In my limited experience with romance, I can’t for the life of me come up with what one might call an “old script for love.” I admit to writing poetry for the purposes of wooing pretty girls. It hasn’t always worked as a tactic, but when it did, it really did. I’ve bought flowers, I’ve held open doors; I’ve paid for meals. At my best, I was patient, charismatic, and given to fits of rapture. I was the best human being I could possibly be. I was, for lack of a better term, happy.
At my worst, I was selfish, paranoid and jealous. I committed acts for which I am ashamed. I’ve walked away from women I loved, shoving my hands into my pockets and shrugging towards a rainy self-exile, my head aching with utter confusion and frustration. I’ve been a cliché. A bad one.
Such a thing as a script for love would suggest that there once might have been something like a guideline to help us hapless humans navigate our bodies and emotions towards grace and beauty. “New scripts” means new forms, new languages, new practices; tools we may employ to do what we’re all good at anyway: getting ourselves into a big heap of trouble. Also, this continues to prove that besides acting out our primal desires, we don’t know what the hell to do with one another. Let alone ourselves.
At Thursday’s main stage event, “New Scripts For Love,” four authors reminded us of that very truth. Diverse in gender, age, ethnic background, and sexual orientation, each speaker had something different to offer in a series of very human (or human-like) interactions as they fumbled towards intimacy.
Missy Marston’s off-world character in The Love Monster, The Leader, saw an otherness in humanity’s capacity for art and beauty, appreciating its ability to fend off suffering, even considering it to be a magical power. Like the Leader, perhaps we are all born with a “kernel of sadness” that we must cope with, to somehow make use of loneliness, lest we all crumple into ourselves. It certainly makes for good writing, and of course good writers, who continue to encourage us to endure life’s difficulties with a sense of purpose, and that we’re not alone in the universe.
Daniel Allen Cox followed with a soft spoken, yet raunchy detailing of an intimate same-sex interaction, which proves that you should watch out for the quiet ones. In Basement of Wolves, the term “new script” may be applied to homosexual intimacy, as certain body parts are described as being portals to intimacy that other men might never experience. Though homosexuality is not a new concept, modern cultures are progressing towards its acceptance, which certainly allows for new voices, and thus, new scripts to emerge.
Also is the case when considering online interactions, where new tools such as instant messaging and video chats are widely used to break the rule of absence making the heart grow fonder. Cox goes on to explore these interactions as well, questioning the validity of using emoticons and annotations in intimate chats, where single letters replace whole words. Cox’s character concedes to his online counterpart after his offer to talk over the phone is rejected, saying, “That’s just how things are done these days.”
Next was the delightful Anakena Schofield, who explained the difference between “bad” sex and “reasonable” sex, failing to mention a superlative on the positive end. In Malarky, her female lead resolves to stay afloat despite her troubles, pursuing a tryst-encounter with a less than ideal partner. In her enchanting Irish brogue, Schofield narrates the male character’s utter failure as a lover, reminding me ever so clearly of the maxim, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” But so long as one’s around, Schofield endears the reader to her so terribly flawed characters with indelible Irish humour. Later that evening at the pub, I simply had to raise a pint on behalf of my gender, knowing that if our partners would be anything like Anakena Schofield, we’d better just keep our mouths shut and do what we’re told.
An interesting juxtaposition to Schofield’s bumbling brute, Dave Williamson spun a anectode of middle-aged romance from his book, Dating. Here, despite reasonable anxiety over some blossoming bedroom debauchery, Williamson is much more elegant in his delivery as a lover and as a man. Where one fellow might be overwhelmed by their shortcomings or their complete lack of awareness, Williamson’s character operated, at least empirically, with dignity intact. The humour sprang from the tension and vulnerability in the situation, where a sudden wrong move could easily sour the mood. Thankfully, Williamson resurrected some faith in manhood as his character navigated his way to the bedroom by keeping his head, which was all that was necessary in the first place: to realize that things weren’t as bad as they seemed. For this fact, Williamson was my hero of the evening. And to a lesser degree, for being awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. That’s pretty neat, too.
So if there’s anything that I learned about new and old scripts of love, it’s to throw them out. Never mind guidelines, because we are all built with the right components to put us in, and get us through the most uncomfortable of situations. Though we have a great capacity for failure and destruction, we are also capable of a natural fluidity when we practice art and loving, hopefully reminding ourselves that it’s okay to trip over our own feet. Maybe our worst failing is believing that our lovers are more or better equipped than us; that we are all ugly and insecure, flawed and god help us, screwed.