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True Romance: Movies + ASD
"Words fall through me"
By Zack Budryk
Raychel didn’t want to see Juno.
The 2007 indie film was at the height of its buzz in early 2008, when we first started seeing each other, resting in the sweet spot right between racking up four Oscar nominations and everybody souring on it because it had convinced Hollywood Michael Cera was a legitimate leading man. I hadn’t been sure what to expect when I saw it with a friend, but I’d ended up loving it and I’d been trying to sell Raychel on watching it with me ever since.
“Nope,” she said. “Not into that preciously pretentious mumblecore shit.” (I can’t remember her exact words, so for now I am pretending she talks like a barmaid in a gangster movie. She kind of does, but that’s not what she said.) She stood her ground until early 2009, when she found it on TV and watched it for lack of anything better on. Surprise, surprise, she loved it (we have gone through this same process withJustified, Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black). Now, as luck would have it, this was right around the time I was planning on proposing to her, and I needed something that was uniquely me but could be done on a tiny budget (which is also very me, but not uniquely so). Once the ring I had ordered online arrived in the mail, secure in the knowledge that she would get the reference, I bought several boxes of orange Tic-Tacs and put them in our mailbox in front of the ring and then asked Raychel if she wanted to check the mail while we were on our way out the door.
I’ve written a lot (or at least written aggressively) about both the hurdles having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can present in a relationship and the unexpected, welcome perspective it can provide, and I think to discuss Asperger’s syndrome as it’s specific to me, you really have to discuss my passion for movies at some point. Lots of Aspies have specific areas of knowledge/interest/borderline obsession, and I’m pretty lucky one of mine is one that lots of people in general can relate to as opposed to, say, trains or something (no disrespect). Movies are a pretty easy in if you’re nervous about talking to people; you have to know your audience before holding forth on politics or comic books, but the average person will be able to pick up the ball if you ask them what kind of movies they like.
That helped guide me a lot in the early days of my relationship with Raychel; it helped that she didn’t find my enthusiasm on the subject off-putting, and was fairly curious about it. One of my earliest, fondest memories is watching the 2007 Academy Awards in my dorm room together. Raychel wasn’t familiar with any of the nominees but one: “Falling Slowly,” performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova for the Irish romance Once, which was nominated for Best Original Song. Raychel had fallen in love with the song when she heard it on my iTunes, and had just recently asked if it was okay if she thought of it as “our song.” (Per Elton John, I was presumably now free to tell everybody.) As John Travolta opened the envelope and announced the song as the winner, Raychel leaned forward and yelled “YES!”, the most excited and into the whole thing I’d seen her all night.
My geekery and Raychel’s open-mindedness have served us equally well in tougher times. In fall of 2009, Raychel had been cut off by the family friend who had paid her tuition and her half of the rent; we had a month after the expiration of our old apartment’s lease to find new jobs and get her financial aid. We didn’t mind working for a living but it was the eye of the storm in terms of the recession and I barely had my foot in the door working at the local grocery store. It was around this time that I got one of my favorite films, True Romance, from the college library. Today it’s best remembered for either scene-stealing, prefame turns by James Gandolfini and Brad Pitt or that scene where Dennis Hopper tells Christopher Walken Sicilians are descended from black people, but it’s also got one of the great underdog couples in modern film, which was why I wanted to watch it with her. Early on, during a scene where Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette fall in love while he lets her into his comic shop after hours, I mentioned that Slater’s character was pretty obviously meant to be an avatar of a then-unknown Quentin Tarantino, who wrote the movie.
“Really?” Raychel said. “Because he reminds me of you.”
I doubt I processed it properly at the time, but in that moment it was clear everything was going to be okay.
There are people who scoff at this kind of thing, and remind you that real life isn’t a movie/TV show/Bruce Springsteen song (although I’m sure as of this writing there’s a BuzzFeed quiz claiming otherwise). And yes, that’s true. It’s also true that the art we love (or have a rambling obsession with) can be a part of what molds us just like our actual experiences. Are Juno and Once and True Romance all works of fiction? Of course. But they’ve still been real parts of my life by bringing me closer to the woman I love in the face of real things like autism and financial difficulties and being tone-deaf enough to order an engagement ring online. And six years in, that feels pretty real.
#Movies #Relationships #Juno #ASD
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