Tuesday, October 27, 2015

quirks aren't compatibility: the wisdom of 500 days of summer

“Just because she likes the same bizarro crap you do doesn't mean she's your soulmate.”

The first time I saw the indie rom-com 500 Days of Summer, I barely paid attention to this line, which is delivered by protagonist Tom’s little sister, Rachel. However, in my subsequent viewings -- because, when you’re a single 20-something, there will be subsequent viewings -- I realized that it’s not only one of the movie’s key themes, but also a massive truth bomb that I never bothered to examine. 

Summer and Tom initially bond in their office elevator over a Smiths song, an exchange that sets the tone for their entire relationship. Tom is taken by Summer’s surface quirks, from her inexplicable love for Ringo Starr to her retro, hipster hairstyle (those blunt-cut bangs get ‘em every time). Though the film was released in 2009, well before the days of Tinder, their love story could have just as easily began with right swipes that were based on superficial appearances and shared Facebook interests. 

Of course, for any romance to get off of the ground, you’ve gotta have some intangible chemistry that usually stems from mutual physical attraction and at least a little bit of common ground. But it’s all too easy to get caught up in the fact that you share the same obscure favorite band, or that you both love the same Harry Potter book, or that you both went to Gathering of the Vibes in 2009. Don’t get me wrong; that stuff is important, and can often indicate the potential for a deeper connection. Getting too wrapped up in it, though, is a big mistake ... even if it’s unavoidable much of the time. 

I’m woefully guilty of doing this, over and over. A quirky dude who looks fantastic on paper -- and even better in a plaid flannel shirt -- might be great to shop for vinyl and go to shows and get stoned and fool around with, but not so great when it comes to being a serious life partner.  However, when you find such a niche similarity with someone, it can feel almost fated. And everyone knows that we Serendipity- and Notebook-addled millennial women looooove us some fate. Pretty soon, you’ve reached animated dance sequence status, and there’s no turning back. Who cares that he never holds the door for me and disappears for days on end? I’d never met anyone else who digs that random Swedish indie rock song!

With some hindsight and perspective, it all seems so silly. Still, anyone who claims that they’ve never “pulled a Tom” and fell for someone who was all sorts of wrong for them because of some frivolous characteristics is probably (okay, most definitely) lying. The best we can do is appreciate each relationship for what it was and what it taught us, pick up the pieces, and realize that the right person doesn't always have to own a Dinosaur Jr. t-shirt or a David Sedaris book.

... oh, and never, ever trust anyone who names Ringo Starr as their favorite Beatle.

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