Home > advice -- not that you asked, Don't make me hurt you, Random Musings > Closer, Love, and Cynical Truths*

Closer, Love, and Cynical Truths*

*This was written in 2008. Only a handful of you read it.

Have you even seen the movie Closer? Or even the play, for that matter? It’s about the lies we tell in love, how we fall into and out of it, and the things we do to each other. I haven’t watched it in years, because I’m always rooting for the end to change. It’s a strange practice, I know. Perhaps it’s just a showing of my rare and stubborn hope. In reality, I’m always looking for the underdog to triumph, for the world to turn upside down in the pursuit of something (someone) worth pursuing.

But what about the mess? The lies, the heartbreak, the slight-of-hand deceptions, the broken promises, the “I Love Yous” that aren’t meant, and the way someone’s always leaving. I don’t love you anymore. Goodbye. (Did you ever? is usually the question that echoes back.) I think that in our best, and worst moments, we forget that love takes work. That we’re accountable for our own hearts. Not that we’re accountable for who we love, but what we do about it. And what we fail to do, because of it.

With love, nothing is certain. You do insane things, say ridiculous things that you hope are never caught on tape, do things you’d never want viewed on national television, and you just do it all – because you want to be happy. It might make you a little bit unstable, Cheshire grins abound, with crazy flights of fancy in your head. You become a different you, when you’re in love. Not better, or worse. But different. Maybe it makes you happy. Or maybe it makes you brave. Love changes you around the edges. It makes the world go absolutely wonky. And you’ll learn to love that loss of control.

However, without love, too much is certain. Because it’s easy to fall into a pattern where you say that you don’t need something. That’s because you don’t have it, and not necessarily because you don’t want it. It’s a coping mechanism, and not really a good one. The longer you live in denial, the more it seems like home.

It occurs to me, in my coffee-deficient ramblings (never write on the first cup!), that there are two kinds of people out there. There are those who believe that love happens to you – like you’ve walked onto train tracks, so you should expect to get hit. Then there are those who believe that love is a choice. That you decide whether or not to love. In the film, Closer, Alice says something like, “Oh, as if you had no choice? There’s a moment, there’s always a moment, ‘I can do this, I can give into this, or I can resist it,’ and I don’t know when your moment was, but I bet you there was one.” And all at once, I think that line is brilliant – and total crap toast. You don’t choose who you fall for, or who you don’t fall for. Love’s not a light switch. Fuck knows that there’s no bloody off-switch. You don’t wake up one day and say, “Self, go Love [insert suitable name here].” Now, what you do control is what you do about your love.

But I wonder if that’s even true. How many times have you done something ridiculous, for love? Wrote a ridiculous poem or song? Written a crazy letter? Made a phone call at two in the morning, because you couldn’t stand it anymore (no, not that kind of phone call. Gutterminds, the lot of ya.)? Love makes us dodgy and reckless. It makes us wonderfully ridiculous. And it makes a mess.

Because everything is a version of something else. It’s the little twists and turns that make us unique. At the bottom line, we’re all the same. We’re all capable of acting like crazy loons, or hiding our hearts. It’s just a matter of circumstance.

Sometimes, there’s a fine line between loving and not loving. It’s so thin that you might not know which side of it you are standing on. It’s a ragged, internal warzone where the sides don’t matter, until you’ve determined that you’re ready to fight. The only catch is that you have to declare yourself – what you’re willing to do, and what you’re willing to lose. Sometimes, you’ll only admit this to yourself. Other times, you need to shout in to the world. I don’t want to lie. I can’t tell the truth. So it’s over.

There’s no easy way to end love. It’s just as frenetic as when you began it. How do you explain where it went? It’s like misplacing your keys. You could’ve sworn it was there a minute ago. You turned your back and *poof*! The blasted thing ran off again. To quote poet Taylor Mali, you can’t keep a leash on love. (Bad, bad Love. Whole poem here) I wonder, though, in my most cynical moments, if we ever tell the truth when we end a relationship.

Think of all the lines you’ve ever heard. (And try not to bang your head against the wall.)

  • It’s not you – it’s me. (Translation: It really is you. You’re driving me batty.)
  • I need space. (Translation: I want to sleep with other people.)
  • I just think we’ve grown apart. (Translation: I am sleeping with other people.)
  • This isn’t good for you. (Translation: I’m scared. I’m too scared to try. It’s not really good for me, but I’ll make it about you, so that I look selfless.)
  • We’re in different places in our lives. (Translation: You are a bit of an underachiever, and you’re really not going anywhere in life.)
  • We’re just not compatible. (Translation: I don’t fancy you in the sack. Or, You kiss like a big ol’ jackhammer. And not in a good way.)

I could go on, but I won’t. My point is that we don’t really end relationships terribly well. We never come right out and say, “Shit, you know, you drive me up a wall, because you’re suffocating. You act like a bloody leech. And you just don’t know anything real about me.” Instead, you say, “It’s not you. It’s me. And I find you to be clingy.” It’s a version of the truth, but it isn’t the truth. The trouble is that your version of the truth still might be a lie. Savvy?

I have a tendency to tell you what I feel with deadly accuracy, when I’m in (or have been) in a relationship with you. It can be jarring. That isn’t to say that I’m entirely tactless, or that I’ll say something just to hurt your feelings. But I try not to leave any room for uncertainty or interpretation.

And this morning, I finally realized why I learned that. It’s because, for me, the worst thing in the world is not knowing. It’s not knowing when something’s over, or what it meant, or what it could’ve meant. It’s not knowing what was real and what wasn’t. That’s devastating, really. And even though that lesson came about [a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away], sometimes I forget to believe it. Because if you don’t know, there’s still hope. Now, that, by the way, is a spectacular load of Crap. Put down the shovel, won’t you?

It’s never easy to fall in or out of love. I just think it’d be a whole lot better if we were honest about it. Why are we so scared of telling the truth? Because it might hurt? What’s the alternative to that, though? Living a life build on transient falsehoods, where the bottom drops out at every turn, and you’ve got to compensate for the damage. And there’s always damage.

When something ends, it’s for a reason. But when you don’t end something that needs ending, there’s no good reason for that. It’s just because you’re scared.

Larry: So Anna tell me your bloke wrote a book. Any good?
Alice: Of course.
Larry: It’s about you, isn’t it?
Alice: Some of me.
Larry: Oh? What did he leave out?
Alice: The truth.

Bonus song (starts at 2:00)

  1. February 1, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Great post, Ali. It helped me with a pivotal scene in latest WIP. (or, it will, as soon as I find some writing time!)

    • February 2, 2012 at 8:49 am

      Thank you, Patty!!! I’m really glad that this helped you!! 🙂

  2. February 7, 2012 at 9:21 pm


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