Remember back in grade school when the still-damp ditto sheets were passed down the row before a test or quiz? You took a deep whiff of that awesome mimeograph ink and put your Number Two pencil to work. The next day you waited with nervous anticipation – would you receive a coveted gold star? Then, the crushing revelation: a big red C Minus. Letting you know you are average. Or just below it.
From the moment we are old enough to comprehend what it means to be graded, evaluated, praised and ranked, we strive for that big red A, the bright gold star, the shiny blue ribbon or the hypnotic gleam of the first place trophy. We study, we train, and we learn to channel our abilities to be the best. But what about the constant study of relationships? How do we know when we are good at what we do in the bedroom and not the classroom?
We don’t receive a textbook and a syllabus of how to be an amazing partner or a fantastic lover, so where do we glean the knowledge that takes us through our personal lives? We see the romantic gestures that people make in the movies: the anonymous love notes, the grand declarations of love in the pouring rain, even the rushing to the airport to stop the one you love from leaving for Paris. By the way, why are they always jetting off to Paris? Just once I’d like to see someone stop their beloved from flying off to Newport News or Jackson Hole.
These cinematic sequences look great on film and we dissect them and take what we need from their dialogue and hyper-real situations. But in real life, unsigned love letters seem creepy, not everyone looks stunning when they are soaking wet, and there is no way you could make it through the airport in time due to all the constant restrictions. Besides, everyone’s definition of what is and isn’t romantic is different. For me, the most romantic ending to a movie is still Sixteen Candles. Why couldn’t the breathtaking Jake Ryan be waiting for me when everyone was leaving my sister’s wedding?
The only other option is to study those around us: our parents, our friends, even other couples that we don’t even know, just to see how they act and spar within their relationships. The problem with that is, no two couples are ever alike. So how the hell do we know what to do? And how do we know we are doing the right thing?