(500) Days of Summer

Lauran and I went to see (500) Days of Summer a few nights ago. I will try not to spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but I must say that I found it to be very entertaining and revealing. It gave me a lot to think about because I could relate to so much of it. It felt very real.

The male character, Tom, is overly idealistic. I say he suffers from "Prufrock syndrome," something I to tend to suffer from. I get the name from T.S. Eliot's poem (the most amazing poem in the English language by the way). The poem is essentially about a man who experiences life from a distance, who is so trapped in his ideals, that he is paralyzed. I tend to fall victim to my own overblown idealism, romanticism, and optimism, so I can relate a little too much to this character. In fact, it was on rereading this poem for the umpteenth time that I decided finally to ask Lauran out because I didn't want to "grow old" and "wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." Tom has some of the same problems. He is an architect who works at a greeting card company because this job conveniently allows him to protect himself from the possible disappointment of not being able to succeed at his dream. It allows him to live in the trite world of get-well-soons and i-love-yous and happy-birthdays rather than face the possibility that reality might not coincide with his ideals.

Tom meets Summer and falls for her instantly. Summer, however, wants to keep things casual. She is skeptical about love and guarded about her feelings. Tom only thinks he is guarded about his feelings. He only sees roses and singing birds. I can relate all too well to this way of seeing the world. I am an incurable optimist and romantic. I don't apologize for it or even think it is a bad way of going about life. I like being an optimist and romantic, but it does have its pitfalls. I have a tendency to avoid conflict. I sometimes am oblivious to people's pain and anger. I withdraw from those who don't affirm my ideals.

Fortunately, Tom is not a static character. I won't give away the ending, but it was refreshing to see how he and Summer grew. Real growth is not something you see in most romantic comedies (and I admit that I tend to like romantic comedies and am glad to be married so that I can have an excuse to watch them without breaking any guy codes). Fortunately, I have also grown (with my fair share of regressing and relapsing of course). The beginning stages of Tom and Summer's relationship reminded me in many ways of the beginning of my relationship with Lauran. I fell much quicker than she did. I avoided conflict and was often confused when she showed hurt or anger. I idealized her.

One day reality set in, and I was like Prufrock swimming with the mermaids when "human voices wake us and we drown." Our first real conflict made me feel as though my world was crashing down around me, but it wasn't. Rather, the reality of our love (with all its imperfections) crashed through my illusions. I think the reason this movie has resonated with so many in my generation is that many of us tend to be either Summer or Tom, either disillusioned cynics, or hopeless romantics. Sadly, both of these things lead us to a love paralysis (a la Prufrock). Love is not some perfect ideal, nor is it some sugary delusion. Yet we often think it is. We rush in like idiots, get hurt, and then build up our defenses. Our illusions get shattered, so we abandon all our ideals and hopes.

I thank God for Lauran and for the opportunity to know real love, not pop song love, not fairy tale love, not romatic comedy love. As we watched the movie together, I laughed some (ok I laughed a lot, you know I never laugh just a little), and I winced a little as I watched this couple navigate the treacherous waters of love armed only with romanticism and skepticism, our 21st century weapons that are really so useless in the face of love's storms. Afterwards, I had a greater appreciation for the journey love has taken us on and for the way we have both grown. There is still hope for us romantics and for you skeptics.

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