Out With The New, In With The Old

All About Eve

One of the benefits of sleeping alone this week as John worked in Ottawa was bringing my laptop into bed, and firing up Netflix without any protest. I settled on All About Eve a 1950 film with Bette Davis.

I loved this smart retro chick-flick. My favourite character was Karen, the Radcliffe educated wife of America’s most famous playwright. Karen suspects a young promising actress, Eve, is maneuvering to win her husband Lloyd’s heart. Ironic, given that it was Karen who had taken the young Eve under her wing, and opened big doors for her—even helping her land the lead role in her eminent husband’s play.

As Karen lies awake one night, staring at the ceiling, she sighs heavily:

It’s seemed to me I had known always it would happen and here it was. I felt helpless. That helpless you feel when you have no talent to offer outside of loving your husband. How could I compete? Everything Lloyd loved about me he had gotten used to long ago.

The last sentence zapped me like a lightening bolt.

After decades of being a couple, what “new” is there left to discover, to fall in love with all over again? Those heady days of mystery have faded into black, and we become known commodities, as familiar to our partners as the back of their hands. My husband recently handed me a copy of the New Yorker, “Here, you’ll get a kick out of this cartoon,” he said. The cartoon was of a middle-aged couple sitting a safe distance from each other in their living room, staring blankly. The caption read, “100% Recycled Conversation”.

How can the fictitious Karen, and the very real “us” compete with someone like Eve, who offers our partner something fresh, something that they have not “gotten used to long ago”? Should we even bother to try?

I’m not one for competition. I don’t have a killer instinct And, I don’t want to win at all costs. But mostly, I don’t like to compare myself to other women, and viewing them as my adversaries. Karen asks herself, “How could I compete?” Is this the right question? After all, she’s well educated, kind, loving, unwaveringly devoted. Isn’t this enough?

Why is “new” often considered better than “old”? What’s wrong with “recycled conversation”—making each other laugh with inside jokes that were co-scripted long ago; finding comfort and stability in the familiar; continuing to appreciate the qualities that drew us to our partners in the first place?

“Retro” has become the fashion in clothes, music and furniture. Shouldn’t it be fashionable in love too?

Photo credit:Flickr/bswise

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