s been too bare and bleak outside for me to consider being alive again. I’ve dealt with this deadness by eating. In doing so, I’ve gained back the weight I’ve lost in the past few months. I am angry at myself, which makes it worse. So, yesterday, I decided to accept that life has these natural waves and to do something about it.

I joined this online coaching program for a free two-week trial. In the set-up, it asks me:

What are your deepest reasons for why you want to reach your goal?

After giving a brief answer, it prompts me again:

Is this the real reason, or is there more?

I wrote more.

This short, virtual prompting by a non-human was strangely so thoughtful and perfect. In those few moments, I was able to succinctly put into words a large quantity of what has been bothering me for months.

It was always in my head, but placing it on paper had a real impact.

I want to have hopefulness and strive for goals. Why? It asked me.

Because I don’t want to be depressed or have existential angst.

Is this the crux of it…?

I don’t feel like me. I miss the old me.

I have known this for a long time, but verbalizing it gave it power again.

What is the old me?

Well, a lot of things, but when I wrote that I was thinking about the old, physical me, for starters. A girl who was comfortable in her own skin and looked in the mirror every day and thought (mostly) that she was beautiful and radiant.

The old me also had dreams, hobbies, energy, and spirit.

She didn’t look forward to drinking as an escape from reality. She didn’t sit on the couch, watching television for hours so the aching she felt inside could be tamped down. She looked forward to full stretches of days alone, where she could practice guitar, write, do arts and crafts, go for walks in the woods, and feel the cosmic love of the universe pour down upon her in gentle, reminding waves of compassion.

I don’t feel any of that anymore. Literally, none of it. Today, is the first day in a very long time I have felt anything.

Knowing that every day was one I was sleepily rolling through, like a person in a crowd on an escalator, was making me mediocre. Mediocrity led to helplessness and uselessness. I do not like being alive just so I can eat snacks, watch a movie, or go to work. I like being alive because I know I have some purpose. If I am not contributing to this existence in any way, I don’t want to be here.

This is the existential angst I’ve been feeling.

My dreams have been filled with nightmares and destruction for weeks. I wonder if this was my body’s way of trying to cause motion again?

My problems are far from being resolved, and this is only day one of the first step, but I have at least identified and verbalized what is causing me such stagnation.

I have finally chosen to listen to myself.

Disintegrating

I am sitting on my couch, alone in my living room, thinking about all of the people I care about and how I haven’t seen most of them in so long that I can’t remember their voices or how they smell.

My heart is breaking into a million pieces.

It might be my overly active hormones at play, but it is still real just the same.

My chest aches and my lower lashes feel the kiss of tear drops, because I miss these people. But it is more than that. I am proud of them. Real damn proud.

I think about acquaintance friends with whom I haven’t visited in many years—how they are married now or having kids. I can watch them through the filtered screen of social media. I see their lives growing and changing.

My old best friend from grade school is a successful fashion consultant with her own company in NYC. I was just visiting her website and admiring how professionally and elegantly done it was. My old best friend has accomplished so much. I can hardly believe the magnificence of humans, sometimes.

The first man I said “I love you” to recently got engaged.

Everyone’s lives are just branching out like a well-mannered fractal into outer space. These lovely branches curving and splitting, and my heart just wants to burst with genuine excitement and joy in the happiness that is others’.

I don’t know if my mind is searching out these longing memories tonight because my hormones are peaking for a window of time due to PMDD, or because I’ve experienced loss so near in the past.

I might not have another Tuesday night with my best female friend. Tuesday was our day. She’d come over with beer or wine and we’d sit and talk or watch a girly movie. There’s been a rift between us, and I haven’t even had the chance to explain myself or talk to her, because she has protectively boarded up her emotional walls and shut me off like water lines in the middle of winter, so the pipes don’t burst.

I said goodbye to a man I have loved fiercely and passionately for over a year. I don’t know if I’ll ever smell his hair again or try hopelessly to get him to open his eyes wide enough to stare into mine for more than two or three seconds.

