Ask Sarah – Supermarket Serendipity – pt. I

Dear Sarah,

Over the years I’ve kind of developed this theory that what pornography does to men destructively, the cute romantic comedy and romance literature, and Disney movies do to women (obviously they’re not the same in terms of decency). I mean that it creates a false sense of the norm, generates unrealistic expectations, and encourages dangerous unhealthy behavior. That said, there’s a fine line between romantic and creepy. Things on the silver screen which can take your breath away positively, would negatively take your breath away in real life, and possibly end with mace. Wild romantic gestures, whether in a relationship or to initiate one, wreak of creepy more than cute in real life.

I think about this often. One of the recurring themes is the “supermarket serendipity”. Women often dream of meeting their guy at the grocery store. When I’m grocery shopping I notice women, but it certainly seems like the most inappropriate place to hit on girls. If you strike up a conversation over things in the buggy, that’s weird. If you look like you’re hanging out there to pick up chicks it/s pathetic.

When I go to the grocery store I leave the kids at home; it’s a mini vacation, and my grocery bill is lower. I love the idea of randomly bumping into someone and meeting, but it definitely seems like poor timing. We’ve all got ice cream in our carts, and making a date is next to impossible.

Oh well, I’ll quit blabbering, but I’m curious what you think.



Dear lonely shopper,

There are two big questions here.  The first is – have romantic comedies set an impossible expectation for men to live up to, and the second is – is there any realistically good way to navigate the supermarket meet-up?

I think I’ll cover this in two posts because there’s so much good food for thought here.

To the issue of women’s “porn”…romance

Yes.  I think there’s definitely some “danger” in the over-the-top gestures and language used in (and made to seem normal and “findable” in real life) many movies and shows that women enjoy.  (These are mostly written by women… so it’s a fantasy world BY us, FOR us.)

But, like any good story – the onus is on the viewer/participant to distinguish between reality and fantasy.  An emotionally healthy adult can watch the Bourne Identity and not feel the need to sneak up behind their boss the next day with a knife to his neck because he’s ‘probably’ an enemy spy.  In like manner, a normal well-adjusted person isn’t going to start trying to breed an especially powerful species of orcs after enjoying the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  So, one can assume that, while you may willingly suspend disbelief DURING a movie (to enter into the story for maximum enjoyment), you un-suspend that disbelief when you return to reality – for the sake of your own sanity.

The thing that’s different from action movies or sci-fi/fantasy and the movies you’re describing is in RECOGNIZING the fantasy.  We women WANT the dramatic displays of love in real life.  We WANT men to speak with us in terms of emotion and affection.  We WANT them to be thoughtful.  So, when it’s in front of us on the silver screen, it doesn’t always register as fantasy… but as potential reality.  In other words, we DON’T suspend disbelief.

When Mr. Big grabs Carrie and pushes her up against a wall and kisses her passionately, I don’t think to myself, “that’s fiction.”  I think to myself – “see?  There ARE men out there who do that… and I want one.”

And the good news and bad news is this:  these movies represent a small percentage of men who actually ARE incredibly romantic and enjoy going to great lengths to show a woman they love her.  I’ve dated a couple – and I’m not gonna lie – it’s pretty awesome.

Collection of puzzles Brad gave his sweetie - one piece at a time - for her to put together.

Collection of puzzles Brad gave his sweetie – one piece at a time – for her to put together.

I keep up loosely with my high school friend, Brad, on Facebook.  Brad met a woman who he’s now madly in love with and is constantly talking about how lucky he is to have her, and surprising her with little gifts/notes, and being thoughtful and creative in expressing his love for her on special days AND just-because-days.  And this isn’t just the beginning/honeymoon stages of love – it’s been going on for quite some time.  I watch her page as well, even though I’ve never met this woman, just to enjoy how much she gushes in response to his love.  It’s not fake.  It’s real-world fantasy.  HE is the real-life version of Matthew McConaughey.  So – it DOES exist.  But, it’s rare.  Probably about as rare as your boss being a high-level Soviet mole.

So, what are we to do?  Women know there are the Brads and Mr. Bigs out there.  So… we wait and hope that we land with one of the 5% of those guys, much like many men must hope they land a real-life version of a porn star.  (In the same way that 100% of on-screen heartthrobs represent about 5% of true romantics in the pool of men, 100% of women in the pornography industry represent about 5% of that female body type/figure in reality).

But, odds are that I am going to end up with a guy who, while passionate and caring, isn’t going to dedicate the entirety of his days to the sole purpose of showering me in his affection and romantic gestures.  And if I’m waiting for THAT…I fear I’ll be waiting myself right into a house full of cats with a subcription to “Spinster Life.”

But I CAN wait for the real-life version… as long as I have a healthy understanding that the real life version doesn’t have a Hollywood budget – and is subject to things like:  fatigue, cricks in the neck, bad traffic, work stress and other real-life romance-killers.  Romance isn’t about perfection – but about thoughtfulness and sacrifice.  Holding out for those is a good thing, as long as I’m not waiting for Harry’s end-of-movie-speech to Sally (though… if I found a man who talked to me that way, I’d lock that junk down, just to be clear).

I guess I’d say the trick is to be honest with ourselves about reality and fantasy.
Love – the good, big love that is actually out there – DOES have an element of fantasy in it… or it should… combined with other qualities like commitment, hard work, communication and sacrifice.
And a good story – instills hope, renews our faith in relationships, and if taken in the reasonable and realistic light of its place in life (that is – that it is JUST a story), lets us enjoy an exaggerated version of something fun – and MAYBE even spur us on to love others in our lives just a little better.  Just like watching Frodo endure to the end to destroy the ring of evil – watching Bradley Cooper or (my personal fave) Jason Bateman, give an empassioned speech of their enduring love for fill-in-the-blank-because-I’m-not-really-interested-in-the-woman-anyway – lets us crawl into the “other” (a story outside of ourselves) for an hour and 20 minutes.  And that’s not so bad – as long as we can take our minds back to reality when the credits roll.

If a woman waits around expecting George Clooney and is constantly disappointed by the Joe Smiths she goes out within real life, she’s missed the point of the story.

But, hey – more Joe Smiths for me.


Next time… finding love in the produce aisle…?

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