Dysfunctional Versus Flat-line Relationships

I’ve just completed the whirlwind first season of ‘Love’ on Netflix, written by Judd Apatow who produces ‘Girls’ with Lena Durham. love-netflix-tv-series-trailer

 

I am drawn to the modern genre of television shows that depict the full range of dysfunctional relationships experienced by ‘normal’, flawed characters that we can all identify with. Unlike reality television contestants, whose embarrassing two-dimensionalism (I realise that’s not a word, but it works so well) is so painfully exposed on shows such as ‘Married At First Sight’, where ‘real’ (?) people have their personalities assessed by relationship experts and then become pawns in their own marriage to someone they’ve never met before.

 

And how do you know this is reality tv? Because these people have about as much spark as watching Russell Brand without sound, in spite of the producers assuring us that each couple has been matched perfectly.

 

Of course characters such as crazy Mickey in ‘Love’ or Hannah Horvath in Girls are not real in the true sense of ‘real.’ They are sensationalised personalities who reflect how we’d all like to behave and talk in people-to-people situations and dysfunctional relationships if we had a sassy, clever writer behind us pulling our strings.

 

In real life, (as depicted by the *yawn couples on shows such as The Bachelor and MAFS), most people genuinely struggle to find anything clever to say in the heat of a domestic or in an emotional situation. Rules pertaining to social etiquette and being taught to be mindful of people’s feelings are inherent or have been ingrained from an early age – unlike in people on the Spectrum, for instance – and so real people are more likely to walk away from sensitive situations when they get too hard. Unlike for fictional tv characters, there are real consequences to impulsive, explosively emotional melt-downs, because in real life we don’t know how the storyline ends and most of us aren’t prepared to take that risk.

 

I like to insinuate on this blog that the old man and I share a quirky, exciting, semi- dysfunctional relationship, because that makes for more interesting writing. We still have our moments of unbridled laughter and jollity, but for much of the time our relationship is controlled by exterior influences, that may contribute to a shared strength, but can also sap at our marital energy. When the old man and I argue, nine times out of ten he will walk away rather than confront me and follow it up with the best make up sex EVER afterwards.

 

As aggravating as this is, I imagine it is the atypical reaction of many men and I assume it heralds back to the cavemen days when men had to learn to avoid physical conflict with other humans. As we’re well aware, many modern men still find it hard to control their natural urge to ‘fight’ rather than ‘flight’ when cornered.

 

In the finale of ‘Love’, Mickey – who we witness fight battles with addiction throughout the series, enabling the writer to depict her as a refreshingly and convincingly mean-mouthed, miserable cow much of the time – fesses up about her feelings for Gus in a wonderfully honest and ballsy tirade, and ultimately lands her man.

 

But her journey to that point is an insightful one where the seemingly more confident, physically more attractive and exciting half of the couple has to truly fight hard to earn the love and respect of her dorky, more ‘normal’ counterpart. Mickey is a ‘crazy’, judgmental, flawed character and too often that type of personality type is depicted on screen as dangerously attractive, rather than destructive, which it can be. Whereas Gus, the object of her infatuation, lives an unassuming, relatively mundane existence as an undiscovered script writer waiting for success, sheltered by a close band of equally bland but supportive friends.

 

For Mickey, who has barely survived a range of dysfunctional, abusive relationships, Gus’ natural wisdom, loyalty, wit and the simplicity of his recipe for happiness make him charmingly inoffensive and offers her the security she needs.

 

All relationships inevitably end up in flat-line periods at some point, when those early flames of passion die down and poking the embers back into life in the context of real life is so much more challenging. The relationships that survive – and I’m not just talking about romantic relationships – are the ones that adapt best to the intrinsic causes of flat-line periods, such as responsibility, compromise, balancing work and family, and kids.

 

For the lucky ones that survive, those pressures can strengthen a relationship, for others it can cause those initially strong mooring ropes to fray.

The Family Crazy

In my early teens, I used to lose myself in television shows like Little House On The Prairie and The Waltons. Those television shows encapsulated the idea of the utopian family for me. They represented proper families, something I aspired to have more than anything else, when I grew up.


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I craved the ‘happy ever after’ of the Disney dream.

 

It’s funny to look back on those shows now, and analyse them a little more closely. Those families went to hell and back, survived wars, disease and sickness and yet their love as a family unit, always stood firm. Those shows taught me about unconditional love – that when shit happens, close families stick together, no matter what. The Family Crazy

 

Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls in Little House On the Prairie, spoke to Oprah this week and revealed to the audience a little about what went on behind the cameras back then. Apparently, she and Nellie (played by Alison Arngrim) were best friends in real life.

 

Who knew?

 

For those of you who never watched the series, Laura Ingalls and Nellie were arch rivals.

 

When you get sucked into a show like LHOTP and live vicariously through your favourite characters, you like to believe that what happens in front of the camera happens in real life too. I liked to think that the Ingalls sisters, Mary and Laura, were best friends in real life and that all those Walton kids really sat around one big table at Thanksgiving together.

 

I liked to think that Ross and Rachel would end up married in real life, too.

 

That’s what well-written television and books can do – they help us suspend belief to such a degree that we find ourselves part of their story.

 

We’ve experienced our own Walton moments over the past few months. First, we were visited by my side of crazy, with my dad’s visit, and then this week the old man’s brother and our niece arrived in Sydney to share the crazy from the old man’s side.

