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July 30

Fantasy Relationships: A Reality Check

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:06 am

Last week, Breakup Girl happened to talk to an adorable 15-year-old named Emily in Charleston who wanted to go as Rose from Titanic for Halloween. Partly because she would get to wear a most excellent dress (and also spit); partly because, in her words, “I am completely in love with Jack Dawson.”

Teens swooning over Titanic? Slow news day, Breakup Girl?

Stay with me. Actually, most teens have already weighed anchor and docked their obsession elsewhere. Anyway, Emily knows she’s behind the tide: “I still watch my video once or twice a week,” she said. “But I realize I’ve gotten to the point where I have to stop talking about it.”

Fortunately, she went on. What does she love about Jack? “He’s so free-spirited and self-confident,” she says, reciting entire movie scenes, line by line, to support her point. “He’d break the rules and do anything for Rose. And he looks really good in a tux.”

Is Emily going to date Jack Dawson? No. With him as her ideal, is she now locked in to holding out for someone who will run into a sinking ship/burning building/dinner with her parents to save her? Well, that would be nice. But is all of this teen obsession — which, you all, is different from grownup obsession ONLY in that adults are less likely to use scotch tape on their walls — silly, pointless, or worse, false-hope-building? Is this all foamy Calgon that will take you nowhere? Not necessarily.

Because: do Emily’s voyages of fancy help shape her sense of what she wants from love, life, and her neighbors’ candy, back on land? Yes. Welcome to this week’s theme:

We all have our “ideal” partners: David Duchovny, Lara Flynn Boyle, Lara Croft, The President of the United States of America, Breakup Girl, our first love, the one that got away. And we all have … our real lives. Clinging to a larger-than-life fantasy can loosen our grasp on — and appreciation of — what we do or could have, or keep us from having it in the first place. And, when the ideal meets real, the practically inevitable result: crushing letdown.

All true, yes. But Breakup Girl is not going to give you guys some boring finger-wagging Get Real speech. Because BG thinks that overly cautious hardcore get-realism throws out the babe with the bathwater. And she does want you to expect and deserve to be with someone freaking fantastic.

So instead, consider this Important Breakup Girl Maxim: FANTASIES ARE DATA.

So whether your idealized lover is someone you’ve glimpsed, met, dated, or downloaded, ask yourself these questions:

Who’s there? What is it about this person, really, that fascinates you? Think about it, really. Ask them to kindly step down from the pedestal so you can see what writ-large characteristics you’d actually ike to have on your level. We are talking actual human traits. Not, like, just “Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute!!!!” or “I just really admire the way nothing comes between her and her Calvins.” Emily, for example, was specific. So specific I didn’t even have room for it all. Words like “free spirited,” “confident,” “devoted.” (Yes, “tuxedo,” too, but that was last.) Look at what you’re drawn to, for better or for worse, and think about why. Disassemble your ideal; keep the pieces you can really use. This is real information, you guys — about what you truly love, about what you might feel you lack. Which brings us to:

What’s missing? Anyone see Cupid week before last? (Just for the record, lest you now think that she sits around watching TV instead of flying to your aid, BG has seen Dawson’s Creek and Titanic each only once.) (Okay, while i’m at it, if you’re not watching that genius show Sports Night, you’re missing something major.) ANYWAY,Cupid. In addition to a subplot about first loves, the show was about a woman — a transplant to Chicago from the ranches and canyons of the West — who had developed quite a “relationship” with the rugged Marlboro-type man on the billboard outside her office window. Cupid, doing his job, set her up with the actual model. Everything went swimmingly until she discovered that he wasn’t like her (or his larger-than-life image) campingly, ridingly, hikingly, mountainbikingly, etc. Crushing blow? Only slightly. Important information? Yes. This dalliance not only helped her realize just how truly important it was to her to pitch her tent with someone who … can pitch a tent; it also showed her that she was fundamentally unhappy in the city and really just needed to get the hell outta Dodge — with or without a cowboy to take her away. Aha. To switch abruptly over to hockey imagery: focus on the empty space around the goalie. What does this person’s commanding presence — or absence — distract you from? When the spotlight’s on them and their pedestal, what’s going on in the dark? Shine your flashlight into those corners and see what you see.

A version of this column was originally published November 2, 1998.


November 23

“How ‘The Sims’ Made Me a Homewrecker”

Filed under: pop culture,Treats — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:11 am

We enjoyed this ruefully sweet essay by Sofi Papamarko in today’s Salon.com, in which she gets sucked into The Sims as an alternative to her — she felt — stalled single universe, which appeared to be late in delivering  her standard coupled-up fantasies:

It is impossible to overstate how astonishingly easily my dream life came to me, how addictively its rewards added up. At the beginning of the game, for instance, I was given a charming little house in a nice neighborhood. Given! It was handed to me! I didn’t have to scrimp or save or deal with real estate agents or even apply for a mortgage! Landing a terrific job was as easy as showing up to the town hall in a pair of tight leather pants. I told my boss a couple of jokes and was instantly rewarded with a promotion and a healthy raise. In real life, my neglected tomatoes wither on the vine, despite my best intentions. In the game, I harvested huge, succulent crops after watering them no more than twice. I became a master angler and a gourmet cook, whipping up red snapper and catfish gumbo as if I were the secret love child of Nigella Lawson and Bobby Flay. Everything was easy.

And then I met Walter.

Ooh! Read the rest to find out how virtual Walter — and Bernie, and Jack — help Sofi discover that her reality is pretty fantastic, after all.


January 18

This week at Happen: Euro crush

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:34 am

MSN.com, Match.com, HappenMagazine.com: they’re in a healthy and satisfying 3-way relationship. Meaning that you can find MSN/Match.com’s “Ask Lynn” columns –penned by BG’s alter ego — over at Happen now as well.

This week Lynn answers a gal who Needs a European Vacation because she’s crushing hard on a German athlete who was only in town for a few weeks.

He’s a professional European basketball star — 6’5”, 8-pack — with an MBA in business finance. I shouldn’t need to get over him, because technically, I’ve never been under him. But I still can’t seem to shake the fantasy, and it’s driving me nuts.

But is she nuts? Read the full letter at Happen, then sound off below!


May 27

The USO show of his dreams

Filed under: Celebrities,Treats — posted by Jackie @ 7:17 am

If you were serving in Iraq, housed in a grimy outpost lacking electricity and running water, where soot, sewage, and boiling temperatures created miserable living conditions, what would you dream about? A nice long shower? Cherry Garcia? Dorothy’s ruby-red slippers? Maybe just your bed back home?

For military police sergeant Owen Powell, it was Natalie Portman. But not in that way. According to Powell’s haunting, piercing runner-up entry in the New York Times Modern Love college essay contest — Go read it! Run, don’t walk! — his take-me-away visions included the lovely Miss Portman glowing at him from across a romantic table, doing the lambada in his arms. Or, on a bad night, breaking up with him.

But either way, in a way, she saved him. “In the Humvee, I searched for that elusive image of Natalie from the night before; I hunted for her through the blood-warm passages of my mind, chased the feeling of her down tunnels collapsing with the weight of status reports and threat conditions. The thick brushstroke of a single arched eyebrow. A glance across that crowded dance floor, somehow simultaneously sharp and accusatory and mesmerizing. It was as if I had something secret and untouchable that was wholly mine, a delicate and perfect gift in a city that seemed to feast on hate.”

Powell is now back in New York City, both glad and sad to be home. The dreams are gone. But this is the reality: he could totally run into her on the street.


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