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November 2, 1998 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Last week, Breakup Girl happened to talk to an adorable 15-year-old named Emily in Charleston who wanted to go as Rose from Titanic for Halloween. Partly because she would get to wear a most excellent dress (and also spit); partly because, in her words, "I am completely in love with Jack Dawson."

Teens swooning over Titanic? Slow news day, Breakup Girl?

Stay with me. Actually, most teens have already weighed anchor and docked their obsession elsewhere: that is, over at Dawson's (coincidence, or conspiracy?) Creek. Hooo boy, do they love that Pacey (not to mention, in general, the theme of overdressed people in boats). Anyway, Emily knows she's behind the tide: "I still watch my video once or twice a week," she said. "But I realize I've gotten to the point where I have to stop talking about it."

Fortunately, she went on. What does she love about Jack? "He's so free-spirited and self-confident," she says, reciting entire movie scenes, line by line, to support her point. "He'd break the rules and do anything for Rose. And he looks really good in a tux."

Is Emily going to date Jack Dawson? No. With him as her ideal, is she now locked in to holding out for someone who will run into a sinking ship/burning building/dinner with her parents to save her? Well, that would be nice. But is all of this teen obsession -- which, you all, is different from grownup obsession ONLY in that adults are less likely to use scotch tape on their walls -- silly, pointless, or worse, false-hope-building? Is this all foamy Calgon that will take you nowhere? Not necessarily.

Because: do Emily's voyages of fancy help shape her sense of what she wants from love, life, and her neighbors' candy, back on land? Yes. Welcome to this week's theme:

We all have our "ideal" partners: David Duchovny, Lara Flynn Boyle, Lara Croft, The President of the United States of America, Breakup Girl, our first love, the one that got away. And we all have ... our real lives. Clinging to a larger-than-life fantasy can loosen our grasp on -- and appreciation of -- what we do or could have, or keep us from having it in the first place. And, when the ideal meets real, the practically inevitable result: crushing letdown.

All true, yes. But Breakup Girl is not going to give you guys some boring finger-wagging Get Real speech. Because BG thinks that overly cautious hardcore get-realism throws out the babe with the bathwater. And she does want you to expect and deserve to be with someone freaking fantastic.

So instead, consider this Important Breakup Girl Maxim: FANTASIES ARE DATA.

So whether your idealized lover is someone you've glimpsed, met, dated, or downloaded, ask yourself these questions:

Who's there? What is it about this person, really, that fascinates you? Think about it, really. Ask them to kindly step down from the pedestal so you can see what writ-large characteristics you'd actually ike to have on your level. We are talking actual human traits. Not, like, just "Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute!!!!" or "I just really admire the way nothing comes between her and her Calvins." Emily, for example, was specific. So specific I didn't even have room for it all. Words like "free spirited," "confident," "devoted." (Yes, "tuxedo," too, but that was last.) Look at what you're drawn to, for better or for worse, and think about why. Disassemble your ideal; keep the pieces you can really use. This is real information, you guys -- about what you truly love, about what you might feel you lack. Which brings us to:

What's missing? Anyone see Cupid week before last? (Just for the record, lest you now think that she sits around watching TV instead of flying to your aid, BG has seen Dawson's Creek and Titanic each only once.) (Okay, while i'm at it, if you're not watching that genius show Sports Night, you're missing something major.) ANYWAY, Cupid. In addition to a subplot about first loves, the show was about a woman -- a transplant to Chicago from the ranches and canyons of the West -- who had developed quite a "relationship" with the rugged Marlboro-type man on the billboard outside her office window. Cupid, doing his job, set her up with the actual model. Everything went swimmingly until she discovered that he wasn't like her (or his larger-than-life image) campingly, ridingly, hikingly, mountainbikingly, etc. Crushing blow? Only slightly. Important information? Yes. This dalliance not only helped her realize just how truly important it was to her to pitch her tent with someone who ... can pitch a tent; it also showed her that she was fundamentally unhappy in the city and really just needed to get the hell outta Dodge -- with or without a cowboy to take her away. Aha. To switch abruptly over to hockey imagery: focus on the empty space around the goalie. What does this person's commanding presence -- or absence -- distract you from? When the spotlight's on them and their pedestal, what's going on in the dark? Shine your flashlight into those corners and see what you see.

All of this is news you can use as you figure out what ties to cut, what standards to set, where to wade in search of new love. So invite your daydreams into your waking life, you guys, and see what insights step in with them. Like these:



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