Tag Archives: Life lessons

Banish The Pixie Dream Girl

I was going to write a post seeking riding buddies and new friends on the road, but then I got sidetracked by a recent episode of the podcast Modern Love.

At first blush ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl‘ seemed like it was going to be a cheesy love story, but you know, that’s not really Modern Love style. There must be some insight. There is always a lesson.

As the narrator talked about his love of the genre of manic pixie dream girl romance. He told a story of how he once found his very own manic pixie dream girl. Describing the exciting but damaged personality that makes up the manic pixie dream girl, I wondered if I envisioned myself as a manic pixie dream girl too.

No, I don’t envision myself as a Natalie Portman from Garden State. I lack the physique and eating discipline to actually be pixie-like (note: photo is nothing like Natalie Portman) But that old trope of the fun, interesting, quirky and intriguing girl who is also emotionally and mentally damaged from whatever ghosts haunt her and she needs fixing by a stable, strong, infinitely patient protagonist. The storyline goes that the stable protagonist finds himself a manic pixie dream girl. She, through her wild antics, she draws him out of his shell and introduces him to an exotic new world of new experiences and, of course, sex.

They fall in love. But the heroine can’t escape her mental defects. The sexy intrigue becomes unbearably eccentric. The wild excitement turns into fear-inducing volatility. The fun quirkiness becomes mental instability. The sass becomes mean.

We worry about what she will do to him. Or what she will do to the relationship. And we are certain she will ultimately hurt herself. Naturally, love overcomes all and our strong and stable protagonist is able to fix her; thus saving her from herself.

My favorite of this genre is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It doesn’t follow this exact formula and our manic pixie dream girl, Clementine, is less hapless and cutesy pixie and more self-assured and decisive woman. I hesitate to add manic, because that would imply she actually has a mental health disorder that the audience thinks she needs fixing. She doesn’t need fixing.

As I declared myself an atheist at age twelve, I am not so into the idea of fate nor star-crossed lovers nor soulmates nor one true loves. So, it’s odd that I love this movie so much. It relies entirely on fate – our two soulmates, despite erasing each other from their minds, they find each other again because they are destined to be together.

The movie abruptly ends after they find out they erased each other from their respective brains. They learn about their previously volitile relationship that ended in heartbreak.

Roll credits.

We are left to believe Joel and Clementine are fated to be together. Armed with the knowledge of how their relationship failed, perhaps they avoid all the mistakes of the past and live happily ever after.

Or maybe they are the same people, the same personalities and the same relationship they were the first time. Perhaps, they are destined to just repeat the same heartbreak again and again and again. Groundhogs Day.

Okay, that was a fun recap of my favorite movie. So, why, you might ask, would I envision myself some sort of manic pixie dream girl? I don’t want to, really. In fact, it’s not even specifically the manic pixie dream girl that is the problem.

She is just the embodiment of that tired old mentality that most of those smart, intriguing and fun girls we love are flawed. They need to be fixed. The “I like all these things about you and you would be perfect if you could just fix all these things about you.” Your amazing, but totally screwed up. I’ll take all the good stuff, but let me help you identify and eliminate all this shit that stinks and offends me. Your great, but broken.

Here is the problem. We are all flawed. No, not flawed. We are all different. With the good weirdness comes the bad strangeness. With the exciting and exotic comes the scary and different. With the wild and fun come the unpredictable and volatile. It is all matter of degrees and increments, compromises and acceptance. It is not flaws in need of fixes.

I fell for the romantic construct of the manic pixie dream girl. We all do at some point, don’t we? We envision ourselves as some gauzy, doe-eyed creature who is wonderfully and tragically imperfect. We are broken and we need someone to fix us and save us from ourselves. And it’s not just any anyone – it is only the fated one.

No doubt, I can be improved. But let’s banish the manic pixie dream girl and all her incarnations. The concept of her is broken. I am not.

Happy cooking and dreaming!

I am Verklempt

Forgive me as I type this with my thumbs. This isn’t a post about food, but this blog wasn’t started about food really. It was started as a place where I work out some of the crazy shit going through my head as I navigate a career change. 

