Your Mid-life Manic Pixie Dream Girl continued… (for a limited time only)

Another preview of an article still in the works (a year later). Apparently, I needed more proof or to do more research …or whatever the hell this somewhat grueling process has been.

But, the end is near. And hopefully “my affliction” ‘is coming to an end as well.

Note: I’ll have to delete this with the hope it will get picked up.

(You can find the previous excerpt here …which has probably been revised a hundred times since.)

I stumbled across this indie film archetype reading Uh, Honey, that’s not your line,  Matthew Perry’s tumultuous tale of his attempted relationship with a real-life Manic Pixie Dream Girl- the quirky, enchanting, somewhat troubled girl who swoops in to save the boy in some state of crisis. (Think Natalie Portman in Garden State.)
Perry describes her character as follows:

Though often perky, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl will be troubled as well…She is perfectly imperfect. Messed up enough to need saving so that the protagonist can do something heroic to do just that…These weird (but beautiful) girls…teach them to enjoy life again through sex, love and various activities done in the rain.

I understood this was a fictional character created for a millennial audience. But as Perry went on to describe the qualities his “real” dream girl embodied, it became painfully clear- the reasons Jamie was initially attracted to me were the exact same reasons he left.

I was a fantasy- a fun, exciting reminder that he was still loveable and could still find love…just not now, and not with me.

My epiphany felt akin to being diagnosed with some mysterious ailment. I wasn’t thrilled about what I was hearing, but at least I had a tangible explanation as to why my relationships keep unraveling. The next step was to figure out the source of my affliction so I could try and reverse it. So I dug a little deeper.

I found various descriptions of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, both real and fictional, which were all pretty much the same:

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is as endearing as she is enchanting. She is quirky and playful, fiery and bold. She is spontaneous and daring with a wild streak. She is also a romantic, empathetic, and thoughtful. She has wisdom and insight that allow her to see the beauty in things that most see as flawed. And she loves the same way she lives- passionately and wholeheartedly.

As far as her purpose, Nathan Rabin, who actually coined the term, explains:

[to] teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries…a catalyst for male transformation, in both her real and fictional manifestations, she sends the message that a bright and sensitive young man can only learn to embrace life by falling in love with a woman who sees the dazzling colors and rich complexities he can’t.

At first glance, this stereotype doesn’t sound terrible. Who doesn’t want to be the fun, charming girl who teaches the man she loves to enjoy life again?

But for the real-life version, that’s not usually the way the story unfolds…for a few reasons.

Hugo Schwzer reveals one of those reasons in The Real-World Consequences of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Cliché.

I thought less about her and more about how it was she made me feel… As unstable as she may be, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl not only senses a young man’s potential in a way he can’t, she intuitively knows how to lead him to his destiny. She knows him better than he knows himself, or so he believes. That convenient assumption allows the young man both to adore the MPDG and to avoid any responsibility for reciprocity. How can he be expected to give anything back when she has this magical intuition about the world that so vastly exceeds his own.

So basically, I was the female version of his knight in shining armor. I reminded him what his strengths were, how to dream again, and what passion felt like…with maybe some activities done in the rain.

He was all in…with one foot out.

Reciprocity wasn’t factored in. That takes real work, after all. Remember, we are living in the realm of fantasy here.

Which leads to the second factor that doesn’t bode well for our Dream Girl.

She’s real.

It’s the imperfect part that becomes her tragic flaw. Because she is in fact, flawed. She can be unpredictable, fickle, and reckless. She is pensive, feels everything deeply, including her insecurities, and needs more than she wants to. And yes, her life tends to get a little messy, and her heart, very broken.

At the beginning of Jamie and I’s relationship, these traits were fine, even welcomed- the “endearing part” that made me approachable and just messy enough to need some heroic interventions. He could chip away at my problems instead of dealing with his own while simultaneously proving he could still save the day.

