The Rom Com Reality: Revisited and Revised Through Seasoned 20-Something Eyes

I found kickboxing in college. I fell in love. Not only was it an incredible workout that toned my muscles, improved my balance, and generally enhanced my cardiovascular health, but it also proved to be a valuable personal outlet. There was something meditative and mesmerizing about it. Unlike in my various life endeavors, in kickboxing, during that sweat-filled hour, I followed the cardinal rule — I never let my guard down. And with my guard up, I would work out any pent up frustrations or aggression. Though I have a proclivity in my real life to be rather passive, while kickboxing, my mind and body worked together to promote confidence, how to assert myself, and how to address looming situations outside of that rhythmic hour. In summary, I used kickboxing to work through all of my typical 20-something issues that often, though not always, were rooted in the actions, or lack there of, of some boy.

I remember reaching near Nirvana during a kickboxing class one night while in the midst of a rapid jab, cross, hook, uppercut punching combination. My eyes were fixed on my face in the mirror, everything else around me faded away, and I aimed with force and precision — nose, nose, cheek, chin, nose, nose, cheek, chin. That night, it was the boy for whom I spent the majority of a day slow-cooking a delicious stew and chilling local microbrews for our planned dinner date who drove the strength of my throws. By the way, I never heard from him that night until after 11 o’clock when he insouciantly suggested a movie. He received no stew and no microbrew. I saved the roundhouse kicks for the abhorrent man who would harass me at work and concurrently inveigle me into believing that there was nothing I could do about it. It was during those roundhouse kicks that the seeds of courage were planted in my being that would ultimately lead to another classic 20-something event — the late night dance party with two fantastically gay men and a box of wine, celebrating freedom gained through the leveraging of one’s own voice.

When I first described the Rom Com Reality in the blog I was writing for my university at the time, it is true that my kickboxing targets were often the faces of douche bag boys, whether of my own life or that of my close friends. I was 21 years old when I first explored the Rom Com Reality, and now, three years later, I believe I have a more seasoned view of what it actually means. Part of this seasoned view involves knowledge gained from past events that will hopefully prevent them from becoming life sinkholes. For example, knowing that the value given to another in a relationship should be equal to the value received. Also, having a solid understanding of the role of a Human Resources department. It involves a timely phrase written by my dear friend, Michelle, on an art project I was creating on the outside of my refrigerator at the time, “Sometimes the only winning move is not to play.” And, equally important, it involves surrender, release, and forgiveness for the aching moments that brought me some of these invaluable lessons.

I became starkly aware of my more veteran views on the 20-something experience while, in fact, kickboxing. I used to utilize concrete images as targets, images that formed out of strained relationships with other people. Three years later, when I’m throwing punches and pushing forth sidekicks, my target images are something a bit less defined, more metaphorical. Today, as a lady well-waded into the 20-something enigma, I don’t visualize repugnant men I have crossed, but rather social ills — homelessness, discrimination, rape, pollution, hate crimes, child abuse, things that are bigger than me and my foolish grasp on trivial individuals; that is what I picture.

When I realized the true extent of my own Rom Com Reality’s maturation, I decided that it was time to brush off my old post and give it a revamp. I also wanted to make sure that this subject matter was described in full on Rough Outlines because it will be an important concept to be able to link back to for further understanding of future events and how, really, they all connect back to a Rom Com. Therefore, parts of this post will be of the original text, and others will be reworked to better enlighten my readers on what may be their own slow motion Rom Com.

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My family is prone to philosophical discussion, repetitive humor, and general absurdity. Through these characteristics quite often spring what I believe are some of the most profound nuggets of wisdom for which this world could ever ask. Somewhere amidst the absurdity lies a striking truth. Often, the humor that leads to these discoveries comes at the expense of yours truly. As a 20-something female, my life apparently holds a beautiful mix of hilarity, angst, and textbook experience to lend itself as the perfect case study for some of my family’s greatest revelations — one of which is the Rom Com Reality.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, Rom Com is the hipster way of referring to a film in the genre of Romantic Comedy. So, what does a Romantic Comedy have to do with my life? Well, after a detailed analysis of the data, absolutely everything.