And he—this man—has accomplished so much. I haven’t been able to be there for any of it, but I’ve cheered from the sidelines and been supportive from the other end of the phone. I’ve pushed him to fight for what he loves, and I’ve lost everything I could have ever had with him to the gamble of his potential success, hanging out there in the future like an amorphous, looming question mark.

I want to take this palpitating heart of mine and shred it up into tiny fibers. Little thread-like viscera. I want to connect myself physically to all of those people who have ever mattered to me. The friends I haven’t forgotten. Loved beings who have amazed me all this time.

Yet… I can’t.

I can’t, and that’s why it’s paining me. To have to stay whole when I want to be a part of everyone. To have to continue to live my own life when my memories dredge up nostalgic yearning to be close to others. To walk my own path, knowing I could never see any of these people ever again. And that I would just have to be okay with that.

Who can always just be okay with that?

Not even the strongest person is truly at peace with the reality that something they love so much might never be close enough to them again that they can just reach out and touch it; embrace it; breathe in the essence of it, whether it be their voice, their graceful demeanor, their smile, their laugh, or just the comfort that is silently acknowledged between two people when they are relieved to be in another’s presence.

And since I am only little Amanda and possess no tool set to cope with this massive sense of loss—this deprivation of familiarity—I wrap up into myself in the fetal position in my bed and cry. I write. I love everything and everyone I can while I can. I hug tightly, say I love you genuinely, and kiss like I’m nominated to win an award for it.

My body is the glue that holds me together, while my thoughts and tears scatter across time.

Not all of these people, or even most of them, probably know how much I hold love for them still in my heart.

One knew. He told me so. I whimpered to him through desperate, emotion-laden declarations that for so long I was afraid to tell him how much I loved him. Right then, he cut me off and said, “You didn’t have to say it. I knew.”

There’s a calming feeling that comes with the knowledge of his heart knowing my heart so intimately all this time without me ever having to verbally confirm that what we felt was real.

For those I’ve lost or not seen, and may never see again, if they could know my love is expansive and unyielding in its many forms, then I am connected to each, instead of my fear of disintegrating into a pile of ash, like every time the one I love steps out my front door.

There’s a Man

There’s a man.
His hair wispy like a model’s, looking perfect in pictures.
My favorite part is how disheveled it gets when we are naked;
Strands bouncing up and down with each passionate grunt.

There’s a man.
I only get small glimpses of what our life would be:
Giggles in the bedroom.
Hand-holding across busy city intersections.
Sushi at a small restaurant in Brooklyn.
Eyes that see me first when he wakes.

There’s a man.
The way I cherish him is different.
I would kiss every tiny freckle on his face if I saw him each day;
I’ve uttered my most heart-felt to my bedroom walls at night,
because he’s hours away.

There’s a man.
He’s one long longing.
No one I desire more and no one further from my reach.
More time apart than together; our moments, fleeting and glittery.

There’s a man I love.
I probably always will.
He never seems to let me go.
For that, alone, I love him still.

Obsessed

I think every serious writer is a bit obsessed.

She’s infatuated with words. Specifically, her words. She’s never satisfied with her vocabulary. Scribbled notes adorn scrap paper—ideas for things about which she wants to write. Fearing a good thought will go to waste, she has a hard time parting with any of her years-old scraps, usually tossed into a folder or heaped in a desk drawer.

A serious writer reads and re-reads her work dozens of times before publishing. Even then, she reads it some more, in case she’s missed something. Always scouring for a grammatical error or the perfect position to place an important insight.

She defines herself as a writer. She jokes that ink runs through her veins instead of mere mortal blood. She feels like a conduit for the universe’s silent language and song. It is her honor to ensure the unspoken gets transcribed so it can be committed to the bank of human understanding and memory.

She reads a lot. She’s imbued with fantasy, whim, heaviness, and stardust. Hours alone are her favorite, as she can prepare her art form uninterrupted. Inspiration comes at a stop sign, while listening to a podcast, after a heart-breaking evening, and in the shower—every writer’s worst nightmare, because a pen is not nearby.

