Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On my own again

When you're a girl who lives more in books than in reality, you have trouble not always aligning yourself with the protagonists of your favorite stories. Whether you see them in a play, in a movie, in a TV show or in the pages of a book, somehow the identification becomes unavoidable. You start comparing your own life to theirs, finding meaning in their experience, relating everything that's happened to you to what's happened to them in a much shorter time frame.

I will whole-heartedly admit to doing just this.

Perhaps it's a fault; I should be ashamed for not living my life for its own sake. Instead of taking things as they come, I live by some unreasonable standard set for me by my favorite literature and art.

That's not fair. No one's life is like art. But does that mean I'm not allowed to identify with characters who speak to me?

Here are just a few of the characters who I've identified with at one point or another, specifically in their experiences in love.

Eponine from Les Misérables

This will probably sound morbid, but for a long time I've considered Eponine as an emotional match for me. Even when I was in my young teens, I could see her story playing out in mine. She loves a boy, he acts like he has feelings for her. They flirt, nothing happens. He falls in love with someone else, he uses her to get to that girl and Eponine is left in the shadows. She still loves him, but it's unrequited.

Eventually Eponine dies. And while I wouldn't say that my life will end the same way as hers, the song "On My Own" has always spoke to the pessimist in me. Somehow throughout my experiences in love and not in love, I've found myself returning to Eponine's soliloquy for comfort and guidance. It only serves to make me sadder, but in a commiserating sort of way.

Elphaba from Wicked

Less depressing than the story of Eponine is the tale of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West who is the subject of the musical (and book) Wicked. Elphaba feels unappreciated and misunderstood for the first half of her story. She laments that the boy she likes won't like her back because he'll instead fall for "gold hair with a gentle curl."

She's out of the ordinary. She's green. Sometimes I feel like I'm green. Kind of in the Kermit the Frog sort of way. It's not easy being green, after all. It's a bit alienating (pardon the pun). In the end, Elphaba does find that the boy she likes loves her back, though. They supposedly live happily ever after, but only when he's put in his right place after becoming "brainless." It's a tragic ending, but a beautiful one. I hope I have a beautiful ending too - more like the love between Elphaba and Fiyero rather than death like Eponine. I'd like some semblance of happiness.

Cosette from Les Misérables

For a while I found that my life felt more like Cosette and it seemed weird to me that I identified with her character. I've always despised Cosette - the way that her life became so easy after Jean Valjean saved her from the Thenardiers seemed so inauthentic. At least in the musical Les Misérables, once she's in her teens she manages to lose any depth that she had in the beginning of the play. Somehow the little girl singing "Castle on a Cloud" has more dynamism than the older Cosette singing "A Heart Full of Love."

What she does have, however, is a boy who adores her and wants to be there for her always. I thought I had that. When I did, I identified with Cosette. Then I didn't. And until I can trust men again, I don't know when or if I will.

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice

The men I know I can trust are in the pages of Victorian novels. When reality fails me, I have Mr. Darcy. To have Mr. Darcy, I must live vicariously through Elizabeth Bennet. She misjudged him and he misjudged her; they went through some craziness before ending up together, but their story is so undeniably beautiful that it makes me numb to the toils of actual romance.

When I'm lonely, I always turn to Pride & Prejudice. And in my decision to become involved with Mr. Darcy rather than real men (who always seem to prove unsatisfactory), I find that I'm infinitely happier. I could decide when I've just broken up with someone that I need to move on as quickly as possible to the next suitable alternative. I could use that effort to hurt the person who broke my heart. But I'm better than that. Mr. Darcy is my answer, not some rebound. I guess Mr. Darcy is my rebound. And Lizzie Bennet is my homegirl. She shares her man with me.

Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project

Mindy Lahiri, unlike all of the characters already listed, is one who doesn't have luck in relationships or outside of them. She's always looking for new people to become involved with, always being hoisted by her own petard when she starts dating someone new. It's disastrous, it's funny.

I guess her character shows me that I don't need to follow in her footsteps. I'm better than she is even though I love her to pieces. I can dream of romance and not pursue it with a bunch of wrong men. Look where that got her. She's When Harry Met Sally-ing it up with Danny Castellano. So frustrating.

Celeste from Celeste & Jesse Forever

I'd like to top off my experiences with a little bit of Celeste from Celeste & Jesse Forever. She's a terribly sympathetic character. She's loved and tried to make things work. She's attempted to be friends after the fact. She's realized that friendships don't always work between exes, yet she keeps trying. She has a soft soul, which doesn't do her much good when she tries to move on from past experiences.

In a way I feel like I'm her. In a way I just aspire to be like her. A beautiful, intelligent, successful woman who is able to let go of the things that poison her life. Her best friend (and ex-husband), Jesse, did put a lifelong burden on her and she let go. It can be hard to be in that position but I hope that if I ever am I don't get led astray by overwhelming feelings.

C'est Tout

I don't know that there was any definite purpose to listing these characters or describing their worth to me. I guess in a way it just helps me clarify my own feelings to get to flesh them out. Within the medium of compare and contrast, I can make more sense of how mixed up I feel at the moment.

I'm in a good place because for the first time I'm not being a Mindy Lahiri or an Eponine. I'm not even being Elizabeth Bennet or Celeste. I never really was a Cosette. I'm just being me. I'm just working things out and forgetting about the things that don't matter - the people that hurt me who literally mean nothing.

So this is me throwing away bad feelings as best I can and just focusing on my own shtick. Me, not the protagonists I love. Hopefully that gets me somewhere. Somewhere good.

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