Sounds like the title of some Gender Studies academic publication, doesn't it?
Anyway, I have a theory that has been floating around my brain and I figured I'd run it by you all.
Every organization, whether it is a nation-state or a political party or a small business, develops some sort of founding myth. The interesting (sometimes righteous, sometimes funny) set of events that led to its development. Think about it: the movement against taxation without representation that led to armed revolution and the establishment of the USA; the rise of the Republican Party in the 1850s as a way for Midwestern politicians to stand against the evils of slavery; Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard and inventing stuff in his garage, etc.
In a way, a romantic relationship, at base, is an organization. A smaller organization, sure, but an institutionalized set of interactions no less.
It is commonplace for new and established couples alike to be asked how they met, and often they have a fun little story, a "meet cute" in the parlance of Hollywood. You don't often hear something simple and pedestrian like, "we met in a bar" or "through match.com" and if you do, then the cute details come along in the context of the meeting. Or the boring details are dispatched with a heavy dose of irony, a decent cloak for the couple's shame that they don't have a more compelling story to share.
Once a couple meets, they quickly find new shared narratives, whether shared strange preferences or experiences or whatever. This becomes the frame through which the couple views itself, and portrays itself to others, both at first and down the road. Over time, the myth may evolve or just disappear (along with the relationship), but sometimes the same myth may persist, hardly changed, for the duration. In such a situation, it is possible that the version of events Grandma and Grandpa tell the assembled kiddies about how they met a half-century ago is the very same version of events they told themselves (or their close friends) when it actually happened in the first place.
How about some examples:
The last girl I went on a date with turned out to be born on the very same day as I. That fact probably got me the date in the first place. It certainly was a neat story to frame the entire situation by.
Or, take the time I met my ex. In reality, we were both at the Beachland to see separate bands, me the opener, she the headliner. I was talking to a guy I barely knew, but since I didn't know anyone else, that was my only option. This tall, basically drunk girl comes up, joins the conversation, clearly knows the guy way better than I do, and they start talking about stuff I don't understand. I excuse myself, get a beer at the bar, and stand there. Some time later, the tall and drunk girl comes and stands by me. I see that she has a pin on her hat that is the old school Cavs logo. This is the day or so after the trade that brought Ben Wallace here, and I ask her what she thought. The conversation lasted through the rest of the show, carried over into emails and phone calls, and didn't end (completely) for six months.
The founding myth of that relationship, though, is sorta the same and sorta different. Her telling went, in abbreviated form, something like this: We met at a show (note: not a bar), he complimented me on my hat, pretended to be interested in the Cavs because I was, I thought he was funny and nice, and sent him an email the next day. Most of the stuff has been excised, and as time went on newer (and often funnier) facts were added. If I were to ask her today to describe how we met, I'm positive the meet-cute scenario would be recited, and not much of reality would remain.
That's not a bad thing. I'm not being critical. I'm just saying, this happens. My parents have their founding myth, so do my grandparents. None of these stories are entire fabrications, but they are narratives that try to make thematic and predictive sense of original events that often weren't all that Hollywood the first time around. They, I guess, are verbal road maps explaining how two people went from point a to point z, with a bit of human interest surrounding the trip.
This morning, as I steel myself to begin moving yet another load of my stuff to Cleveland Heights, I've been doing a reverse history of my relationships, ticking off names and corresponding myths. And, yep, pretty much all of them have one. Some are clearly ridiculous, some are sweet. None of them are entirely factual, although I can't always remember the real facts for several of them.
Some of them I can't actually remember any myth development. Unsurprisingly, those relationships didn't last or become big deals in my memory.
Other ones, though, include the time in the fall of my freshman year in the dorm when my eventual girlfriend and I both went to the same utility closet to borrow a community vacuum cleaner and found only one left. As we were doing the "you go first and bring it to me when you are done" dance, the power went out. By the time it came back on, she and I were sitting on the patio, having the first conversation of many that would occur through the rest of the year. We broke up sometime that spring.
Or the time, my junior year, when I was working at this cavernous warehouse of a campus bookstore, the kind where students would bring in their schedules, hand them to employees, employees would venture into the storage are, and come out with the books they wanted. I sold my books to many people, including this beautiful sophomore. She was really cute in a unique way, and I would recognize her every time we passed on the quad or in dining places or wherever. One day, I can't study at home because my roommate is watching WWF and talking to the television, as he was wont to do. I had a quiz (for my Latin class, I think) to study for, so I hiked over to the student union. As I did so, I pass this same girl on the path. We are both looking quizzically at one another, like "Where do I know this person from." We stop, chat, chat, chat, chat, have lunch, do laundry, and hang out for another several months.
Or the time when I was down at a recruitment weekend for the place I eventually got my ph.d. from and, when this girl says she wished we had had a better chance to chat and that she hoped she'd see me in the fall, I (stupidly and embarrassingly) said I'd be in room 401 at the La Quinta in about an hour if she wanted to come by. Two years later we finally split up.
There are a bunch more, but at this point I've tested your patience enough. And I have closets to pack and move.
Anyway, what do you guys think? Is my theory off the mark? Have any founding myths of your own to share?
3 years ago