She thinks about the book she will someday write when the perfect storm coalesces with a stroke of genius. She knows she might never write that book.

She writes every day. On days when she can’t, she feels the withdrawal; the same pull that addicts experience without their muse or playmate.

A serious writer never gives up, because even if most of the world has never read a single thing she’s ever written, the pure ecstasy of putting thoughts into tangible strings of mellifluous sentences is her truest passion.

A serious writer is obsessed, head over heels, doe-eyed in love with the written word.

She loves it more than almost anything else, and will constantly take her experiences and those she adores and decorate them in poetry, in song, in memoir, in essay, in fiction, in creative nonfiction, in novel, in journal. Any way she can, she will.

And she does.

Poorly Taken Notes

Last night, I read the words of an 18 year old girl’s personal journal. My hand traced over the sometimes red, sometimes blue or black ink, thinking about how the puerile mind doesn’t fully understand or know how to process others’ actions or heartache—how it barely does now, 15 years later.

Her thoughts trembled throughout the pages, yet agonizingly stuck in a purgatory of adolescent fear. Did he still find her pretty? Why is he suddenly not interested? How will things turn out?

It’s painful to read. Not because this naive girl is being foolish or simple, but because 15 years later, she faces a similar problem and still envelops herself in distrust and anxiety.

She wrote of being “unlucky”, like she, specifically, was peeled out of colorform and thrust into this bleak existence without predictability or smiling faces.

I know now that life is what you make it. That things don’t happen to us like there’s a celestial and surreptitious foosball match, where we’re constantly getting barreled over because we can’t see the ball.

But I don’t believe it. I seem to have shit luck.

That girl—she knew it even then.

She was really pretty. In some ways, prettier than she is now, although she’s more mature, curvy, and experienced. Boys turned their heads, but none ever asked her out. When they finally did, they became infused with the life of her voice and the joy of her effervescence, and then quickly deflated and became uninterested. Was it something she had done?

Probably.

I have made it my life’s mission since I was a teen to right the erroneous ways of my trysts. To figure out how to make things work, and to be a more self-aware and interpersonally involved lover.

And I still have shit luck.

The entry dated September 11th, 2001 chronicled the events of the falling towers, and as hopeless romantics do, that girl told of her own heart’s undoing. The boy revealed to her, while they poured over their scribbled notebooks from chemistry class, that he didn’t want to be her boyfriend, after holding her hand every weekend at every party, and spending nights next to her in bed.

I have never forgotten that day for very obvious reasons, but it was also the same day my emotions were crumpled up like poorly taken notes and tossed carelessly in the trash bin.

Temporarily Out of Service

Love has always been a cipher to which I’ve lacked the code.

Capturing a man’s heart? Piece of cake. Keeping his interest after the first few months of puppy-love subside? Damn near impossible.

I recently read an article called Why I Love Unavailable Men. The author of the post describes how growing up without a father left her feeling cast out and left behind. In a sense, unlovable. She expresses how she mirrors her own disbelief that she can be loved in finding partners over and over who are simply not emotionally available.

I don’t necessarily believe that is why I gravitate towards unavailable men, but it certainly got me thinking.

I typically end up with one of two extremes: The Overly Ambitious Man or The Waste of Space Man. Both types, although polar opposites, possess this unattainableness.

My first real mature, adult relationship was this guy I met while on vacation in Vermont after graduating college in 2005. I went up with a large group of friends, and he was not there on our first day. The following morning, I came down the stairs in tiny red shorts and a wife beater tank and there was this very good-looking man sitting on the sofa in the living room. It was practically love at first sight for both of us.

The reason why he wasn’t there the first day? He was giving a lecture in Japan. Yeah. We fell in love and dated for six months, during which he moved to California to work on his PhD at Stanford. That guy truly loved me, I believe, but he made it clear that his career goals came first, that he always had to make time for that before talking to or seeing me, and that I would have to be okay with it. I was. Sorta.

