no one ever called me darling before

September 24, 2015

Now, Voyager is a film I've revisited so many times over the last decade that I could probably shut my eyes and see the film flicker across my closed eyelids, frame for frame. It's a movie that I come back to time and time again when I'm feeling a certain sadness about life and loneliness because, like Charlotte Vale, no one ever called me darling before.

When I was 22 the film gave me a sense of hope. I, too, could blossom into a new woman and go out into the world and find a Paul Henreid to buy me perfume and camellias. Now I'm getting closer to 30. I'm having a very difficult time with it, to be honest. Even typing the words "I'm getting closer to 30" is rough. I may not have bushy eyebrows and an overbearing mother but I'm seeing more and more of myself in the Aunt Charlotte who needed to lose 20 pounds of weight and 100 pounds of anxiety. I'm not sure what it is about my impending milestone that feels like a deadline to me, but there it is -- after the big 3-0 it's spinsterhood or bust.

I have a tendency to write more about my relationship to movies than the movies themselves, but movies have that effect on me. It's hard to separate my thoughts about Now, Voyager from the feelings the movie arouses in me. Almost every movie that I love has some emotional tug on me, whether it's tied to the experience of seeing the film (who I saw it with, what was happening in my life the first time I watched it) or to the content and how it speaks to me personally. Quite frankly even Sunday in New York originally sparked my interest because it was about a girl who had been a virgin a little longer than everyone else. It's since become my favorite movie for other reasons but that initial kinship that I felt with Jane Fonda's character will always be present when I re-watch it.

And so it is with Now, Voyager. The feelings I had as a 16 year old, as a 20 year old, as a 25 year old watching this movie resurface whenever I hear the familiar strains of Max Steiner's score. I can remember feeling hopeful, and then I can remember when that hope started to fade. I've always been kind of cynical about love, but movies that once left me smiling stupidly as the credits rolled by now leave me feeling world-weary and selfish. The last time I watched Now, Voyager I snarkily wondered "Why can't *I* have that?," slightly jealous that Charlotte broke out of her silver cocoon while I was still trapped in mine.

But then I wonder, why is it that this one single element of movies is the one thing I deserve in my life (and everyone else deserves, too.) I don't expect to have Brigitte Bardot's hair or Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe. I accept those things as unattainable and enjoy their films anyway. I'd love to work on the set of a tv show like TGS on 30 Rock, but I know that it's not realistic for me. Even when people in movies travel or have picnics in the park I think "well doesn't that seem nice" but I don't resent the characters for doing something I'm not. So why is it that the absence of love in my life makes it difficult for me to tolerate love in movies?

Honestly all of these thoughts were swirling through my mind before the credits even started on Now, Voyager earlier tonight. I've been feeling very blue about my upcoming birthday (I'm actually turning 29, I'm just obsessed with 30 lurking on the horizon) and words like "death, alone, mortality" have been dominating my thoughts. Perfect time to watch Now, Voyager, I figured. Either it would restore my faith in love or I could commiserate with pre-makeover Bette Davis. Win/Win.

So do I have hope now that someday things will magically change and all of my worrying during my 20's that I'd end up alone would be for naught? No. At this point I've pretty much abandoned any dreams I might have had that I'll find someone. I'm not even kidding, I can't even fathom a future in which I'm not on my own. I can't imagine someone telling me they love me.

However, I also saw in Charlotte an independent woman who decided to live her life to the fullest even if she couldn't have Jerry. She threw herself into working on the new addition to the sanitarium and hosted parties at her house. Even before she went back to Cascade and discovered Tina was there, she had broken off her engagement and was more than prepared to lead a fulfilling life alone.

Movies speak to us when we need to hear them. They tell us things that resonate based on where we are in our lives, and they comfort us when we need comforting. Now, Voyager has been there for me since I was 15 years old, lying in bed trying not to cry because I was about to turn 16 the next day and I still hadn't been kissed. It was there when I was 23, feeling alone and in desperate need of some hope. When I was 26 and starting to lose faith that love would find me, I felt a kindred spirit in Spinster Aunt Charlotte. And now, at *GULP* almost 30, I found comfort in Charlotte's warm embrace of solitude.

I'm still going to have days where I'm blue about life and love -- it's pretty much inescapable. And I'm sure I'll still turn to Now, Voyager to help me through it. No one has ever called me darling before, but movies have provided me so much love and understanding over the years that they're basically my boyfriend.

Don't let's ask for love, Jerry. We have the movies.


Andi B. Goode said...

I don't have anything articulate to say but I LOVED this post. I relate to it on a very deep level. This?: 'I can't even fathom a future in which I'm not on my own. I can't imagine someone telling me they love me.' That's exactly how I feel, too.

I also find that I tend to write more about how films affect me emotionally than the film itself. It's the only way I seem to really be able to process them.

Anyway, thank-you for writing this. There's always a comfort when someone writes something and you just think 'wow, did they just take this from my brain???' (Although I've not seen Now, Voyager, yet).

-Andi x

Kristin said...

I understand what you mean, and thank you for opening up and writing about something that rarely seems to be mentioned in the blog world!

As cheesy as it might sound, the one thing I've always wanted is to be a wife and mom. And I always just assumed that I would probably be married by the time I was 25. Well, I'll be 25 next April, and I've never even dated before. When I think about it too much, I start to feel panicked that this self-imposed deadline is getting ready to pass and nothing has changed. I feel like I've spent the past 10 years dreaming about meeting the right guy, and I don't think I'm any closer to that now than I was then.

I don't have any answers, and I feel like this comment doesn't really express what I want to say. Just know that you're not alone in feeling this way.

DKoren said...

This. Yes.

I can relate to this so much, particularly as I'm still single, and I'm waaaaay older and approaching another major age milestone. The one thing I've always envied about movies is the relationships. I've been blessed with the most amazing movie-worthy friendships, but not a romantic relationship. I realize the older I get that I'm okay with that and where I am and how I live my life. However, the envy never quite goes away...

Love this:

Movies speak to us when we need to hear them. They tell us things that resonate based on where we are in our lives, and they comfort us when we need comforting.

Simoa said...

Wow...slow claps. I've been thinking about this movie and the sentiments behind this post recently. As I near a milestone (25...), I've nearly resigned myself to the lack of romance in my life forever. Like you, it's something I'm ok with but that I usually bemoan from time to time. There is a rush in society, some invisible timeline that makes us feel like we need to have a first kiss and a million other firsts at some allotted time. I once read a story about two people who got married in their 80s! But I'm still ok if that doesn't happen for me. Great post!

Sabrina said...

Great post! I know the feeling of seeing a character in a movie mirror yourself a little too closely, or to feel that with just a slight adjustment it could be me.

As long as you are happy, that is worth so much as it is. Our society places a lot of emphasis on relationships being the ultimate way to happiness, but self-worth and confidence can equal that. Loneliness is loneliness, definitely, but never forget that your own self-worth is always worth more than another person's opinion.

Also, don't feel that these things are unattainable; just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it doesn't exist for you! Try new things, meet new people, and be honest with yourself about what you want out of life. True friendships usually appear when you least expect it. :)