A few years ago I went to the movies by myself, as one does.
And I saw Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Remember that one? Sure you do. It was right around the time the whole world realized Ryan Gosling was unstoppably hot.
Well, so what I remember from the film—besides Mr. Gosling’s impossible abs—was the moment he turned to Cal (Steve Carell) and in an attempt to explain his love for Cal’s daughter (Emma Stone) said, “She's a game changer.”
And sitting there in that cool theatre, all alone, my breath caught in my throat. What a perfect phrase. What a perfect thought.
Game changer. Holy shit. Holy shit!
And all I could think was, I want to be a game changer.
Oh, silly, foolish, romantic Meg, I think now (with great compassion and appreciation for the girl I was at that particular moment in time).
Here’s the thing, that notion—that game-changer notion is sort of a load of shit.
What I mean is, the notion of the game changer is tremendously romantic and lovely (perfect for film), but tenuous. Because what happens when two years down the line the man who’s been wooed by the-game-changer decides the woman in question has changed the game yet again and he doesn’t like the new set of rules? In fact, not only does he not like the new set of rules, he begins to think he gave up too much in the first place. He didn’t want commitment. He wasn’t looking for commitment. Commitment was never a priority.
And so he walks away.
Tom and I talk about shiny objects—how men are attracted to them. And if (bear with me and the overwrought metaphor that's about to happen) all men want to drive then there are the men who know they want a vintage Rolls Royce and are willing to wait for it and then there are the men who don't really know so much what they want as they know they want something new and fast. A basic motto of, on-to-the-next. The latter are the men I've dated. The latter are the men I've adored. They are the men who've wooed me with confidence and verve. Who've held my gaze from across a crowded bar. Who've made me feel feminine and sexy and a little undone. These are the men who give great first date—mostly because they've had a lot of practice. And great first dates almost always go nowhere very, very quickly. These are the men whose confidence belies a quite a lot of fear. The men who have yet to really figure themselves out—in part because they’ve not taken the time to—they’ve been pretty busy test-driving a lot of different cars.
I don't know if it's a little bit of growing-up, or a little bit of life smacking one around, or just timing that gets a man from not-ready to here-we-go.
Timing is a thing. Where relationships are concerned, timing is a thing. The thing maybe. Which feels really hard and really unfair, but it is what it is. So when two people do meet at the right time—well, the chance of that—it feels nearly impossible and so yeah, it does smack of the divine.
I was sitting with girlfriends this last December, a tremendous bowl of a latte between my hands, and the discussion of success came up. And a question was posed. When you get what you want, what will it feel like? Not what will it be—but what will be the feeling of it?
And out of my mouth, without thought, from the part of myself that is ancient and wise, tumbled two words:
Stability and freedom.
And a bit of my future unfurled before me. Something revealed.
I looked down at the cup between my hands and suddenly knew that the man I’d loved for years and years, the man I'd always thought that given enough time and space would come round—well, he’d never be able to offer me those things. And knowing that, I knew I'd never again be in love with him. Which is a different sort of freedom. A little bit sad and a little bit sweet, but really, really important.
I say stability to my girlfriends here in New York and they think I mean money, and I think they’ve missed the point. Money is a part of it, yes. But it’s more the strong hand. And the strong voice. And the daily choice. It’s the man who climbs into bed night after night. It’s building a home that’s forged not of mortar and brick but of vows and values (yeah, that feels a little sappy to me to, but there you go). The sort of house with doors and windows that only the two of you know about.
It's the commitment to commitment.
And the freedom that comes from that.
Freedom as commitment’s silent partner.
The thing is, when things end with men I've cared about there's always that seductive, little thought: Well, I wasn’t their game changer.
I wasn’t worth it.
And I know, on an intellectual level, I know there are a million and one reasons it didn’t work, and most of them have nothing to do with me, but damn if it doesn’t feel like it was because I was just not good enough. Not worth it. Not. A. Game. Changer.
When really, the guy has to be ready for the girl to change the game. Because that is a scary fucking thing.
Sitting across from men in booths now, burgers between us, that's what I listen for. In the silence between his words and my laughter. In what he won't say, but has marked him, nonetheless. Is he ready for the game to change? Has life seasoned him? Has he known loneliness and heartache and all the muck between? Can he meet me there in that land of: yeah-I-know-lonely-and-what-the-hell-took-you-so-long?
Because sometimes life is a nearly crushing game of waiting.
I said to Tom recently I feel like I’m doing it all wrong. And he said, But what if you’re doing it all exactly right?
Which is Tom’s way of saying there is no right. And there is no wrong.
Every guy is the wrong guy. Until you meet the one who’s not. And he’s the last guy.
And so it goes.
Maybe it’s a numbers game. Maybe it’s patience. Maybe it’s fate.
Maybe it’s all those things.
Because, the thing is, the vintage Rolls Royce is the game changer—always has been.