 

It’s nice having grown up kids now, because we can discuss ‘family crazy’ and dysfunctionality without fear of offending anyone. We can even laugh about it these days. It’s nice being with family and not having to pretend to be a better person than I am. It’s nice being accepted for who you are and not fearing exposure or being abandoned by them if you don’t meet expectation. It’s nice having people in your life who are genuinely interested in you and your kids.

 

You can’t choose your family, so maybe I just got lucky. Unlike the Ingalls and Waltons, no family is perfect, (I now realise), but their love and support is unconditional.

 

But these visits have also made me realize how much I miss my family. I miss the ease between the old man and his brother, where they can make communication without either of them saying anything at all and where their shared laughter is intuitive. I love the sisterhood of NC and her cousin. I love the fact that Kurt has a cousin who has faced similar issues over the last few years and those dark points in their young lives have created a bond between them.

 

Most importantly, I’m so glad that absence does make the heart grow fonder and that distance is completely irrelevant when it comes to familial love.

Dysfunctional Family Holiday Alert

Did I mention that I’m slumming it on Hamilton Island for the next week?

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Don’t feel bad for me – sometimes a girl just has to suck it up and do what a girl has to do, and I’m prepared.

Apparently it’s only going to be 25 degrees, though, and unfortunately the Australian mens Olympic swimming team are there, training, at the same time as us and HAVE to practise in our pool in budgie-smugglers

The old man is already spitting because I’ve blunted his razor with the sheer volume of hair I’ve removed from my body this last week.

The Princess is spitting because the minute she spotted the suitcases, it dawned on her that she will be spending the next week in the company of DOGS!

Meanwhile, I’ve painted my nails, made several last ditched attempts to lose a few kilos in the block’s tiny gym and drunk more wine than usual to get my tolerance up for the trials of the week ahead.

Did I mention that my father, who we are sharing our holiday with, puts me in the shade when it comes to familial alcoholism?

Kurt is coping reasonably well with the impending change and has only asked me twenty-eight times in the past hour what time we are leaving in the morning. His bag has been packed for two weeks.

The old man is depressed at the thought of spending a week in the company of his father-in-law, whom Kurt takes after in a spookily clone-like way.

There will be many stories to bring back to you, upon our return – of that I have no doubt.

NC is bidding farewell to NB tonight, unconcerned that she hasn’t packed, it is the night before we leave, the state of her bedroom gives the cockroaches no challenge whatsoever whilst we are away, and her mother is an anxious mess.

I have warned the muffin top to be on best behaviour in my tankini, I have told my liver to man the fuck up and I have told the kids that if they dare eat with their mouths open in front of their grandfather I will remove them from our will.

The Princess continues to eyeball me with a distinct look of betrayal in her big brown eyes.

Holidays bring out the best in dysfunctional families. I’ll keep you posted either here – if I can manage the stretch from cocktail to keyboard – or on my Facebook page.

Louisa x

Sometimes It’s Just Too Hard To Get Off The Sofa

One of the great things about moving house and the whole tedious packing process is that as the food stores dwindle there’s a justifiable excuse to order take out.

 

Sometimes It's Just Too Hard To Get Off The Sofa
The Princess has already packed her case!

We reached the ‘what’s left in the freezer’ stage last Friday. Fine if you like frozen fruit, party pies, some manky old Spaghetti Bolognese that I thought was worthy of freezing (maybe two years ago) and puff pastry.

 

But it was Friday night.

 

So NC and I broke a new record for laziness.

Sometimes it’s just too hard to get off the sofa.

 

Dysfunctionality House is situated a max of 50m from our closest restaurant but it never feels quite close enough, (particularly on a chilly night), to brave the wild weather and collect the take out.

 

And the really annoying part is that Dysfunctionality House is just that bit TOO close to warrant a delivery.

 

And it’s uber-hard to vacate the sofa after the Friday night ritual of Kettle chips, wine and straddling the gas heater for two hours.

 

So we tried to bribe Kurt first – which normally works – with the promise of some ghastly sugar drink or a pack of Baklava, which is his latest sugar weakness. But he was too immersed in Top Gear in Vietnam to take the bait and as the old man was out pretending to be a real man with associated middle-aged boy germs in the local pub, it fell upon NC and I to hunt and gather our own food.

 

Luckily, NC inherited my intelligence (prior to having children and becoming an alcoholic) and so she came up with THE BEST PLAN.

 

She figured that if we ordered take-out from somewhere in a neighbouring suburb, we could get delivery and wouldn’t have to ease our tired asses off the sofa at all.

 

So we wasted another critical half an hour of hunger as we tried to find a restaurant online with delivery times predicted sometime before the next fucking World Cup, ever conscious of the fact that we could have picked up pizzas in five minutes flat if one of us could just be bothered to walk 50m.

 

We considered all our options with an in-depth strategy meeting.

 

At one point we even considered sending the Princess down with her backpack and then we remembered that dogs aren’t allowed inside the restaurant and as we had opted for Thai, we were worried she might not come back at all.

 

Anyway, she’d already packed her backpack for the move.

 

Eventually, and after much soul-searching, I succumbed to the hike from here to eternity while my entitled teenager kept the sofa warm and prepped our next episode of ‘Weeds’.

 

We are hoping that our new abode, Dysfunctionality ‘Box’, which is at least 25m further from our local restaurants is just far enough away to justify delivery.

 

Sometimes it’s just too hard to get off the sofa.