I think God knows I’m blogging. Or at least, Netflix. Instantwatch has been taunting me with this Independent Romantic Comedy “Ira and Abbey” since I joined about a month ago; I thought the one-sentence summary looked intriguing–something with the words “offbeat” and “marriage,” but only clicked last night after recognizing Chris Messina: the adorable husband from Julie and Julia, with whom I’ve been slightly smitten since seeing that movie (ok fine, seeing that movie twice).
In other words, I had no idea what it was about until I started watching and realized the premise: two people who agree to get married after about six hours together.
This was startling, because lately I’ve been thinking about impulsive relationships almost as much as I think about internet stalking. There are several reasons for this. For one, I have a pesky tendency to pronounce that some guy is “perfect for me” before I’m certain of his last name. (Just ask my friend A in Washington, who I had known for about a year when she responded to one such pronouncement with: “Do you have any idea how many times you’ve said that to me?” Truthfully, I had no idea.)
The other reason is that my roommate met someone on vacation over winter break and now spends most of her waking hours on the phone with him, discussing real estate and their future children and nostalgically recalling their first moments together, which took place about four weeks ago.
It is easy to be cynical about this kind of uber-romance. Especially when living in an extremely non-soundproof house with someone in the high-pitched throes of it. Most days, I think it’s a horrible idea. But on others, I wonder. I think about the great love stories in literature and how many of them began impulsively. OK, mainly I think about Romeo and Juliet. And I know, they weren’t real. But there’s no denying the singular romance of a connection that is instant and helpless and passionnate. And honestly, if we let ourselves go a bit, I think it would happen much more frequently.
In “Committed” Elizabeth Gilbert talks about research showing that when people choose who they marry, things don’t work out as well as when the choice is made for them. She describes an elderly couple from her hometown whose marriage was purely practical, but who grew to love one another with an extreme brand of devotion. The point is that it’s not about knowing, it’s about deciding that you want to be with someone (or, having someone else decide for you–as the case may be). The problem is that we now have infinite freedom in making that decision: we think we’re supposed to go on endless movie dates and coffee dates and visit museums and spend holidays together and share an apartment for something around half a decade before we truly “know.”
But what “Ira and Abbey” suggests is that we never truly “know.” The impulses our gut gives us in the first five minutes might be just as valuable as the tortured conclusions we draw multiple years into a relationship. Because relationships will always be a compromise: no love, no matter how instantly felt or dutifully harvested, renders obsolete the infinite issues life brings about. And it’s kind of impossible to anticipate everything and know what a relationship can withstand. The only thing we can know is whether we think it’s worth it to try.
In the movie, Abbey declares that she thinks it’s worth a try–aka that she and Ira should get married–after an afternoon together. And following a tumultuous courtship that involves the beginning, dissolution and resumption of several marriages, she and Ira decide that they do, actually, think it’s worth it.
It takes them a bit more than an afternoon.