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"Save Your Life? I Think I'll Pass" And Other Observations

From the film "Mo' Betta Blues"

A male friend of mine once told me that he had this fantasy -- a romantic fantasy -- of at some point in his life pulling a Denzel Washington out of the 1990 Spike Lee film Mo' Betta Blues where he falls on his knees and begs a woman to save his life by loving him despite his flaws.

While I'm more than familiar with the movie and this particular scene between Washington and actress Joie Lee, I never saw the scene as romantic because A) he only turned to her after everyone else had abandoned him and (1990 spoiler alert) B) his lip was busted so he couldn't play the horn anymore. So basically he was like "Now that I'm all washed up and a has been, let's be together."

I wanted her to kick him off those steps and slam the door in his face. But instead she marries him. I still remember making that face when my friend said this was his kind of, sort of, but oh, you're making that face so maybe not?, fantasy. He knew why I was making that face.

Because ... really?

Now I could see why, for a man, this would be seen as romantic. That you could cat around, be a complete cad, two-time a woman who truly cares about you and you kind of truly care about her, but you're not ready to settle down ... until CRISIS! And what do you know, she still loves you and is still there for you all along. Awww. Romantic ... for a man. For a woman, that seems like the ultimate nightmare. You waste years on a guy who's unfaithful to you, treats you like crap, buys you and some other chick the same damn dress as a present and then, THEN when he finally wants you, you don't even get the best of him, when he was young and fine and at his peak. You get the leftovers after the world has used him up and discarded him. 

Usually when women have these kind of redemptive fantasies about reformed bad boys the men are "transformed" out of the strength of love for the woman, not out of a sense of mortal panic. Panic is not sexy. And usually the reformed bad boy is still at his peak, still vibrant and fascinating or whatever when you have magically fixed what was seen as unfixable.

But both of these fantasies are a far cry from reality, where upgrading a bad boy usually leads to him dumping you because now he thinks he's too good for you and finding a woman who wants to save your life after mistreating her can be difficult. But why people entertain these the fantasies makes sense when you consider the reality. 

We live in a world today where barely half of all American adults are married. Where statistics say if you get married too young you might be happier, but you'll have less money, less education and be more likely to divorce, whereas if you're older when you get hitched you tend to be more financially stable and less likely to break up. So I get the feeling that some women -- not all -- but some might actually experience the Mo' Betta Blues "save my life" experience based on the everyone getting married later in life experience. Meaning somewhere some guy is having a late 30s/early 40s crisis of dire lack of woman to whom he can run to for saving. Because nobody wants to be the old man (or woman) at the club. And yet, according to statistics, some of us will be.

That fear, that while we don't want to be married now we might at some point change our minds and when that change takes place we might also be 45 and worried about dwindling options, is real. But apparently, according to statistics, you will neither be alone in your panic or necessarily filled with dwindling options, more like different kinds of compromises of what you want versus what you need in a partner. 

I don't pretend to know what the answer to it all is because I do not know. I'm single. I'm 35. I'm almost completely consumed by my career. I barely date and seem to move around a lot in pursuit of my dreams. It would be hard to maintain a relationship, let alone a family, with my "living out of a suitcase" lifestyle. I'm your prime candidate for someone who probably won't marry until things settle down and I might be 40 before that happens. And is that scary? Maybe. Maybe not. But I know I won't be alone. I also probably won't be rehabbing any old bad boys or saving any lives. 

Not intentionally anyway.

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Reader Comments (2)

Thank you for writing this. I'm 37 and single. It's fine right now. I don't know if I'll change my mind about that in the future but I am not interested in rescuing anyone. As I get older I do find that the things I'm willing to compromise on are different. Marrying someone who is divorced and becoming a stepmom were things I would never have considered in my 20s but now they sound just fine.

August 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Thank you for posting this. So very timely.

August 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie
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