A me seh one thing Nancy cyaan understan
It’s weird to really like and enjoy a movie but associate negative connotations to it. For me that movie is The Royal Tenenbaums. I love pretty much everything about it — except how it makes me feel.
It was Spring Break of 2002. Spring break was already meaningless for me as I had entered the job market, but my then-sorta fiancee (long story) Nancy was a teacher so it was Spring Break for her. Over the first weekend of her break we went up to the mountains and did some snowboarding. We were planning on heading up again the next weekend as the conditions were great. During the week, I had to work and she was going to goof off.
On Monday Nancy and her friend went and saw The Royal Tenenbaums with her friend Betsy. We were both huge fans of Rushmore so I was bummed that I didn’t go but figured I’d catch it later. Nancy raved about Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance as Margot and strongly identified with her character. At first the identification was just physical. “She wore her hair at the same length as me with a barrette.” “Her wardrobe looked like it was pulled from my closet.” “We have the same mannerisms”. In hindsight, those things are all true. Her identification went beyond the physical, however. I just didn’t know it at that time.
The next day I was sitting at work prepping for an afternoon meeting. The meeting got rescheduled. I had a bunch of stuff that I could have done that afternoon but I figured that it was a “stolen” afternoon and I’d check in and see what Nancy was up to. “Ummmmm, I’m going to see Royal Tenenbaums again,” she stammered after I explained my free afternoon.
“Oh cool! I’ll come and meet you guys. You going with Betsy again?”
“Ummmm yeah, we don’t know which showing we are going to.”
“Great, let me know. I’ll probably be home in about an hour.”
I happily hurried home but Nancy wasn’t there. I gave her cell phone a call and she let me know that she was at Betsy’s. She said that they were going to a late afternoon showing and thought it would be too late for me because I had to prep for work stuff for the next day. I told her that I was in good shape so we could go to dinner after the movie or whatever seemed fun. She started getting snippy and exasperated, which I didn’t really get. Finally she snapped, “Fine, you can go. Meet you at the theater. Mike (another Mike) will be there too.” That didn’t strike me as strange. We hung out with Mike in the past and he was good friends with Betsy.
So I drove down to the theater. The three of them were in the parking lot taking in an herbal refreshment/enjoyment enhancer prior to the show. Nancy did not look happy as I said hi to Betsy and Mike. I remember trying to grab her hand to walk in and she denied it. I also remember that I sat next to Betsy during the showing, which I chalked up to Nancy being annoyed for some reason. I really enjoyed the movie. We had a few beers afterward and discussed the movie. Nancy’s mood seemed to improve after the show.
A couple of weeks later and things aren’t going so well for Nancy and I. We seem distant. I’m buried with work one night and Nancy chooses to go see a concert. It’s late and she’s not answering her cell. I get a hold of Betsy who says that she hasn’t seen her in hours. Nancy comes in at 4 and says that she’s been out with Mike and that they left the show to go have some drinks. She keeps referring to him by his nickname, though, which is weird.
By this time my hackles were raised. I went into investigative mode and found a note from Mike to Nancy. I also found an email trail where Nancy and Betsy were discussing how annoying it was that I went to the movie and thanking Betsy for going again so it didn’t look like it was just Nancy and Mike. So, the cat was basically out of the bag. The uncoupling took some time to happen but it was fait accompli at that juncture.
Time heals wounds and enough of it has passed where I’ve made peace with things — with one exception. In the email trail, Betsy and Nancy were speaking about how Nancy and Margot Tenenbaum were so alike. Not the physical aspects (as discussed above), though. It was about how Nancy/Margot were stuck in a relationship that they hated and yearned to be with someone else. That makes me Bill Murray as Raleigh St. Clair and the other Mike as the Luke Wilson character, Richie Tenenbaum (or the Owen Wilson character, Eli Cash). Here’s a Raleigh St. Clair quote from the film:
Raleigh: You’ve made a cuckold of me.
Margot: I know.
Raleigh: Many times over.
Margot: I’m sorry.
Raleigh: And you nearly killed your poor brother.
Ethel: What’s he talking about?
Margot: It doesn’t matter.
Raleigh: She’s balling Eli Cash.
They were reveling the cuckolding (which is technically not an accurate usage as we were not married). They were reveling at pigeonholing me as Raleigh St. Clair, doomed to a life studying young Dudley Heinsbergen.
That’s where the issue is for me. They don’t get to determine that I will forever be Raleigh St. Clair just because Nancy identified with Margot. First off, her self-congratulatory comparison to Margot speaks volumes of who exactly she is. A privileged, disaffected person that has little compassion for the people that she affects with her decisions and actions. Second, just because she cheated on me, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be happy or I can’t identify with someone else in that movie (or some other movie). Maybe I’m Danny Glover’s character Henry Sherman who ends up happy and with the right person in the end? Because that’s exactly how it turned out.
One more quote from the movie:
Royal Tenenbaum: Henry Sherman, do you know him?
Richie Tenenbaum: Yeah.
Royal Tenenbaum: Is he worth a damn?
Richie Tenenbaum: [emphatically] I believe so.