Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We Can Be Such Clichés...

The other day at work our asset tracking system went down for maintenance for the majority of the morning. Luckily, we had been warned this would happen, so I came prepared with the newest issue of Vanity Fair and the most recent Netflix that arrived in my mail the day before, Wallace Wolodarksy's Seeing Other People. They were both research write-offs for an article I'm prepping about underestimated female comedy players, and though the latter was being reviewed specifically to look at yet another relegated-to-only-a-handful-of-scenes supporting role in a quirky feature for Lauren Graham, I found myself focusing much more intently on the lead character of Julianne Nicholson.

See, in Seeing Other People, a young, engaged couple (of which Nicholson is one half, with Jay Mohr being her counterpart) decides to allow each other to sleep with other people leading up to their wedding. The idea is that Nicholson suddenly realizes she doesn't want to commit to one man for the rest of her life after having only slept with two others, but in order to avoid seeming like a hypocrite, she extends the same courtesy to Mohr, despite his wild oats already having been sowed. From the beginning Mohr is vocally against the idea: he rants that he is done with meaningless sex; he says he doesn't want her to get hurt; he claims the idea is stupid (all valid points, I must say). He relents, though, and for a little while there even seems to get into the whole one-night stand lifestyle, despite a few early false starts.

Nicholson, on the other hand, starts out timidly and with great reserve, and it is only due to dumb (movie) luck that she is able to follow through with her plan, as opportunity literally walks itself up to her. Even then she doesn't pounce so much as cautiously tiptoe into the situation. What she then embarks on is not a bunch of random nights with random dudes but rather one quite serious relationship with one very specific dude, begging the the inevitable message that men and women inherently date differently, and women can't just sleep around without getting attached or wanting something more. Now, I know, I know: "Sex and the City did it; Sex and the City did it!" (said in a high South Park voice), and the outcome was the same. Hell, even the "revolutionary" Samantha Jones was taken down by [a] Dick at one point, but the funny thing in Seeing Other People is that Nicholson constantly fights the odd attachment her new beau forms; she vehemently denies that it is mutual, despite all visual and physical evidence to the contrary (such as suddenly buying lacy lingerie, partaking in afternoon cooking sessions, or the mere fact that she continues to see him-- and in public places!-- even after she got her "meaningless sex" out of the way). Then just as she decides to retain the upper hand in their relationship and end this odd arrangement, Mohr realizes he is actually enjoying his situation, and Nicholson melts into a blubbering, untrusting, cliché of a woman.

I have this friend-- I won't name names for those that read this and know her but maybe who don't know this story about her-- anyway, let's call this friend Jane. Jane liked this guy Toby, but Jane is a very logical, analytical person, and after hour-long debates with herself, me, and some other girl friends, Jane was able to deduce that Toby was not "the best guy for her" for a variety of reasons. Fine; no one said she had to marry the guy. She decided she still wanted to have her fun with him, but after one hook up (or two), she would just move on: she wouldn't pine for the relationship he was already upfront with her about not wanting. However, after she loved 'im and left 'im, so to speak, she realized just how much she did really like him and that a little part of her still was hoping for more-- like maybe he'd come to his senses (as all of the chick flicks have taught us they will) and realize he, too, likes her just as much, and he'd throw away any preconceived (misconceived) notion about relationships and why they weren't for him at this point in his life. Sadly (or naturally, if you're as cynical and jaded as I am), that did not happen. Toby went on his merry way, satisfied with the strictly physical aspects of a relationship to which he was privy, and my friend Jane had to pick up the pieces of a broken heart days after the fact. Clearly she just couldn't turn her emotions on and off the way men stereotypically seem to be able to do.

There's a guy in my office who, whenever we come across issues of learning differences or what have you, has a habit of defaulting to the "men and women are just built differently" archaic theory. It is my prerogative as a woman (but also as a forward-thinker) to innately disagree with him, but then I still openly refer to situations like the ones above as “dating like men,” so how am I any better? Men or women, I know it doesn’t really matter: some people are relationship people and some aren’t. But all that being said, if I believe a person's sexuality is born and not made, then despite how much I so desperately want to believe genetics and biology don't determine everything about us (especially when they're destined to doom our relationships), how can I deny some of the other characteristics that make us inherently male or female? There are some emotional responses to situations that are just uncontrollable and seem to stem from something innate in our gender, and really, that's not a bad thing, but in order to keep ourselves happy, we need to embrace it more, rather than try to do things like the other side... 'cause really, what's so great about them? ;)

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