Tuesday, 23 July 2013

When "love" is confused with obsession


[NB: This post has been in my drafts for months, literally before 'The Great Gatsby' movie came out. I have been umm'ing and ahhh'ing about posting this for various reasons, but I've decided to set this one free. Also, if reading the book is on your 'to-do' list, I suggest you don't read this post - spoilers everywhere!]

I’ve been thinking about love a lot recently and about how much certain kinds of love have value. For example, if love is unrequited/ simply bad timing/ maybe in the future love, do those loves become invalid? Do they have the same weight as love which is at the right time and reciprocal?

In truth, I don’t have the answer, nor do I necessarily think there is a right answer to this. I have never been ashamed of feeling something for someone whether it was reciprocal or not. But when does love turn into an unhealthy obsession?

The Great Gatsby is a book (and now of course, a movie) which had been on my “my goodness child, how have you not read this book yet?!” list for a long time, but I finally got round to reading it. I was expecting great things from this book (I struggle to call this a novel, being only 115 pages); it is lorded as possibly the greatest book ever written! I wanted to walk away deliberating whether I thought this might be true; instead I walked away quite disappointed. It’s not that I don’t think the book was well written, I actually found myself feeling incredibly disappointed with the main character, Gatsby. I was expecting a wild roller-coaster of a mystery adventure where Gatsby would be revealed to be some kind of billionaire spy (or something of that ilk), but what I got in the end was a spoilt rich boy who wanted a girl he couldn’t have.

I was more than a little stunned that this intelligent, charismatic and skilled gentleman, was reduced to a whining school boy, with an “I want her and that’s it” attitude – I was quite stunned indeed. What a lavish ploy, inviting all of sundry to his home just to find out details about a girl he had a relationship with many years ago; a woman who was not only in a relationship with someone else, but married! Shaking his fist defiantly with “I’ll get her back, you see if I don’t”, made me feel quite sad for him. This wasn’t romance to me, this wasn’t something I found remotely healthy.

The movie ‘(500) Days of Summer’ sprung to mind immediately. When I first watched the movie I thought about how great it would be to have someone so dedicated to me and so “in love”, but then the words of Joseph Gordon-Levitt brought me back to reality:  

"The (500) Days of Summer attitude of 'He wants you so bad' seems attractive to some women and men, but I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character (Tom) to watch it again and examine how selfish he is."

"He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies," Gordon-Levitt explained. "He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life. A lot of boys and girls think their lives will have meaning if they find a partner who wants nothing else in life but them. That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person."

Of course he is right! How can having someone obsessed with your every move, every word - your whole existence, be healthy?! How can allowing a single person and their whole entity consume you to the point where you can’t function if you don’t know where they are and what they’re doing every second of the day, be healthy?! If it wasn’t prettied-up with the word “love”, I can guarantee this would be called harassment. Just because someone is “innocently” in your life, doesn’t mean they do not have the ability to have stalker tendencies - the convenient tab entitled "Close Friends", on Facebook gives one licence to stalk! Do we really need to know the second a certain person posts a picture or updates their status? Will the world stop turning if we're not immediately altered?! You do not have to be attacked or threatened to experience being stalked. 

This is what Gatsby became for me. The area of the country he moved to was specific to the area “his love” lived. The house he bought was merely across the bay from where “his love” shared a home with her husband. As the story goes on he becomes more and more hysterical and more and more obsessed (with an eerie calmness) with the thought of her. Is this love?

The other thing that bugs me is the notion Daisy doesn’t have mind of her own. When Gatsby speaks of her, he portrays her as a silly woman who has a clouded mind. She evidently needs to be told how she feels, heaven forbid she is actually happy (which is isn’t fully, but that’s beside the point) and wants her marriage to work. It’s very caveman – see woman, want woman and woman has no choice, she’s merely confused and needs to be coaxed out of her current despair and allow him to rescue her.

It’s dripping with typical misogyny.

Well, due to his unrelenting persistence, he finally gets the girl….kind of. The rose tinted glasses of their relationship from the past, soon evaporate and everyone loses in the end – everyone! I talked about nostalgia love in my ‘Take this Waltz’ post, and going back to the Gordon-Levitt quote (I do love quotes), loving the idea of what could be or what used to be, is not reality. Keeping those obsessive, waiting in the wings notions in ones head, is madness!

Now, I understand people can live their lives exactly the way they wish without having to explain themselves to the likes of me. I’m not saying it’s not easy to fall into this trap – I’m not being holier than thou; but there comes a time when you have to say “STOP!” and regain what little self respect you have left. We all deserve happiness, but waiting for someone else in order to start our own lives?! It sucks harboring feelings for someone who either doesn’t feel the same and/or has chosen to be with someone else, and we’ve all been there, but as adults we owe it to ourselves and for our future happiness to be stronger than that – life isn’t (unlike The Great Gatsby) a fictitious story, and life really is too short for playing a waiting game we may never win.

Poor Gatsby didn’t.

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