Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

17 March 2013

Un Amour de Jeunesse

The other day I was reading Sharon Bridgforth's extraordinary bull-jean stories with my students in my Sex and Drama class, and they sort of got hung up on the idea of past lives.

If someone is talking about their last-life love then we are operating in a world where reincarnation must exist and we can't ask real historical questions, they told me.

I was surprised at them and retorted with something like Don't you sometimes feel as though you have lived more than one life already?

They are young, much younger than I, and so I shouldn't have been so dismissive of them, of course. But it got me to thinking about living and lives and the ways in which they are divided up.

I often look at my life and feel as though my life is divided up into totally discrete sections. I think back on some of these times and I think about them as entirely different lives. Sometimes when I think about one of my old lives I hardly recognize the person who was living that life. Who was that guy and why did he make the silly decisions he made?

I can remember visiting a friend's grave every single day for a month in the Winter of 2001. I think back on that and I can't even remember what was going through my head when I did that. And I think back to before I decided to live a life as a gay man and I hardly approve of any of the decisions I made then, even if I understand them. I think my point is that it feels like a whole life that is gone. As though I might refer to a person I loved then as someone who was my love in a past life.

Today, while I was watching a movie called Goodbye First Love (I'm still catching up on 2012's movies; don't judge), it struck me how quickly the director, Mia Hansen-Løve, was able to show us the journey of a woman falling in love – it's a matter of only a few remarkable minutes, really, in the film.

But then I marveled at how quickly we fall in love in actuality. It takes so little to fall, to become fascinated with someone in my orbit, to begin spending energy thinking about him, to turn my thought toward his desires, his dreams, to begin to fabricate my own dreams about the two of us in some sort of mode of futurity. Or maybe this is just me.

In Un Amour de Jeunesse, the young protagonist is quite sad about her life, and she tells her lover that she has had a very painful time of it, and that meeting him has changed something for her. But he tells the young lady (in French): Nothing is in vain. Life is never what you expect. Your fantasy version of the world is doomed to failure. It’s up to you to create one that’s deeper, more real. That’s how you become yourself. 

And I think, too, that as easy as it is to fall in love – to become enamored with this person or another and then to wholly direct one's thought toward that person in an all-consuming way – we still have so much choice. We still must begin to craft a real life out of all of those fantasies.