This weekend, I had a friend come up and stay the night. We practiced some dances for a workshop on Saturday, and then we decided to pull out my much-played 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice; initially to assure that we’d gotten the dance right, and then afterwards to fast-forward through most of the movie, stopping only to watch the bits with Colin Firth playing Darcy. We both sat there; both just slightly tipsy, and drank in with painful longing at the overwhelmingly disgusting, unrealistic romance that we both adore so much. It’s so beautiful it’s ridiculous. It’s almost physically painful.
We both wondered if we were completely deluded to want that kind of romance in our lives; and we both questioned if it at all existed to begin with. Was Jane Austen, a lady who refused to settle—even at the cost of becoming a burden on her family; and who died never experiencing the kind of requited love she gave her heroines, just feeding us all something wholly unreal? Are there really and truly any Darcys roaming the earth, profoundly tormented by their feelings; willing to sacrifice what they must and to fight to obtain or keep their woman’s affections? Or are we just idiots to desire that sort of passion and to let these stories lead us on?
I don’t know. In my heart, I believe that if someone writes about it, that it has to exist on some level. I have to hope it does. I have to believe that there is that broody, painful, longing, first-love kind of passion in this world that is requited for a change. I need to know that men are capable of that depth compassion and affection. I have to believe that there is a kind of love that would make even the most reprehensible soul be willing to change his or her ways for the sake of love—for someone to give up something astronomical to be with someone they adore.
As a mean, I cannot stomach chick-flicks. I really can’t. I despise sappy, saccharine romantic comedies, and predictable, formula flicks. But I can’t stop watching Jane Austen adaptations. I also am a sucker for Buffy—for that kind of crazy, irrational love like when Spike chose to torment himself for eternity by getting his soul back, simply to be worthy of Buffy (who in my mind, never deserved that dedication from him to begin with). That sort of sacrifice is mythical--to set aside your pride, and to subject yourself to the ill-perceptions of others, to open yourself to possible pain just to show that person you love that there is nothing in the world that would make you stop loving them. Nothing.
Am I deluded? Maybe.
Maybe after dealing with the pain of infidelity, the image of Colin Firth’s brooding eyes gazing lovingly at Lizzie makes my heart hurt more than usual. The idea of Spike making himself insane with guilt just so that Buffy could see that he had a soul makes me want to cry. Those stories kill me. They are so beautiful, it’s painful. Maybe it makes me want someone to look at me that way, and know that there’s no reason in the world, no possible hurt I could inflict on this man, to cause him to take that loving gaze away.
When I got married, I truly believed that it was there—in his gaze. I saw it when I reached him at the altar. I really believed that the unconditional dedication was reflected in both my heart and his. I called him my dedicated Colonel Brandon. I imagined that I’d waited this long to marry just because I was waiting for him. I truly believed that. I think that’s the worst part of all this… the infidelity itself, that’s not what ripped my heart out… the thing that is the most painful about this whole thing is the overwhelming, devastating disillusionment—the heart-wrenching discovery that the love in his gaze wasn’t unconditional, that it wasn’t whole—that the desire to fight and sacrifice wasn’t quite as mutual as I believed it to be, that is undying dedication was quite as undying as it appeared to be.
Now I live with the knowledge that if I can find it in me to trust him again, and to bring him back into my life; that the special, adoring gaze not only never was what it seemed, but in truth it will never really be like Mr. Darcy’s.
I’m Pushing 40. Am I beyond that kind of love now? I know idealistic ideas like this should be reserved for the young… and that the reality is marriage is a roller-coaster… relationships are a bear, but if it doesn’t work out, is there a chance that I’ll ever have that passion again? What if it does work out? I know it’s impossible to expect anyone to never disappoint you; we are all human after all—but even with that reality; there is always your capacity to rise above it, to see beyond the disappointment, and to see them as you did once before, with pure, truly unabashed love and adoration. I know I have that, I know it’s inside me, but I wonder if it’s in him. And I wonder if he’ll ever look at me that way again or will his eyes always be emanating his shame?