With St. Valentine’s Day being upon us it seems appropriate to talk about mushy love stuff.
In every romantic comedy and fairy tale, love plays out like this: boy meets girl, they quickly ‘fall in love’, overcome a brief obstacle, and then go off happily ever after into the sunset. I always want to know what happens after the sunset: does Charming squeeze the toothpaste from the middle and does that drive Cinderella up the wall? Can sunset love survive toothpaste, money, and chores – the messy stuff of life?
Fairy tales and romcoms are not real life of course, but stories reflect life back to us. We learn about the world and how to behave through the stories we hear and read. We learn about love from stories, too. This weekend, should you choose to take your sweetheart on a movie date, there are two movies that tell very different versions of a love story. (Full disclosure: I have not seen either one and am basing my comments on reviews alone.)
There is one choice (50 shades of grey) in which you will be told love is a selfish game in which each party objectifies and uses the other; in which women are told to expect only what a man will give her, no matter that her heart tells her she is worth so much more, and that a man is nothing more than his basest impulses; in which what masquerades as love is fleeting, selfish, and ugly.
The other option (Old Fashioned) reminds us that for love between a man and a woman to be true, there must also be love between the man and God, and the woman and God; one that teaches love is as much a daily choice as it is about attraction and compatibility; one in which each party must be honest about who they are and what they want; and one that shows that for love to flourish it must be generous and open. (Sadly, this movie seems to be in select theatres only, and is not likely to show in my area. To paraphrase David Letterman, I hope your theatre is a select one!)
Two very different movies, two very different portrayals of love. One is a promise from the world that love is anything you want it to be, and that it is all about you. This sort of love certainly wouldn’t survive toothpaste, money, and chores! The other is closer to God’s promise that the more generous you are in love, the more love you will receive.
Alice von Hildebrand has written: “The moment that a person’s approach to the other sex is grounded in self-satisfaction, disassociated pleasure, or momentary excitement, he is tragically separated from the possibility of true love.” (Man and Woman: a Divine Invention)
As Catholics who read here at Serviam Ministries, we don’t need lessons about the evils and errors of the worldly approach to love. I think this Valentine’s Day weekend and the furor over the Grey movie is a beautiful reassurance to us that being committed to loving God’s way, though challenging at times, is good, and life-giving; that it leaves us as more rather than less than we were before. We are reminded that while real love might be messy (we can read about the real St. Valentine for an example of that!), it certainly isn’t grey.