Monday, February 16, 2015

The Nicholas Sparks Effect

I would like to start with a disclaimer: I am not criticizing Nicholas Sparks.  Nicholas Sparks made me believe in love stories that are grown up versions of fairy tales - more conflicts, but a "happy" ending or at least an ending that comes full circle.  I admire him for writing books that keep people who may not otherwise read, reading.  The books made into movies have also encouraged men to be more romantic and embrace their softer side.  All of these are impressive feats.  But I do have a problem with one thing, and this is something that I didn't realize until after I had lived a little, had many relationships, long and short, and watched my friends go through enough to write several of my own books.  I'm going to call this "The Nicholas Sparks Effect" and it is the only negative blame I will place on Nicholas Sparks (even though I get frustrated that I can predict most of the endings to his novels now).  He has created a feeling of disappointment that I believe has haunted many of us. Let me explain what I'm talking about...

As anyone who has read my last blog post knows, I was in a serious long term relationship with someone who was extremely important to me.  He was my best friend for four years before I dated him for five years.  Then, just like that (read previous blog post), he disappeared from my life completely... okay, it wasn't that quick - it took a year to be totally broken up, like all real break-ups do... but now, it feels like that person no longer exists.  Crazy how that can happen after the amount of time and energy goes into one person.  I would call him my college sweetheart, and probably one of my soul-mates (praying I have more than one out there).  The point I'm trying to get across, is that for an extremely long time this single person was so important to me, I thought I'd die without him.

Image result for the notebookThe first time I ran into him after we completely cut ties, it was very much like a movie, or at least an episode of The Mindy Project.  I was at the airport to meet my friends in Boston; I have airport rituals, and when strolling into the book store, after buying my Starbucks grande soy misto, I literally almost ran into him as he turned around from checking his flight status.  Surprised because we don't live in the same city and hadn't seen each other in over a year, we engaged in an awkward one armed hug before he offered to walk me to my gate.  I agreed, even though I didn't want to go to my gate because I hadn't finished my rituals yet.  We walked, he admitted that he was surprised I didn't punch him (I should have), he dropped me off at my gate, we exchanged a few text messages afterwards because I am that person who has to follow up everything with a text and that was pretty much it - I had a lot of Jack Daniels on that short flight to Boston for, coincidentally (again, read former post), New Years Eve.  Period.  The end.  That could be told in a paragraph, and I could even cut it shorter.  There was no running into each other's arms, no date to meet the next day and go canoeing on the river, no admittance that our relationship ended before it should have and we were destined to be together and it was some other factor that tore us apart - a la The Notebook. There was small talk: family, dogs, period.

Fast forward to this fall.  We were both guests at the same wedding, which I knew ahead of time.  I did put time into glamming for the wedding, but I do that for every wedding.  Although the freak out with all the "fucks" I unleashed on my mom through the telephone, was probably out of the ordinary and maybe because I had a little bit of nerves knowing I'd be seeing him.

His mom was also a guest, and seeing her was something I was looking forward to because I miss her, and I told her I miss her. She told me she wished he was still dating me.  (victory)

Seeing him.  That's a different story.  I don't know what I expected or what I wanted.  But I do know I expected and wanted something different than what I got.  I blame Sparks for that.  I didn't need a reunion like The Best of Me, I didn't want us to realize we were meant for each other and get stuck in the rain like The Notebook.  But I wanted more.  I wanted more than feeling like he snuck up on me while I was at the bar.  I wanted more than feeling like I was being ambushed with an introduction to his fiance.  I found it annoyingly hilarious that he had the nerve ask me, "What's new?"  when I haven't seen or talked to him in four years.  Whats new?  Everything is new, asshole.

I guess what I wanted was in between what Nicholas Sparks has me believing can happen when you see one of your soul-mates years after breaking up and what I actually got.  I wanted a conversation that made me feel like I didn't waste my time with this person, that there is some sort of common heartfelt memories between the two of us, and maybe a conversation without that gummy, no-hair-tool-owning fiance looking on.  Maybe a hug, not like our hugs in high school, because those hugs would turn us both into balls of mush, but a warm hug- not a run and jumper, or make out session, but something that felt like I spent nine years with this person being a consistent part of my day-to-day life and we both remembered that.

What Nicholas Sparks has us believing can happen when you see your ex soul-mate, doesn't happen in reality.  Nothing even close to that happens.  Real life isn't that kind.  I was disappointed that there was nothing warm in the interaction between myself and the person who at one time was the most important person in the world to me, but I shouldn't have been.  I blame the disappointment on Nicholas Sparks, and I feel sympathy for every other gal or guy in their twenties who has to go through something similar and feel the disappointment that you'll probably be mad at yourself for feeling because you know that you're better off.

I realized all of this after recently reading The Best of Me that I had these expectations probably from books and movies like The Notebook  and as I read about Dawson and Amanda reminiscing about the summer they fell in love long after that summer had ended, I felt a little bit of heartache comparing it to my own very brief reunion.  Instead of whining about the interaction and thinking about the memories I shared with the asshole, I should focus on the small victory (his mother) and the fact that the person I loved no longer exists at all.  Maybe Nicholas could write a book that has an ending like that... but I know that wouldn't sell many copies, because we're all hopeful that life is kinder, and we are probably better off that way.