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Wanting What You Have

Wanting What You Have
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Photo Courtesy of A24


Something magical can happen when you see the same ol’ same ol’ with different eyes. And so goes the theme of the movie “The Lovers.”

Long-married Southern Californians, “Mary” (Debra Winger) and “Michael” (Tracy Letts), lost interest in one another, well, who remembers when? The husband and wife barely regard each other and have already moved on both emotionally and physically.

Although they still reside together, each has taken younger as well as needy/demanding lovers; writer “Robert” (Aidan Gillen), and dancer “Lucy” (Melora Walters), each want their married paramours to leave their spouses. The wedded couple is down with that plan and promises to do so as soon as their adult son “Joel” (Tyler Ross) visits; this way they can finalize the decision as a family.

One morning though, after having gone to sleep the night before in their customary way of sharing a bed like prize fighters in their neutral corners, Mary and Michael wake up in an embrace. They kiss, then make love, which leads to an affair—with each other.

Was this just a last hoorah before dissolving their union or will they leave their adulterous relationships and recommit to their marriage? I’ll let you find out for yourself.

This story got me thinking about more than whether a stale romance can be rekindled. It made me wonder about all the things that get taken for granted; things that were once desired, sought after, and valued when first won.

How much money is wasted on new clothing, furniture, or appliances, when the only thing wrong with what we already own is that it’s been around awhile.

I once had a very cool, black, duster-style coat, upon which I was always complimented. After a couple of years, I decided to pack it in for a newer model, but couldn’t find anything superior to it. One day I was standing by Lincoln Center waiting for the light to change. A woman was walking in my direction wearing the most beautiful coat. That was it. That was what I wanted. As I worked up my nerve to approach her and ask where it had been purchased, she got close enough for me to see it was the exact coat I was wearing. And yes, I kept what I had.

I learned a valuable life lesson that day, which helps every fashion season when the “must-haves” are announced by the glossies. I pick out all the things I “need,” then check my closet. Often I don’t have to buy anything; I may not have the exact color or style advertised, but some variation.

This experience has played itself out at jobs as well. I’ve been freelance for two decades, but before that I was on staff for about 15 years. I don’t think I—or quite frankly, anyone I worked with—ever appreciated our jobs, until, of course, we thought we might lose them. There are the obvious ways that things can turn around, like a new account, boss or co-worker. But what often gave me temporary relief from grousing, was when a freelancer would come in for a couple of weeks and share horror stories about how hard it was to find work and how lucky we were to have steady gigs.

More to the point of the movie, even though our relationships may not be quite as contentious, how often do we overlook the familiar faces we know and love, not even noticing the obvious like a haircut or new glasses?

In June, my 19-year-old daughter, Meg, is going on vacation with a friend. After her plans were made, she announced to my husband Neil and me: “Maybe being without me for a week, you’ll learn to appreciate me.”

I’ve already started to.

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