But I didn’t want to be saved, and my issues weren’t going to disappear because he fixed my car or helped me move furniture. Basically, when my needs become inconvenient or conflicted with his, they become problematic. Because really, who wants to play out a flawed fantasy?

And that’s not my role, anyway, to be “played out.” I was never meant to be his happily ever after.

Nutshell: the fantasy ended when shit got real. End of story.

Actually, it’s not. More to come…

:

 

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This time it was the apple, but I’ll keep trying.

I received a request for something a bit more substantial than “just a quote,” and another for something more, “I don’t know, about butterflies or what you did in Australia. Something happy.”

Right, okay. Butterflies. Happy…

So I sat down, opened up a new document, and took a bite of my apple…

Mushy apples, wet peanut butter, cigarette smoke.
Caged animals, plastic straws, tree stumps.
Distended bellies, oppressed souls, false hope.

Hiccups, parking tickets, splintered wood.
Sirens, screeching brakes, raised fists.
Apathy, the sound of pain, someday I should…

You deserve the best, cold feet, flights home.
Broken promises, resignation, empty words.
Rainy days, sleeping alone…waking up alone.

Starting over one more time, one more time.

I’ll try again next week…or maybe the next.

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Okay, here is my offering to make up for the absence of butterflies. The thing that always feeds my soul, even after the mushiest of apples.

One stop at a time.

So, here I am, back in Denver, one of the last places I thought I’d end up. But I honestly didn’t know where else to go.

It’s not a bad place to be, Denver. I just never felt like it fit me. But nowhere seems to fit. Paris maybe, but that’s not really an option right now.

A dear friend offered me a room in a condo she rents out until I get my feet under me. It’s cozy and I have a warm bed to sleep in, so it’s a start.

But it is a bit further removed than I’d anticipated, which wouldn’t be an issue if I had a car. Let’s just say Denver isn’t famous for its public transportation.

I actually don’t know anyone who has taken the bus by choice…and now I know why. I avoided it as long as I could, but my neighborhood has little to offer – one coffee shop a mile away in one direction and a handful of bars and stores a mile in the opposite direction. I don’t mind the walk so much, but the destinations don’t feel worth the schlep, especially when it’s freezing outside.

The bus I have to take is ‘the 0’. Fitting, since that’s pretty much where I’m starting from. I’ve tried to put a more positive spin on it, but all I came up with is it will be a hard one to forget. (Or an easy zero to remember for that ‘positive spin’).

My first experience was…interesting. A trip that used to take me 15 minutes to drive took over an hour. But it wasn’t terrible.

The way back, however, was a bit of an adventure.

The 0 was delayed by half an hour, so I hopped on the first bus headed south. This seemed like a logical choice until I realized the route ended way before my stop, which meant a transfer at “the station.”

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We pulled off the main road to what was basically a huge, empty lot. It was darker than it should have been, which made it feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.

The bus drove off, leaving me with three other men, each sitting on a separate bench.

I’m not the paranoid type, probably to a fault. And yes, I have put myself in some questionable situations. But I’m not reckless either, and I know when I need to stay vigilant. I didn’t feel like this was one of those situations. However, my phone had conveniently stopped working, and I had no idea when the next bus was coming. So, not exactly ideal.

I paced back and forth, trying to stay warm. I caught the three men looking my way a few times, but they seemed harmless. And I’m sure they were curious why I was there. I don’t think I qualified as a typical passenger on this particular route.

The youngest of the three finally approached me. He wasn’t threatening at all,  more concerned. He asked if I knew which bus to catch. I assured him I did.

I had no idea.

After what felt like hours, a bus finally pulled up. I didn’t care which direction it was going, as long as it was going.

My next trip after hours proved to be…I guess “animated” would be the best word to describe it.

It wasn’t that late, but the bus was almost empty. Two younger girls sat huddled in the seats lining the wall, facing toward the aisle. A very talkative, somewhat obnoxious man sat across from them. He was trying to interact with them, but they kept their heads down, doing their best to ignore him. I couldn’t help but feel protective, so I casually moved over to the seat closest to them.

