“He was the first man I’d met who wasn’t afraid of me.” — Hillary Rodham Clinton on husband Bill
He: The story is about a traditional wife who has to go out and get a job, and in the process discovers her real self and her capabilities. Her environment doesn’t change, but she does. And bit by bit, the rest of her family learn to come to terms with that. Of course, she still lets the husband do things like hold the tickets when they’re at the airport so he can think he’s in charge, even though she knows she’s the one who’s making everything possible.
Me: No, no, no! I refuse to support that narrative. I abhor that narrative!
He: Which part?
Me: Of the woman having to make it seem like it’s the man’s idea when something good happens. Of the woman having to tiptoe around his fragile ego. Of the woman having to minimise herself to fit around the man.
He: This sounds personal.
Me: It is for every woman I know.
He: Is it?
Me: Hell, yes! Even if it’s a comedy, I don’t want to promote this notion that the only way a man can accept a woman’s power is when he’s oblivious to it. If you want to tell a subversive story, tell the one about a woman finding her strength and her identity, and chooses to not feel guilty for it. Tell the story about a man who learns to not be threatened by a woman who does well, especially if she has more career success or money than he has. Make the film where the woman doesn’t have to apologise for what she’s rightfully earned.
Another He: What is it that you want from a man?
Me: I don’t know. I want two conflicting things.
He: Which are?
Me: One is adventure. The other is the total opposite: someone who has your back; someone who’s reliable and trustworthy and around.
He: Dude, do you even have the time for that?
Me: Probably not. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t want it.
He: What’s wrong with being with someone casually?
Me: What’s wrong with it is that you just end up drifting and kinda confused. He’s not a boyfriend. He’s not someone who’s committed to anything. He’s not expected to be there for you for the times you really, really want to have someone around. You’re not allowed to claim anything of each other. It’s really hard to get that right. One side almost always feels a little disgruntled, short-changed or used.
He: Wow, women really overthink this stuff.
Me: Well, I don’t like the assumption that men can just make a pass, hope to get lucky and not have to say anything.
He: What is he supposed to say?
Me: It’s like if he keeps quiet, he can’t be answerable. He’s not saying he really likes you, that he wants you to stick around, that you mean anything. You’re just supposed to surrender your right to want something, or to even to ask what this “thing” is. And if you ask, he acts as if you’re being unreasonable and demanding.
He: Maybe he doesn’t know what he wants either.
Me: But I know I don’t want just that.
He: Why not?
Me: Because I deserve more.
He: More what? Effort?
Me: Stop teasing me. Wait – this is resonating.
He: What is?
Me: I know what I want!
He: Which is?
Me: I want to be wooed.
He: Dude, nobody has the time for that any more.
Me: Hey, I met [mutual friend] recently.
She: Oh, I did too.
Me: He’d insisted beforehand that we wouldn’t talk about films, but we spent the entire evening talking of little else. He told me about a story idea and I had a little rant about it.
She: We talked about mostly films too.
Me: He insisted I go over to his so I could see his new film but it turned out they were still working on the edit and he wasn’t ready to share it. Then – what’s wrong?
She: Nothing, carry on.
Me: He kept his driver waiting for me because he didn’t want me to go home in a cab at night.
She: And did he show you the paintings he’s started as his new hobby?
Me: Yes! He showed them to you too?
She: Not only that – he insisted I go over to his place to see his new film but it wasn’t ready. And he kept his driver for me.
Me: No way!
She: Did he talk to you about his accident? And his recuperation?
Me: Yes! I was getting ready to leave when he said it. Then I felt bad for him and stayed longer.
She: He did the exact same thing to me.
Me: Oh man!
She: Did he talk about going to the gym?
Me: And how he plays tennis every day.
She & Me: Ha ha ha ha!
Me: How many other women is he trying the same routine on, do you think?
She: If it’s this rehearsed then I’d say a lot.
Me: And they say men are simple and women are manipulative…
“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.” — Oscar Wilde
“With a little love and some tenderness/ We’ll walk upon the water, we’ll rise above the mess/ With a little peace and some harmony/ We’ll take the world together, we’ll take ’em by the hand.” Indulge in some ’90s pop and listen to Hootie and the Blowfish sing Hold My Hand.
While there is no shortage of excellent Jane Austen adaptations for the screen, Sense and Sensibility is probably my favourite and no less for its study of human behaviour. Scripted by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee, it shows us what we long for, what we fall for, and how we get in our own way.
“…This need to reconcile these two sets of needs… Our need for connection, our need for separateness, or our need for security and adventure, or our need for togetherness and for autonomy…” Watch Esther Perel discuss The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship: