When I was a pre-teen, I really loved Cheers. Specifically, I loved the Sam and Diane dynamic in Cheers. In case you didn’t grow up in a household where Nick at Night ruled your evenings, Sam was a bartender. He was dumb as rock, but nice, and picked up a lot of women. Diane was a pseudo-intellectual waitress who wanted to be a poet/novelist. They sparred. They were in love. Basically every single episode consisted of her calling him a troglodyte, and him asking what a troglodyte was. At one point he read War and Peace to try to win her away from her college professor boyfriend. It was all very Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn with a relentless laugh track.
I spent my teen years trying really hard to recreate that dynamic. All I wanted was for some baseball player to read War and Peace for me.
Eventually I grew up, found a bar where, mercifully nobody knows my name, and realized that romantic comedy sitcoms do not translate well into real life.
But apparently, I’m not the only one who did this. According to a recent Daily Mail feature, 50% of people feel like romantic comedies have “ruined their view of an ideal relationship.”
One in four respondents in the Australian survey said they were now expected to know what their partner was thinking and one in five said their other half expects gifts and flowers ‘just because’.
Eh, I guess it wouldn’t be all that hard to run and get your partner those $10 bouquets they sell at the bodega once a month or so (I’d prefer bacon chocolate, but that’s me). Predicting what they’re thinking seems a lot harder, but that also strikes me as more Carrie thing than a Notting Hill thing.
Really, I think most of the disappointment kicks in simply because you can’t maintain witty banter for the entire relationship the way a couple can during a movie (or 30 minute sitcom). Chuck Klosterman addresses the issue in Sex, Drugs and Coco Puffs
when he writes:
“Woody Allen [movies] have made nebbish guys cool; they make people assume there is something profound about having a relationship based on witty conversation and intellectual discourse. There isn’t. It’s just another gimmick, and it’s no different than wanting to be with someone because they’re rich or thin or the former lead singer of Whiskeytown. My witty banter and cerebral discourse is always completely contrived. Right now I have three and a half dates worth of material… sadly, our relationship will not last 93 minutes (like Annie Hall) or ninety-six minutes (like Manhattan)… very soon I will have nothing more to say, and we will be sitting across from each other at breakfast, completely devoid of banter. But, this is normal. There’s not a lot to say during breakfast. I mean, you just woke up, you know?”
Maybe the time you know you’re really in love is when you realize that you look nothing like that sparkling couple that you admire in a romantic comedy, and that you STILL want to be with the other person. Or maybe mumblecore movies are just ruining my ability to love, now.