Thursday, February 28, 2013

10 Lessons About Love That I Learned from the Film "High Fidelity"

From the moment I saw the nerdy, awkward teenaged John Cusack in 1984’s Sixteen Candles, I instantly liked him. As an awkward kid myself, I have connected with  many of Cusack’s characters, including the heartbroken sap in Better Off Dead and the obsessive teenager in Say Anything.

However, my favorite John Cusack character is Rob Gordon from the 2000 film High Fidelity. Not only did Cusack bring justice to Nicky Hornby's 1995 novel, but he did it in a way that was both passionate and humorous. In one word he was: human. 

Rob didn't claim to be the perfect boyfriend. He was obsessive, he slept with other people, he was often selfish and over-the-top with his reactions. But what I liked about him was that he knew he was flawed and tried to understand why. That, and he had great taste in music and was obsessed with making mixtapes, something that I continue to do to this day.

I learned a lot of things from Cusack's portrayal of Rob in High Fidelity, like not to stand outside of an ex's window in the pouring rain, but most importantly, I learned a lot about love.

Here are to of those love lessons below:

1. Don’t obsess over exes. The driving force behind the film is Rob obsessing over his past failed relationships. He wants to know why things didn't work out with his exes, so he revisits each one to find out the truth.

We've all had an ex or four who we've obsessed over. They broke our hearts, or we broke theirs and then realized later that we still loved them, but now there's nothing we can do about it. We constantly picked apart everything we did wrong or could have done better. We stayed up late at night listening to sappy love songs, reliving special moments with them that can't be erased from our minds. It's emotional and psychological torture.

I learned that I needed to stop obsessing over certain exes and find closure in some way, shape or form. Rob was able to actually talk to (or talk to the mother) of his four exes, and get his closure. Although I've lost contact with a few of mine, my personal closure consisted of finally forgiving them and myself for stupid mistakes we both made in the relationship. That and torching old photos.

2. Stop making things up about your ex in your mind. When Rob finds out that is ex Laura is dating Ian from upstairs, he has a horrible nightmare of them having incredible sex. He then imagines Ian coming into his record store, and he beats him to a bloody pulp. Both of these made-up thoughts consume him.

I don't know about you, but I've had many a time when I imagined an ex having an awesome time with his new love. They're going to concerts I wanted to go to, or to that fancy restaurant he couldn't afford at the time. They see me in a crowd at a music festival and he's pointing to me and they laugh. He tells her all about how much he hated when I put kimchi in the fridge and how half Korean girls are crazy. Yes, I've thought all of these things.

Although I will never be able to completely stop making things up in my mind (I'm a writer, it's what I do), I finally realized that I can't stop people from doing the same. The imagination is a beautiful, powerful, unstoppable thing, and it shouldn't be limited.So whenever I start to remotely think of an ex, I revert to remembering what they looked like naked, and then I feel much better.
3. Be nice to your significant other. Rob realized that he was kind of a jerk to a few of his exes, including Penny (who he broke up with because she wouldn't have sex with him), and Laura (who he cheated on while she was pregnant). He was too self-absorbed and consumed with his personal needs to give a crap about anyone else.

I'm actually a very nice person when it comes to friends and acquaintances, but when it comes to personal relationships with family and significant others, I can be downright mean. I've become cold and showed no emotion during arguments, and have put my feelings before others. I've said hurtful things to exes to make myself feel better and in control. I've been a bitch.

Turns out, I only feel worse after I act that way. It's not who I am, and not how I want to act to someone that I love. What I realized is that sometimes being nice is saying nothing at all, and letting that person be right. Rob admitted to his mistakes, and when I finally admitted to mine, I felt a huge sense of relief.

4. Bond through music. Music is a big part of the film. Rob works in record shop, he has a huge record collection of his own and he loves to make mixtapes. He even meets Laura while deejaying at a club. They end up connecting over similar taste in music. Plus, the soundtrack to this movie is amazing.

From personal experience, I've found that music plays a huge role in my relationships. I'm a big fan of hip hop and indie rock music, and I've dated classic rock, club music and Grateful Dead fanatics, and those relationships didn't work out. It wasn't until I met my husband, who also likes Tupac and Belle & Sebastian, that I found my perfect match. 

Some couples connect through religious beliefs or cultural backgrounds. My husband and I connected over a Roots concert and a Joy Division film.

5. Stop trying to find the next best thing. One of Rob's many problems is that he keeps finding someone better than the last person. Despite still wanting his ex Laura back, he becomes infatuated with Lisa Bonet's character Marie (an amazingly cool musician), and then meets a music journalist with great taste in music, so he starts to make her a mixtape. It's a constant, maddening cycle that he ultimately breaks when he finally realizes he is happy with Laura.