Then, I reconnected with my first love as a teenager, and we fell madly and hopelessly for each other. There never was a doubt that he loved me fiercely, but it took him five years to propose, and during those years, I watched him throw his life away and fail over and over. I couldn’t have what I truly wanted, because he wasn’t willing to make the steps. By the time we were engaged, the relationship was pretty damaged and strained. It didn’t last too long after that.

I fell in love again to someone who seemed to be very available. Always there for me, a great listener, willing to bend over backwards for anything I needed or desired. Pretty soon, he won me and subsequently forgot about me. I was back-burnered, I was lied to, I was never told I was loved and hardly told I was beautiful. Such a stark difference from the first few months. He couldn’t get his life together, either, and I watched him sabotage anything positive until it was simply too painful to witness his stagnation and be pulled into the infested pool alongside him.

And now there is another. A completely swoon-worthy man who says the sexiest and sweetest things to me. When we do see each other, it’s explosively passionate. He falls into the Overly Ambitious category, constantly striving to make connections and work ’til he drops of fatigue because of his ardor for the entertainment industry. He’s a workaholic and lives two-and-a-half hours away. I’m not number one. I probably won’t ever be.

A friend, sometime last year, said to me, “I think you purposely seek out unavailable men.” She cited some instances of why she thought this was the case and astonishment and overwhelming fear rolled across my face. My god, I think she’s right. But how can she be right when I never intentionally do it?

I don’t want an unavailable man, yet I seem to attract them every time.

Do I just have shitty luck when it comes to men or am I subconsciously choosing men who can never fully be dedicated to me? Furthermore, why would I do such a thing?

I so badly want to fall madly in love. I want to SAY it. I want to hear it back. I want to live with someone and have children. I just want to be loved, dammit. And each time I find a man who I deem worthy it is because they are seemingly so open to the possibility of it. I’m not making that up. Any man I’ve been with in the last ten years has changed who they were after a couple of months of seeing them.

I always just assumed I was defective and, therefore, unlovable. Men find me very intelligent, beautiful, and inspiring, but it seems as though the luster fades eventually, and I am yet again struggling to keep the man’s heart.

Perhaps it really is unintentional. I mean, think about it:

Falling for the Overly Ambitious Man seems natural, because confidence, motivation, and independence are really attractive qualities. Atop that, they are unparalleled in passion, typically.

The Waste of Space Man will undoubtedly be all about me, because they have nothing else going on. They feed that narcissistic need I possess to be worshipped. I am seen as the independent, inspiring one, and it feels nice.

In this way, I don’t think I attract men that can’t love me or commit to me because I don’t think I deserve love like so many of these articles on the subject suggest. I think it’s simple psychology: Attraction comes in different packages, and often times, those packages are emotionally unavailable.

I don’t think I choose long-distance relationships because I gravitate to unavailable men; I think I like someone and if it’s worth it to me, I’ll handle long distance.

I don’t think I find men who are career-passionate because then I do not have to fear being hurt if I never fully open up to them; I think I find passion sexy.

I don’t think I seek out men who can’t get their lives together because I’ll be the center of their existence; I think I like the attention and want that from any man, but it just so happens that I find people at times in their lives when they are extremely available to me, since they aren’t busy.

Seeds are planted, love and disappointment grows.

I’m not entirely sure how to break free from these archetypes of men to which I always seem to be pulled. I like what I like. I will always find ambition, artistic ability, and passion sexy. I will always like being an inspiration to others.

Maybe I am defective in my reasoning and the only blockade from attaining emotional intimacy in full. It seems more likely that I am the one “Temporarily Out of Service”, rather than blaming the types for which I always fall.

The common denominator in every relationship I’ve ever had is me.

 

 

Tell Cinderella to Get Real

In my former life, I once tried on wedding dresses.

