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Stephanie Gertler Headshot

Taking Chances at Forever

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I am, in fact, not only a devotee of perspective, but often a slave as I forcibly make myself evaluate and reevaluate. This is something I learned early on. It was ingrained in me by my mother who was often the devil's advocate. In my youth, I perceived this characteristic in her as being the embodiment of the devil, yet she taught me the importance of objectivity -- especially when it came to relationships. She taught me how imperative it is to look at both sides. Despite her precepts, I am still prone to emotionalism and unabashed romantic notions which often scuttle rationale and objectivity. Truly, the word "prone" might be an understatement -- objectively speaking, of course. And just as my mother bedeviled me at times, I know that I bedevil my daughter, Ellie -- but what I've learned as Ellie has grown up is that she understands that my words, as those of my mother, come with the best of intentions. And that what we choose not to share are omitted only because certain things have to be learned on our own.

My daughter is in love. I'm sure there were times before that she felt she was in love, and never told me. Perhaps this one is revealed since it's the real thing. And as I watch her fall into the depths of her heart and explore "his," my own heart aches nearly as much as it rejoices. As I tell my girlfriends who nod their heads in sentiment and sympathy at once -- the good news is that Ellie's in love and has a boyfriend and, although it is probably all too wry and realistic, in some ways that's the bad news as well. Well, okay, not bad news but love can hurt.

If I had a reliable crystal ball that could predict how the relationship would play over the ensuing weeks, months, years and even a lifetime, I wouldn't use it. And, the truth is, I don't need a crystal ball since I know that love can be quite the roller coaster ride of laughter and tears, joy and anger, contentment and frustration. As Ellie laughs and cries (sometimes with equal intensity but not equal frequency), I try to be the objective observer. There are nights she calls with a palpable glow that only a young woman in love can let shine...and then there have been a few calls when either anger or disappointment threw her an unanticipated curve. She's learning that it's all part of the carnival. Predictions from a crystal ball or a soothsayer might make us retreat from love.

Just yesterday, someone asked if I feel that I've have changed since I was eighteen. I thought about it for only a moment. It was in a mere synapse that I remembered the yearbook photo when I was a senior in high school and had my own page where it said I loved beaches and sandals and dangling it said that I was "lost without" someone to worry about and that "twenty years hence" I would be "on the road" with my "probable companion" Jack Kerouac. And although I was ensconced in the suburbs for 20 years before our move back to New York City, and my husband can in no way be compared to Kerouac, the fundamental essence of me hasn't changed -- so my answer was a sot "no." The eighteen-year-old feelings remain although they have tempered and calmed with age. I know, given what the last fifty years have brought me, that if I am fortunate there is still more to come. I know where the old stones lie in the road, but I don't know where the new ones will kick up, and where and when they'll trip me.

One can look at love in two ways: I still choose anticipation over panic.

My daughter wrestles with an ageless notion and expectation of romance that is similar to mine despite the myriad books she and I read for feminist theory classes. The bottom line is that love comes fast and furious when we're young, and slower and more deliberately as we get older. But we grown women are still reduced to being nothing more than girls with hearts as fragile as porcelain, and minds that don't always think with clarity. There is, I believe, a beauty in all this if we're tough enough to withstand it: We who believe in love forever and embrace eternity remain not jaded. Of course, the flip side to this is that no matter how old we are, we can be raw and vulnerable -- experience and wisdom notwithstanding.

I think the best line that ever summarized romantic love was in the movie Moonstruck. Loretta (Cher) tells her mother (Olympia Dukakis) that she has met someone.

"Do you love him, Loretta?" the mother asks.

"I love him something awful," Loretta answers.

"That's too bad," the mother says.

Those three lines say it all: when we love them, they can break our hearts. But if we're too scared to love them, if we don't put our hearts out there, we risk missing out on the best part of the ride as the roller coaster careens through the night.

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