Most of us have been with someone and have had a crush on someone else who we thought was cooler, better looking or had more in common with us. I once broke up with a sweet guy because I met a tall, handsome, funny guy who I thought was way out of my league (but who actually liked me). I later realized that his good looks couldn't make up for his lack of maturity and common sense. Instead of the next best thing, he was more like the next busted thing.

The moral is that we can't find the perfect match. We may have different interests in movies, or different political views, or different ways of making a grilled cheese sandwich, but that's not what makes a relationship last. Like the Beatles said, "All you need is love."

6. Don’t be with someone for the wrong reasons. In the film, Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Charlie, Rob's college crush who was beautiful and exotic and totally out of his league. She said dramatic and interesting things, and he constantly questioned why the hell she was even with him. Even though he worried about his ability as a lover and was intimidated by other men, he stayed with her because she was his ideal woman.

This takes me back to #5. I was with said tall, handsome, funny guy because I was mesmerized by  his good looks. Even though I listened to hip hop and he listened to the Grateful Dead, and he was spontaneous and I was a planner, and we pretty much had nothing but a love of bowling in common, I continued to date him because he was my fantasy of a boyfriend. I didn't even act like my cheesy, funny, sarcastic self around him because I was trying too hard to seem cool.

I finally realized that we weren't a good match, and I vowed to stick to dating guys who I actually liked: tall, skinny nerdy guys (preferably with glasses) who had a great sense of humor and loved music.

7. Be supportive of your partner. Throughout Rob and Laura's relationship, Laura was very supportive of Rob's job as a record store owner. On the other hand, Rob wasn't supportive of Laura's decision to be a lawyer, and he certainly didn't support her when she had an abortion and he slept with someone else. He does, however, redeem himself by being there for her when her father dies, which in the end, is what ultimately brings them back together.

I've been in a relationship when my boyfriend didn't support my use of medication for depression. He said it was stupid and didn't work, and that I was wasting my money. Although that initially made me more depressed, I later realized that it was a sign of our unhappy relationship. 

Support has to be a two-way street, or eventually someone's going to go down the wrong lane and crash. Luckily, I have a husband who supports my writing obsession, and I reluctantly support his love of European soccer.

8. Laugh with each other. Rob finally realizes that he never really loved Charlie when he visits her and sees her true self. He says that she doesn't listen, she talks a lot of shit and most notably, she has no sense of humor.

My personal motto is, "Life without laughter is like coffee without caffeine: Pointless." I'm a huge fan of laughing in a relationship because I believe that it makes people happier and more fulfilled. I've been in relationships when the guy laughed way too hard at his unfunny jokes, and also when nothing I said was funny at all. Yes, I know that I'm cheesy and say corny things, but that's who I am, and I'm not going to change.

My husband makes me laugh every day, sometimes by singing the wrong lyrics to a rap song, or by saying nothing and simply being Canadian. I'm okay with this.

9. Accept who you both are, flaws and all. Rob always found a flaw in his significant other, whether it was because she didn't want to give it up, or because she was too clingy, or because she wore non-sexy cotton panties. He used their small flaws as excuses to not be with them, and "always had one food out the door," which is why he always ended up alone. When he finally accepted being with Laura, he finally discovered true love.

Looking back, I realize that I was never fully accepting of a few of my exes. One wasn't outgoing enough. One wasn't career-driven enough. One didn't like Korean food as much as he should. At the time, these were all valid reasons for me to break up with them.

In the grand scheme of things, these are all insignificant and superficial reasons not to be with someone. My husband and I have many flaws that we point out to each other on a daily basis, but we have learned to laugh at them and help each other look past them because it's silly to focus on the bad when there's so much good.

10. Love doesn’t have to be spectacular. It can just be really good. My absolute favorite quote from High Fidelity comes from Rob himself. He says: "She didn't make me miserable, or anxious, or ill at ease. You know, it sounds boring, but it wasn't. It wasn't spectacular either. It was just good. But really good."

In many a relationship I have often wondered why it wasn't always spectacular, and why the butterflies in my stomach didn't last forever. I wanted to get that tingly feeling of excitement every time he walked into the door, but instead I got annoyed because he didn't hug me right away. I wanted things to be how they were at the beginning, but it always felt too close to the end.

After being with my then boyfriend for six years, I realized that what we had wasn't spectacular, but it was really good, and that was good enough for me. In fact, it was perfect for me. Feeling at ease is what gives me comfort in a relationship, and he makes me comfortable, so I married him. For the past eight months things have been really good, and that makes me really happy.

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