I recall not feeling that beautiful in them, nor was there a magical “yes to the dress” moment. My oldest sister and I went in secrecy, because I knew my step-mother would want to go and I would have to listen to her constant criticisms over what she liked or didn’t like, and I just wanted to have fun. 

We went to Alfred Angelo’s in Manchester. A friend of mine had gotten her dress from A.A. and I loved the styles.

Why didn’t it feel like a defining, life-changing moment for me? That day, I should have read the blatant sign screaming at me that I didn’t want to get married to this man, but I blindly ignored it and blamed my absent excitement on the notion that none of the dresses “did it” for me.

The day a girl tries on wedding dresses for the first time has been built up in our minds from everything we read in books, see on television, or gaze at in magazines. My assumption after that day at Alfred Angelo’s was that it just wasn’t as glamorous as media and Disney movies make it out to be.

It is true that I ultimately did not want to marry that man, but it is also true that we tend to these rituals and fantasies until they grow to unparalleled and impossible ideals that cannot be matched.

I found a bunch of photos that my sister snapped the day I tried on dresses. Standing there, in my very small frame of a body, I felt like I was swimming in those gowns. What I didn’t realize was the reflection in the mirror staring back at me was actually drowning.

wedding dress mirror

She was told as a young girl that she would someday fall in love, get married, and make beautiful babies of her own. She believed it whole-heartedly. Never was there a doubt in her pretty little head that a man would bend down on his knee and present his eternal dedication to her just liked she had played over and over in her head since she was about twenty years old.

What she wasn’t told is how much work it takes to keep love alive if you want to dress in white and flash your sparkly diamond.

Wedding gown side

No one taught her in school that healthy relationships require the most work and effort you will ever put forth towards practically anything in your life. No one gave her the necessary tools. Only time, experience, and many, many broken relationships provided some scattered bricks from which she could begin to build, after brushing away the dirt and debris, a steady path towards a symbiotic romance. So far, it has taken almost thirty-three years.

Why do we continue to beat into the pliable minds of children that there is always a prince charming who will be beyond romantic and make us swoon? That we will have to do little to entrap his interest, because if we dress and act a certain way, men will just fall head over heels staring at us from across the room the second we enter.

This is dangerous. This is quite possibly one of the biggest lies we can ever tell our youth.

Yes, trying on dresses is (supposedly) fun, an adrenaline rush, and bound to make women feel like a princess for a day–but that’s just one day. What about all the days leading up to that day? How about all of those days that will follow?

We are so focused on having our Cinderella moment of transforming from dull to enchanting that not enough energy is being transferred to where it belongs most: our actual every day romances and relationships.

We have been irrevocably irresponsible in promising our children that they will be loved and it will be seemingly easy. Only focusing on the Cinderella moments in our stories allows ill-prepared humans to sloppily throw themselves into relationships with reckless abandon.

dress with false smile

The false smile on my face is telling the camera to hurry up and take the photograph. Nothing else.

Up until that point, I had tried to no avail to create the perfect relationship, unaware of how volatile other humans were no matter how careful I tried to be with my actions and their emotions.

I regard myself as a hopeless romantic even knowing the truth about relationships now. I am wiser and know the incredible heap of man-hours it takes to maintain a balance and grow love that can sustain.

The complete dearth of realistic advice dispensed in my youth has not totally addled my heart and hopes for love, but I am jaded. I am worn, pained, and covered in battle scars. I am continually fighting my childhood-born urges to be a princess swept off her feet. In an attempt to remain pragmatic and sensible, I have come to terms with the fact that not every man I fall for or even every man who may love me back wants the “black suit standing at the altar” moment with me, because maybe he realized too early and without real warning that Cinderella and Prince Charming’s fantasies were a bit whack.

The biggest favor we can do for the younger generation is to be a bit more practical about what we tell them. I’m not touting that we should debase their idea of love completely, but for god’s sake, give them some useful knowledge about how hard it will be and how devastating it will feel to be broken-hearted. We need to refuse to lie to them, telling them they will without a doubt have these things some day.

