Whilst on tour in Ireland this month, we were blessed with several days off. Rather pleasant, to find oneself on a sort of holiday with good friends, especially a holiday in a secluded cottage with a stunning view of the sun setting each evening; burnt orange flooding the endless sky.
Being ever the traditionalist, one Wednesday morning ~ seeing a fire lit and tea poured ~ I decided to settle under the duvet (for that, read hog the sofa to the sighs of castmates) and watch an Old Film. I had brought The Philadelphia Story with me, the George Cukor classic, based on Philip Barry’s play. Katharine Hepburn had starred in said production and did the same in the film version. It ultimately saved her career, following her unfortunate moniker of ‘box office poison.’ We meet Tracy Lord (Hepburn) on the eve of her wedding to newly monied business magnate George Kittredge. She was previously married to CK Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) but their tempestuous partnership resulted in divorce when her “disregard for human frailty” exacerbates his drinking problem. This new union excites the American media and they send over reporter Macaulay ‘Mike’ Connor (James Stewart; him again – incidentally he won an Oscar for his performance. He plays an hilarious drunk and manages to make Cary Grant corpse) and photographer Liz Imbrie to cover the wedding. Dexter, helping them to gain access to the family, accompanies them. Over the course of the day, Tracy finds herself caught between three men – her fiancee, her ex-husband and an increasingly smitten Mike. Who will she wind up with?
The three men treat Tracy utterly differently. Mike, the cynical poet, sees her as an earthy intellectual with a spark that matches his own “There’s a magnificence in you, Tracy. A magnificence that comes out of your eyes, in your voice… you’re lit from within. You’ve got fires banked down in you, hearth-fires and holocausts.” George sees her as a far off Goddess, to be worshipped. “You’re like some marvellous, distant queen. You’re so cool and fine and always so much your own. There’s a kind of beautiful purity about you, like a statue.” However, just like a 20th Century Angel Clare, once Tracy’s own frailty is uncovered and his view of her purity dispelled, he promptly loses interest. So who does Tracy end up marrying? The man who knows her faults and loves her anyway. The man who sees her as a human being. CK Dexter Haven. As Tracy herself says, she doesn’t want to be worshipped. She wants to be loved.
This, unsurprisingly, set me to thinking. Many of my friends – and indeed my own – relationships have ended because one party believes the other is not the person they fell in love with. But what if they are? What if it is simply a case of falling off a pedestal once frailty is uncovered? They begin as a deity; lofty perfection to be worshipped. Then soon, they find themselves scrambling in the dust like other mere mortals. Seemingly no middle ground. Simply to be adored or to be dumped. While in some relationships people can change to the detriment of a coupling, in others it is simply the beholder that sees their partner differently.
I have been in relationships where I have been properly adored at the beginning. Not going to lie, there is something lovely about someone viewing you as an angel, but goodness me, it’s hard to live up to. And doesn’t the halo lose it’s shine quickly? Seemingly overnight, I dropped from the pedestal from which I’d been placed onto the muddy ground below and I was never sure why. Is it because of my selfishness? My horrible ability to cry easily? Am I just plain annoying? Veiled insults begin, eyes rolling at every word I say, running me down in front of friends under the guise of banter ‘Why are you being so sensitive? It’s just a joke.’ Gone was the girl who warranted love notes, hushed work time phone calls and adoration. I didn’t think I’d changed at all and it baffled me. Like Desdemona “What shall I do to win my lord again? … I know not how I lost him” none of us who have ever experienced this will know what we can do. But we will try to placate and work our way back up to that pedestal if it takes all of our self respect. Shutting up about our job if it bores you, not nagging, keeping opinions to ourselves. But the pedestal cannot be reached, no matter how hard we try. Once knocked off, it’s a no go area. But is this us genuinely turning into co-dependent shadows of our former selves, or is it that we are no longer the untouchable bronze statue to be admired from afar? I have seen vibrant, brilliant friends – both male and female – reduced to quivering wrecks trying to live up to the impossible bar their partner has set for them. I should mention here, in my past matches, I don’t place the blame completely at the other person’s door. I know I was not perfect. I just wish I knew what the trigger was, so I could fix it.
I must admit, these experiences have made me wary of relationships and I think go part of a way to explain my current single status. If someone is to nice to me, I don’t trust it ‘oh yes, you like me now – but how long before you discover how annoying I am?’ And I am far too sensitive about gentle mocking of me – ‘oh, it’s begun again, has it?’ I never wanted to be someone who loved warily, but I fear that is inevitable for most of us who have the baggage of previous relationships.
Perhaps – like Tracy and Dexter – the best match for us all is our best friend. No worshipping, no pedestal, just entering into a union with a clear knowledge of the other’s frailty and loving them for that as much as their shining qualities. Tracy may be an “unholy mess of a girl” and Dexter a recovering alcoholic, but they know each other inside out. And they are human.