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Romantic movies have it all wrong

by Jason Benoit, Esq.

For much of the country – those of you that aren’t tyrannical Valentine’s Day atheists – the month of February is supposed to represent love. What we think love is.

I never cared much about Valentine’s Day. When I was asked to write about love and romance, I drew a blank. What the hell is love? How do you write about that? What’s my favorite romantic movie? The Notebook, duh, but who wants to talk about dementia and love triangles in real life? That sounds more tragic than it does romantic. And also really convoluted and complicated and… messy.

I’ve been dating my girlfriend KC on-and-off for nearly four years. A couple years ago I asked her to move in with me. We got a dog together – completing my raucous home that now includes two dogs and an obese, likely diabetic cat.

Now, KC has never been much of a fan of holidays. At least not Christmas (or Singles Awareness Day). But she knew it was a big deal to me. Big enough that one night I came home from work and she’d spent the entire day decorating. She hung lights. She put up stockings. She even had those little ornaments you put out in front of the house. She had The Nightmare Before Christmas playing.

It was adorable.

What I didn’t know was that for many years KC despised the holidays. They meant being forced to choose between spending Christmas with Mom or with Dad. And choosing one over the other meant a lot of regret and anger and frustration. It wasn’t until a few months back when KC told me about how her family used to go Clark Griswold for Christmas when they were kids. The news even came to their house one year.

Then her folks separated. And Christmas soon felt more like a heavy burden than it did a celebration.

But something about this year was different. She seemed almost motivated. She bought a bunch of presents for her nephew. She organized a Christmas dinner. We had a few friends over, as well as KC’s cousin’s wife and son. It was… kind of close to perfect.

A few hours later, she got a phone call. Her cousin had apparently left a cryptic message. KC called the police and rushed over to the apartment. Once the cops busted down the door, they found him. He had hung himself.

To say that KC and her cousin were close probably wouldn’t accurately describe the loss. She moved out to L.A. because of him. They wrote together. She looked up to him like a big brother.

The next few days were rough, to put it mildly. My heart was breaking for her.

See, the thing about KC is that she detests holidays, right? But for some reason, she loves New Year’s. I, on the other hand, couldn’t give two craps about it. She believed in the idea of a slate being wiped clean. A new start.

So, here I am, days after Christmas with my parents, standing inside a jewelry store. I was getting the ring – tragedy or no tragedy – it made no difference on my plans to ask her to marry me.

As a man, you feel this innate pressure nowadays to go big or go home. Viral videos and every holiday commercial make you feel like you have to do some giant treasure hunt where along each stop she gets a clue from a close friend – all locations that represent the story of our relationship. The kickball field where we played together. The house where we first met at a jhorts party.

So when the jeweler asked when I planned on proposing, all I knew to answer was that New Year’s meant a lot to KC. I had no clue if I would even ask her that night, but given all the tragedy that had unfolded (and was still unfolding), I just wanted the option to ask should it come to that. He said he would try his best to have a ring ready, though was quick to make no promises.

KC’s father came into town for the funeral. Though the circumstances are less than ideal, I ask him for his daughter’s hand.

He tells me “Good luck. You’ll need it.”

I take that as his blessing.

I get a phone call that the ring will be ready for pickup on New Year’s Eve, just before closing.

Our evening consisted of a couple paltry sips of cheap champagne and The Lego Movie. KC was fidgety and pre-occupied. She’d been crying. I started talking, as I’m known to do. I don’t even fully remember what I said. Basically a bunch of stuff about how she wasn’t in this alone. That I would always be there for her.

Maybe it was that word always that got her looking at me funny? I’ll remember that look forever. And she slightly shook her head. Like she knew. And I quickly, panicked even, grabbed her and hugged her and said, “No no no no. Besides, I’d have to have a ring anyway.”

After a few moments of silence, her still in my arms, I then carefully said, “Okay, so what if I did have a ring?” She pulled back just enough to look at my face and said, “Do you?”

I told her that I know that New Year’s means a lot to her – and that she needed something to look forward to in the coming days and months that would follow.

I got down on my knee and asked. She said yes.

It wasn’t everything I’ve ever dreamed about. It wasn’t like it is in the movies. It was complicated. It was messy. It was a whole range of emotions. And it was subtle.

But it was us.

And I suppose, in a way, isn’t that what love really is? Isn’t that true romance? That in times of peril, we stand up and do what needs to be done for the ones that we love? In sickness and in health?

I don’t know. I’d like to think it is at least.

The definition of man is made in moments where thought is impossible. Where action needs to be taken. When action defines purpose and purpose defines self. I’ve always believed that you can never get too high or too low. That life is about extreme balance. The highs and the lows.

That, to me, is love. It’s all we can ever hope for – that when we need someone the most, that they’ll be there. Because that’s all relationships really are.

Jason Benoit, Esq.

About Jason Benoit, Esq.

Jason Benoit is a young screenwriter based in Los Angeles, California. He has developed projects in both film and television with producers around town. He was reared on Cheetos and nightly doses of Tylenol PM and is adamant about attaching the suffix Esquire to his name. We've agreed to humor his request. Follow him on Twitter @jbenoitfilm

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