We came to a stop. The driver got up to lower the ramp for a man in a wheelchair. The obnoxious man hopped up and lifted the bench to make room for him, which made me feel bad for thinking he was obnoxious. We started to pull away, then jerked to a halt when a woman began slamming her fists on the door.

The driver knew her and they began chatting as the woman made her way down the aisle. She sat in the seat directly behind me and continued to yell up to the driver. “So, did you hear that so-and-so from the center just got thrown in jail for murdering his wife?”

This abruptly transitioned into her announcing to everyone, “You know what happened to me last night? Four policemen jumped me and tried to take me to jail.” She rolled up her sleeves and came over to show me her hands. “See the marks from the handcuffs?”

The man in the wheelchair and the ‘not as obnoxious’ guy teamed up, laughing at her, saying she was crazy.

She jumped to her feet and screamed. “I am not crazy! They ran all their god damned tests on me that proved it. I am not fucking crazy!”

I pulled the cord, exhaling when I heard the words, “stop requested.” Cold and dark for a couple of miles seemed preferable to murder and abuse.

I decided to sync up my bus outings with the light of day for a spell…and never leave home without my headphones.

The next morning’s ride was a short one, no more than 15 minutes. Odds were good I could make it to my destination without incident.

I was just a few blocks away from the coffee shop when the man next to me requested a stop. He started making his way to the door but stumbled backward when the driver hit the brakes. Something fell out of his bag and I instinctively reached down to pick it up.

I did my best not to react as I handed him back his knife.

It wasn’t a menacing knife, necessarily, but it wasn’t a pocket knife either. I don’t believe this man had the slightest intention of using it on anyone. And given the direction he was coming from, I get why he had it…just in case.

I’ve never really felt like my life was in danger. Everyone, for the most part, is harmless. But I have realized I don’t exactly blend in, as I seem to be the one “the man who had a few too many” gravitates toward.

I also see the curious side glances when I sit down or the blatant scans from head to toe. Maybe I’m just paranoid, not because I think their looks are threats or advances. They feel more like judgments, as if to say, “who the hell are you?”

I usually ignore it, but sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and assure them…

I have no fucking idea. I lost her quite a ways back, and I can’t seem to find her.

That’s what I want to say. I want them to know that I don’t think for a second I am better than anyone else who takes a seat on Bus 0. We are all doing our best to navigate our circumstances.

But no, I don’t want to be here. I actually couldn’t be further away from where I want to be.

Yesterday, I missed my stop. But instead of getting off and working my way back, I just sat there, staring out the window. We headed downtown, making our way closer to where I used to live. We passed the place I used to take Biscuit to get his bath, then the place ‘E’ and I went the year I decided to like football, then the gym I used to drag him to, the place I took dance lessons, the coffee shop where I used to study during grad school…

This was my world, where I no longer belong. What used to be home, now feels like a warped cassette tape. The same song is playing, but it doesn’t make sense anymore-the words are garbled, the melody distorted. And there is no way to fix it.

I feel like I’ve been exiled, still able to roam freely, but imprisoned by boundaries I can no longer cross and memories that have been hallowed out by regret.

The bus stopped and everyone got off. It was the end of the line.

I was mad at myself for wasting the morning searching for a place I wasn’t going to find and ending up nowhere close to where I needed to be.

I finally found the bus I needed to get back and waited impatiently as everyone boarded. The driver closed the doors and headed out, then stopped abruptly to let someone else on.

I was annoyed, tired of waiting, of feeling isolated and lost in a place I used to call home.

I knew I was spiraling, so I forced myself to revisit my ‘gratitude list’.

I’m grateful for my friends, for my warm bed…that I have all of my limbs. 

But it wasn’t working. I wasn’t grateful. I was angry.

The woman slowly made her way up the stairs and stopped to greet the driver who seemed genuinely happy to see her.

