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Monday, July 31, 2017

The Trouble with Rhoda: The Other Side

My son, Ethan, and I have a very interesting relationship. I joke that he's taught me everything I know about debating because, in many ways, raising him was one long verbal sparring match! I have to catch myself, though, when I reject what he's saying out of hand or out of habit, and this is one of those times.

Upon reading my better-40-years-late-than-never analysis of Rhoda, he gave me a lot to think about. Specifically, he cautioned me that my tone sounded very much like that of a wounded woman. Believe me, readers, I tried not to take that approach! I have been wounded in love (most of us have, to one degree or another), but I didn't want my argument to sound like it sprang from sour grapes.

So, in the interest of fairness, let me try to capsulize some of the astute points made by my wiser than his years college student.

First of all, it occurs to me that I could easily have borrowed from Shakespeare and titled my previous post “Lust's Labor Lost” because in the scene I zeroed in on, Rhoda’s urge-driven husband took advantage of her vulnerability. But Ethan reminded me that this dynamic can come into play on both sides of the cheap motel bed. That is to say, either or both of the parties can end up feeling used.

Case in point. In high school, I dated a truly kind and loving young man. He was both a gentleman and a gentle man; I’m pretty sure he picked up the tab for every dinner and movie we went to, without expecting anything in return. When I broke up with him after the better part of two years, I offered some lame, Hollywood-esque excuse about having failed to find it within myself to love him. I’ll never forget the hurt in his eyes as he countered with, “I treated you nice!” before backing out of my driveway and out of my life.

When I shared this story with Ethan, his response was, “Good for him!” and “I hope he ended up with some model!” My son saw things from the point of view of the rejected guy, wondering out loud why I had strung him along all that time if I really wasn’t interested. Looking back, I realize there were many reasons for my lack of candor, chief among them the desire to be desired, to be able to say I had a boyfriend, even if he didn’t make my heart skip a beat. I think his parting words to me meant he felt like the effort and hopes he invested in our relationship had been a waste of time. Perhaps it would soothe his damaged heart to know I got my comeuppance later on; perhaps not. Either way, I feel sorry for treating this dear man so shabbily.

Ethan also pointed out that sex is not the only motive for being disingenuous in romance. It can be about material gain (think 20-something trophy wives being scooped up by filthy rich octogenarians). It can be about an ego boost (think average-looking person dating one of the “beautiful people” to buoy up self-esteem). It can be as simple as not wanting to be alone on a Saturday night.

On another note, sex can also be employed as a tool to get what one wants. Remember the scene in The Three Musketeers where the pious jailer succumbs to Milady’s charms and helps her escape? A clear case of manipulation by the fairer sex! Milady used what she had to get her needs met. So I would be remiss in not pointing out that the “taker” in a relationship isn’t always in it for physical gratification. Both sexes are fully capable of playing the “Let’s See How Much Can I Get Out of the Other Person Before He/She Figures Out I’m Just Using Him/Her” game. It’s unattractive and unfair, no matter who’s doing the conning.

Finally, to paraphrase Ethan, sooner or later, most of us end up on somebody else’s emotional hook. It’s kind of the nature of that two-faced beast we call love – but tackling the beast is the only way to find out what lies on the other side.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” ~ Philippians 2:3

For more like this, check out: Reflections by Thea: The Trouble with Rhoda

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