This may be a bit meandering. I  started to compose this in my head on the drive back to a friend’s New Hampshire cabin. . .alone, except for my trusty sidekick, Jethro the dog. That’s him on the right. 

As my friend and that pup on the left departed, I was overcome by the moment. There wasn’t anything significant about saying goodbye today. The weekend was supposed to be a last hurrah with a few friends before I headed off for two or three months of seclusion on the west coast to focus on book research, writing and motorcycle riding. As the weekend approached, our numbers dwindled down to just two of us and our dogs. So, instead of a ‘hurrah’, the weekend was more about time to relax and contemplate. 

We capped the weekend with an outdoor picnic. As they departed, I realised I would be holed up far, far away ‘researching, writing and riding’ in less than a week. ‘Research, writing and riding’ was merely a stated premise for my obsconding for months 3000 miles away.  The time and distance was also meant for contemplating my unknown future. Perhaps making it less unknown. Or just less scary.

And, as I watched my friend and her pooch drive off, I realized I may never be here again. Not in the literal sense. Physically, that might be possible. But, in a metaphorical sense, I had no idea what I would figure out over the next few months. I was emotionally overcome, choked up and feeling a bit like weeping. I was indeed, verklempt.  (It’s a phrase made famous by Mike Meyers on SNL’s Coffee Talk skit. Look it up!)

Shit suddenly got really real. No longer a mere little career change. Career change? Ha. That is plain term for something that is either a forced reality born out of unfortunate circumstances or a fanciful choice to pursue a ‘dream job’. Which perspective depends on whether you can afford to do it out of whimsy. I used to be able to afford it. 

It’s grown beyond the confines of a career change.  My whimiscal, affordable, unfocused pursuit of ‘career change’ morphed into a total life change. A choice through my actions, but not by design. The rug’s been pulled out from under me. The water is merky. And the road ahead is riddled with forks and turns…and probably snakes or bears or spiders or some other clearly terrifying unknown obsticle.

Some background for those still reading who have no idea what the hell happened. While I’ve been posting the pretty pictures, the recipes, the food stories and the do-it-yourself lifestyle bits, the sometimes beautiful, sometimes messy and sometimes painful realities of life rarely touched these archives. 

Cancer happened. A nephew was born. Chemo administered again and again. A degree was received. Cancer killed. . .murdered. . .in slow, ugly, painful ways. Great jobs were had then lost as they became shitty. And my closest relationship slowly deteriorated. 

Suddenly, I am untethered. Its hard to peg down what the future holds. What’s ahead feels surreal. It is hazier, foggier – more nebulous –  like a roll of paper extending out in front of me with only fuzzy, undefined images. No one beside me, in front of me or behind me. No parents. No partner. No homebase. No home. No anchor. Nowhere to land when all helter skelter hits. There are characters – friends and family- sure. It’s not desolate, but they are in the periphery. This weird path is mine, alone.

I am prone to puncuate the inflection points of life by doing something remarkable, exciting and totally unreasonable. My untethered mind landed on the idea of riding two wheels across the country on the open road.  A whimsy so ridiculous it does not do anything to resolve this riddle of my future. It’s a distraction; short term thinking. It’s ignoring the disaster of my ill-conceived midlife crisis to just be even more outrageous and ill-conceived for a bit. Perhaps this idea is a metaphor for how my unteathered brain feels.

I’ve never ridden a motorcycle. My memories of riding a dirt bikes as a kid are fuzzy. It is pretty likely my brain co-opted those from my brother and tried to convince me their mine.  

So, with that impetus, while overcoming a terrible flu, I found myself in a parking lot with chattering teeth in the soaking  rain and wind of a spring Noreaster astride a motorcycle taking my first motorcycle lesson. It felt real, not fuzzy. That’s a start.

That was a month ago. In five days, I say goodbye to my Jethro for at least the next few months. He too is a kind of ungraspable image in the future. My trusty sidekick might be verklempt himself if he knew what was up. I know I am.

More to come of this and the next few months are likely to be less and less about food.

In the mean time, happy cooking (and researching, and writing and riding)!