He smiled, “How was your day?”

Without hesitating, she responded, “Well, no one I love died today, so I’d say, all and all, it was a good day.”

That sounded much better than “I have all my limbs”, so I added it to my list.

I’m grateful that no one I love died today.

The woman sat in the seat across from me. Her face was hard and soft at the same time, her demeanor firm but gentle. She seemed familiar. Did I know her?

She caught me staring at her and I tried to smile. She nodded her head slightly and made her way to the exit, disappearing into the crowd of people waiting to get on.

She had only said a few words, but her voice lingered, filling in the words taking shape in my head.

Hold on, love. You’ll get to where you want to go. But you won’t find it back there. You’ll have to take a different route. You’re headed in the right direction, though. Just keep moving forward…one stop at a time.

 

Falling, Down Under, Getting Back Up, (a bit further North) & Dodging Teeth.

So I’m presently in Victoria, which, oddly enough, is where I was a month ago. Except that Victoria was in Australia. This one is a bit further North.
So, here I am, my second country in 2 months, and it’s Halloween, which used to be one of my favorites. I even threw a Halloween party for ‘E’ and I’s engagement once upon a time…but that was another life.
Anyway, it made me think about what I was doing last year at this time.
I was in Hawaii. That actually made me laugh out loud.
Yesterday, this very nice man started chatting me up at the coffee shop (Very friendly, these Canadians, which can prove challenging for an introvert).
He was very inquisitive, and I had nowhere to escape, so I obliged and answered his questions. The first? He wanted to know if I was from South Africa- the second time I’ve been asked this in the past two months, the first being in Australia.
I simply don’t get the South Africa one, but interestingly enough, when I’m in the U.S., people ask if I’m from Canada. (I say ‘abowt’ instead of ‘about’ for whatever reason).
This seems to be a theme. When I’m speaking Spanish in Latin America, they ask if I’m from Spain. When I’m in Spain, they ask if I’m from Latin America. When I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they asked if I learned French in France. And when I’m in France…I think they just try to understand me. (I haven’t quite conquered that language yet).
Anyway, this very nice man continued. He wanted to know where was I living (I avoided that one), where had I traveled, what line of work I was in, what work was I doing in Paris, and what in god’s name was I doing in the Congo.
He was fascinated, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was misleading him. That life is just so far removed from where I am now.

I know, “I won’t be here forever”, “I am more than my circumstances”, “the further you fall, the higher you rise”…I know.

Just somewhat comical. I go so fluidly between being flown across the world on seemingly exotic adventures…to sleeping on friends’ couches.

 

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My current sofa du’ jour, however, is quite comfortable…and I am in Canada with a very dear, very patient friend, so there’s that.
My dreams have been quite interesting here. Have you ever dreamed that you lost your teeth? This time it was my two front teeth. Which makes sense, because I did actually lose my two front teeth when I was little.
I already had a lisp so you can imagine. I couldn’t say my ‘r’s’ either. I basically sounded like a cross between Elmer Fudd and Sylvester the Cat. Cute when you are little. But I’m here to tell you, saying ‘Merry Christmas’ was quite the feat.
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One down…

There are various interpretations of what ‘losing teeth’ means in a dream:
1st scenario: It usually means some important relationship will be lost.
2nd scenario: You will take more responsibility and become more stable and mature.
3rd scenario: Tooth loss is likely to show that a difficult situation will soon be over.
4th scenario: There is really something wrong with your teeth.
Okay, well, the first one certainly applies.
The second, not so much. I’m kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum, but I’ll certainly take it.
The third scenario: Um, yes, please. I will gladly hand over a tooth or two if that one can play out.
And the last one, I’m not 100% sure, but they all seem to be intact.
So I’m going to go with the third scenario. Although I’d rather keep the teeth I offered up so as not to revisit the previously-mentioned ‘lisp era’…not so cute when you are trying to pull off scenario 2…or rebound from scenario 1.
But in keeping with the subject at hand- ‘teeth’ seems to be a theme here in Canada.
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About three days after I got here, I went to the gym to try to work off some angst from scenario 1 and the whole ‘sleeping on friends couches’ thing.
I was making solid progress sweating it out when I saw something flying toward me out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t even have time to flinch before I saw a set of teeth lying on the floor in front of me.
I’m not talking about the ‘these are a part of my Halloween costume’ teeth.