Rom Coms run between roughly an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and forty-five minutes. They are short, quickly hitting on several life themes experienced by all and hence, tugging on the heartstrings of viewers throughout the world. The star of the Rom Com usually falls within the 26 to 30 age range, as the years before that can be briefly summarized through quick flashbacks and asides. However, when you happen to be living a Rom Com, the film lasts for ten years. As my dad put it to me once while we were exploring the foundations of this new reality, “Your Rom Com is happening in slow motion.”

Here is what we mean: From the age of 20 to the age of 30, I will have The-Holidaymany experiences. More times than not, I will probably
let one of these experiences consume my mind, believing that it is the only important thing, that it is my reality. However, soon enough, I will find myself consumed in yet another thing, and the cycle goes on until the day it all comes together (at which point it starts all over again in a slightly revised way, but we’ll ignore this fact for now). At the point it all comes together, there will be the great moment of “zzzt, zzzzt” — a metaphorical sound of electric current when the great realization is met. An example of this moment of “zzzt” is put very well in the Rom Com, The Holiday. A woman and a man are both in a store looking for pajamas. The man holds up a pajama set and says to the sales associate, “I’m only looking for the bottoms.” The woman holds up the same set of pajamas, looks at the sales associate, and says, “I’m only looking for a top.” At that moment, they turn and look into each other’s eyes and then — zzzzzt!

Zzzzzts aside for a moment, what does any of this have to do with my Rom Com happening in slow motion?

Example one — relationships. I am currently in the stage of life where one dates and gets to know that whole world of relationships. In college, I would often come home to my family with the latest story of the latest date and, often, a companion story of why it was all wrong. Occasionally, I would get wrapped up in someone for an extended period of time and let my mind dwell on all of those things you dwell upon when in a relationship. When it would fall apart, I would learn a few things, create some good art, get a few jokes out of it, and go have a great time with my friends. This was my jejune description of this stage of life when I wrote about it at 21, and although the fundamentals are still there, I now have a broadened set of experiences that cannot be ignored. For it is not just about the short-term relational satires, but also of the deeply meaningful connections that for an inscrutable array of reasons simply cannot, in this current place, be. It is the tenderness of seeing how a feeling can be carried over space and time through just a few words scrawled on handmade treasures. It is the recognition that in some circumstances, you are not pushing someone away, but rather life is pulling you. It is not just the dinner dates, but also the eras of burning passion, no matter their length, that visit to reignite some flame within you that you had forgotten was there, that you had forgotten was so critically important to your sense of self. This cycle of relational creation and destruction cannot be so flippantly disregarded. For with it holds rare flashes of immaculate honesty. It is an honesty so pure and unfettered so as to provide you with an elusive opportunity to absorb some valuable self-awareness, some malleable reflection on life.

In a Rom Com, this cycle of relationships, both playful and momentous, continues until the above-alluded theoretical moment of “zzzzt” occurs. And this “zzzt” not only waits for the right person, but also the right circumstance. However, knowing of the existence of the future “zzzzt” does not always help when you are knees deep in a slow motion Rom Com. It is easy to find yourself running your mind into knots. In a Rom Com, this phase often happens in a five or so minute montage. Steve was great, until it turned out he had some weird foot fetish. Gary was super, until she noticed his intense road rage. Tom was a winner, until she realized he was still hung up on his ex-girlfriend. Billy was the one, but she knew at that moment she wanted to put her career first. The Rom Com makes it all appear so humorous, ignoring the fact that when it is slowly happening in real life, it is far less pleasant. The female character continues through this montage until she finally surrenders (key word) that she’ll never meet “the one” and then — zzzzzt, zzzt.

Zzzzzts aside for a moment, what does any of this have to do with my Rom Com happening in slow motion?