I wish someone had helped me along the way instead of letting me stand there in my white gown wondering why it didn’t feel enthralling to finally be the princess.

I still want to wear a white dress; I want a man to devote himself to me in perpetuity. But I’m not a fool, and I know it’s not what every man wants from a woman, no matter how charming and romantic he can be.

I know that the responsibility that comes with adorning myself like a princess for one day means that I will work my entire life to be a loving person who negotiates, forgives, sacrifices, compromises, and listens.

You know why Disney movies always end with the perfect moment? Because if we saw what followed, then we would disillusion our youth and they would see what a real relationship consists of. Why this is such a horrible thing to display to our youth I don’t understand, except that maybe once people realized how hard commitment actually was, they wouldn’t want it.

I know how hard commitment actually is, and I still want it. Real romantics always do, because we don’t see love as a fairy tale; we know it to be a veritable force, because we dragged ourselves endlessly across hot coals to find it, and when we work that hard for something, white dresses are just one day out of the countless we spend making the ones we love feel adored, all while dealing with the messes we both make when we’re outside the ballroom and in our simple rags of every day existence.

dress facing forward

Fifty Shades of No Way?

[Spoiler Alert: Don’t read this if you don’t want some idea of what happens in the book/movie, Fifty Shades of Grey]

Okay, okay. I will admit it. I finally jumped on the bandwagon of Fifty Shades viewers and watched the movie. I had acquired the book on my kindle, because when someone says not to read something, it almost makes you want to read it.

I had heard mixed reviews from some of my friends that the movie does an injustice to the “kink scene”–as in, people who are actually into dom-sub relationships and specific fetishes.

I’ve read some of the book, and the writing isn’t very good–I’ll admit that–but the part that I thought was done with consideration, at the very least, was the subtleties of the art of seduction.

See, I’ve read The Art of Seduction, by Robert Greene. I’ve discussed the book with others. I’ve literally employed tactical devices within the book. Seducing men was never a problem I had; I’m what you’d call a natural at it, but I was lured in by the psychology behind the art.

In the book (as much as I’ve read) and the movie, Christian and Ana are in a constant “game” with one another to assert their dominance and have the upper hand–yes, even though she was characterized as the “submissive”. This might seem like something only relatable to the world of kinky sex fetishes and fantasies, but I assure you, it’s not.

Power plays occur every single minute of every day between all types of relationships, whether it be parent and child, boss and employee, friends, strangers, and of course, romantic entanglements. Humans are just naturally hard-wired to react and respond in ways which will allow our “status” to remain on stable ground.

Let’s say we go out on a first date with someone we really enjoyed. Obviously, we want to talk to them right away afterwards or perhaps even try to see them the very next day. Most people, out of a perceived level-grounded, almost nonchalant collectedness will back off for a few days. Or we get the text we’ve been waiting for all day from the person we care about and we don’t want them to know we had the phone right next to us. Seems too eager, right? So, we don’t answer for two hours.

These are all defense mechanisms, clearly, as are most embodiments of power plays. It’s important to have the winning cards, not only so we don’t get hurt, but also so that we sustain interest. That’s the part I’m most concerned with. I’ll attend to the former later on.

Interest.

How to entrap and intrigue the other party. How to keep them on their toes. How to, in the case of Ana and Christian, magnify the intensity to such a point that both parties are intoxicated and enamored beyond what they can any longer control. It starts to roll like a rock down a hill, and as it careens, it gains momentum. It does, unlike a boulder tumbling down a cliff, require maintenance and attention. But if the mystery and intrigue, the carefulness and affection, the let down and subsequent gentle caress are all there between both parties, then it piles and amasses until something like mind-blowing sexual chemistry erupts. Or complete infatuation. Or beautiful, romantic love.

It may seem like power plays are bad things, but they are not necessarily. If used with sensitivity and good intention, then they enhance and add flavor to our relationships.