It was a full set of teeth.

I somehow refrained from reacting and promptly looked down, pretending to be studying my distance/speed stats intensely. I definitely never saw a heavy-set man walk directly in front of me, bend down, and pick up his teeth.

The poor guy must have been mortified. It did make me think, though, “well shit, things aren’t that bad. I mean, yes, my heart’s a little bruised, my circumstances aren’t exactly ideal, but at least I don’t have to worry about my teeth falling out. I get to wake up from my bad dream, shake it off, and then head to the bathroom and brush my teeth…versus, you know, having to fish them out of a glass or whatever you do when you have to put your teeth in.
So, that’s all I got. I’m still in Canada, still living out of my suitcase, still making people guess where I’m from, and still trying to figure out where I’m going.
The good news, however, is (according to the experts) “My difficult situation will soon be over.”

That’s something I can sink my teeth into…

 

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Your Mid-life Manic Pixie Dream Girl

A sneak preview of an article in the works.

He told me he needed to leave over an hour ago, but he was still here. A battle of wits was in full swing, and I was winning. I could tell he liked it.

The banter continued, the chemistry, obvious. He finally paused, studying my face. My chest tightened. I knew that look, and I knew what was coming.

“You are definitely…I don’t know, I’ve just never met anyone…”

I stopped him before he could finish, “Are you married?”

He laughed uncomfortably, then looked down.

“No. I mean, not technically. Or I guess technically I am, but it’s been over for a long time.”

“Are you married?” This is now one of the first questions I ask if I’m interested in someone. And this is what I’ve learned: “no” usually means yes and “getting a divorce” means, I want a divorce, but I’m not yet and won’t be for an indeterminate amount of time.

To be clear, I’m not seeking out men who are married. But as it turns out, being 40ish and newly single seems to be the status quo. It also turns out that single is open to interpretation.

When I first got divorced, one ex-boyfriend after another started reaching out. I was naïve in the beginning, thinking they just wanted to catch up. I quickly realized that even if we aren’t the type to keep our married status current or obvious, social media can be telling if someone’s paying attention. It can also be very deceptive.

When the one I never quite got over, resurfaced, I, of course, scoured his social media. His status? Married. There was a good amount of pictures of his kids and family vacations, so I reasoned he just wanted to catch up.

When a couple of drinks turned into more, he eventually confessed that he’d made a mistake letting me go, that he’d thought about me all this time, that he’d never met anyone like me…

Right or wrong, I couldn’t help but get caught up in it all.

So we plunged in with an intensity fueled by deprivation and the resurgence of hope. I had found the person I thought I was meant to be with. And he had found an exciting distraction from his current, unpleasant situation.

He had found his mid-life Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Songs from the Final Chapter: Ever After…

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A Gypsy’s Tale: Ever After

I keep seeing the posts coming in: wishes well for the year ahead or blessings counted for the one that passed…or heartbreaking accounts of why we so desperately want to place 2017 firmly in the past.

I tried to write one of these, all three versions. But nothing. It seems I’ve lost my words.  I’m not sure why. I wish I could get them back or out or whatever needs to happen. But they also seem to be stuck firmly in the past at the present moment.

So for now, I’ll steal more words from others who have fed my soul… and saved it at times.

But this one you’ll like. It’s for the future I have to look forward to and the gift of the present I have to get there.

Surrender

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I think it’s time.

‘It’s easier to leave than be left, isn’t it?’

You know it is. You always leave first

               …. you just do it standing still.

                                   * illustration by Rebecca Dautremer