Example two — career path. When I originally discussed the career path portion of the Rom Com Reality at 21 years, I focused on my laborious efforts to send off applications for competitive summer internships, while networking with professionals in the field and preparing myself for both devastation and immense excitement. The questions going through my head at the time were: What do I want to do with my life? What about just after I graduate? Do I stay goal-focused and build my résumé, or give in to the youthful pull to travel the world as a bum for a while?

Although I still currently have some similar questions (I mean, really, what am I going to do with my life?), I have made good progress. Most importantly, this past year has taught me a nice deal on what I don’t want to do with my life. A year ago, I entered the work force in the most Rom Com way possible. With a bleeding heart for community change, I packed up my Chevy and moved across the country to the nation’s capital. I began a job with a grassroots nonprofit fighting poverty. By the end of the first day, I felt woozy. By the end of the second day, I was miserable. I mean, miserable. It has been quite humorous for me to read back through some pieces I wrote during that time. My little recent college grad Rom Com heart was crushed. But then, also in true Rom Com fashion, I started going out more. I went to some key happy hours and met some great people to whom I could vent my frustrations. And, eventually, I started a new job with a great company doing the exact work I had studied in school. Life was good again, but the Rom Com components were not done. The inkling to grow my creative side kicked in, as well as the one to travel. Grad school started creeping closer into the foreground of my mind. And now here I am, very lucky to have a job that has allowed me to take some time to travel and that has greatly shaped ideas for my future, but there is always that flighty feet feeling of, “What should I being doing next?” It appears that it never ends.

The answer to, “What am I going to do with my life?” in a Rom Com comes by the end of an hour and a half. In real life (the slow motion version of the Rom Com), it might come through years of questioning and trying different jobs and advancing your education and breaking down and deciding to just travel and so on. In reality, it’s easy to miss that moment of “zzzt” in your career path. You go through the steps, you ask the questions, and then someday, I suppose, you wake up and realize that you’re doing just what you’re supposed to be doing (I hope so, at least; I think it is working out this way thus far). The moment when this “zzzt” actually manifests is difficult to pinpoint, as it comes more from an amalgamation of life experiences rather than a straightforward “I do x, y, and z and now I have it figured out and done” path.

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Ok, so there it is. There is the foundation of the Rom Com Reality and a few examples of it in the wild. Basically, it is an acceptance of the fact that 90 minute Hollywood movies starring Reese Witherspoon and Patrick Dempsey actually hold some value in their uncanny parallels to how the whole life thing really plays out — a series of humorously and painfully haphazard (and not haphazard) events that conclude in moments of great realization. The only reason Rom Coms get a bad rap is because they unrealistically fit their realism into an hour and a half; no one wants to watch a ten year long movie.

When I introduced the Rom Com Reality back at 21, I concluded my post by tying it back to my life as a university student. I decided to not let myself get too entangled in the trials and tribulations of the Rom Com Reality, both relationship and career wise, because I knew that it was just a part of my montage to learn what does and does not work. I was going to embrace its humor and try not to scrutinize its every detail. Each possibility on the wide spectrum of potential outcomes and events for my twenties was acceptable, as each would only be a piece of my slow motion journey to the Promised Land. I also remarked on how people get wrapped up in the drama of the moment without being able to see that it is just a moment, just a two-minute blurb in a ten-year Rom Com. And my last statement of the original Rom Com Reality post declared, “I hereby surrender myself to spring term. I shall embrace its every turn, every bump and know that I am just living out my Rom Com and all will be well.”

So, as I officially enter the mid-twenties, what do I have to say about the Rom Com Reality now? What have these seasoned eyes bestowed upon me? It has been lusty. It has been arduous. It has been gentle. It has been coarse. It has been one hell of a ride, baby. And I can’t wait to see what’s next. As noted by my new practice of conscious kickboxing, I believe I have officially exited the heightened treachery of the early twenties, and have moved into quite a groovy place of understanding and sophistication with my Rom Com. And with that, I raise up my seasoned 20-something martini to you, my friend, for a toast — let’s live this thing up, baby, because it’s all good.


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