In Fifty Shades, I see this occurring. There are the not so great parts–Ana continually wanting something she can never fully have; Christian being cold and emotionally distant due to an awful upbringing and abandonment from his biological mother. This is the part of the movie that I think (think?) critics take issue.

In having knowledge about the “kink scene” or dominant-submissive play, I know that respect, limits, pleasure, debriefing, and ultimately, a more bonded, intimate relationship are key elements. Does this seem to be missing from Fifty Shades? I actually don’t think so.

I think it’s a movie. In the book, there’s more elaborate description of what the relationship entails, but in the movie, like movies do, you have to gloss over a lot of that to make it engrossing.

Sure, there’s a business meeting to discuss the matters of the contract, but it’d be boring if it were just this mutual discussion with hugs at the end, or this ongoing play-by-play of every line in the agreement, complete with coffee and bathroom breaks, and phone call interruptions. This isn’t real life; it’s a movie.

The business meeting is, in fact, one of my favorite scenes in the movie, due to the tantalizing, empowering nature Ana suddenly displays when she teases the crap out of Christian and then leaves him high and dry. She didn’t do this to be cruel; she did this to pull him further in.

Well, it worked. There’s science in it. It’s like the dangling carrot in front of the chariot horse. What’s going to keep him running? What’s the prize? The ever elusive idea that he is *this close* to what he wants. Getting what we want is good too, we just have to know when and when not to give in completely.

This is the game.

In this way, I do not think the movie did anything wrong. There’s a constant give and take between the two of them for this attainment of “love”. Christian is also protecting himself–that’s part of why the idea of controlled, submissive sex and romance is so appealing. You cannot get hurt if you don’t allow anyone to penetrate your armor. He may have exemplified his guardedness and inner turmoil in a way that was not okay for a dom-sub agreement at one point, but we are all messy humans who continually blur the lines between what we should and shouldn’t do and with what intentions.

Having a degree in Psychology, I actually found this to be a natural (and cliché) path for the movie to take. A plot merely about fetishes with no depth: How are you going to make a box office hit? People like romance. We like protagonists and antagonists. We like movies that will our souls to seek change. We like anything we can relate to on a personal level.

I’ll come forward and say it: I related to this movie on a profoundly deep level. The movie itself wasn’t profound, but its effect on me was. No, I have never been whisked away by a stunningly beautiful billionaire, and I haven’t been chained to a wall in a “play room” (although it sounds fun). However, I know what it feels like to be entranced by an insanely gorgeous and charming man. I know what it is to have him forever far away, and often times, emotionally distant and protected. I know what it is to watch everyone around me go on dates with their significant others, and I know what it’s like to have plans broken at the drop of a hat because something career-wise has popped up and taken precedence.

I know what it’s like to be in the position of Ana, where it very much appears to be romance and love, and have the other person contradict it. I know what it’s like to be abused by the person I love, too. This isn’t all one person, of course, it’s a collective.

But I know.

In this way, I could so truthfully relate to the emotions felt, and as an “incurable romantic”, my heart spasmed when Christian confesses his fears and childhood trauma to a sleeping Ana, because he wishes he could tell her consciously.

I gasped at the scene in the elevator when their lust was first manifested, and I delighted in each passionate kiss Christian launched at Ana the second she walked in the door, because I know exactly how those things feel.

Christian is driven to say to Ana that she is everything he wants, and Ana tells Christian, choking through sobs, that she’s in love with Christian, which makes him recoil. I know what it is to feel as though I am everything that someone wants but never secure enough to say those three words.

When Christian smiles at the text Ana sends, expressing how she misses him and wishes he were there, was probably one of the most tender and painful moments for me, because every time I press send on the end of my phone saying the same thing to someone I care about, I am hoping, no matter how emotionally protected he may seem at times, that he is secretly smiling because he cares, too.

Fifty Shades, although not prophetic or enlightening, substantiated the art of seduction, the deeper, darker colors of humanity, which mold and shape our behaviors, and still kept present a hint of hope for change, which to every incurable romantic, is our raison d’être.