everybody’s got to learn sometime
Ryan had always wanted to meet a girl that was a combination of Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in Lost in Translation and Sam (Natalie Portman) in Garden State. He felt it was a priority to have a clear understanding of what he was looking for in a girl so he could recognize her when she finally arrived in his life. She didn’t have to physically look like either of these girls/characters, she simply had to have their essence.
Then along came Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) in Almost Famous. How could he not include her in his perfect girl? She was simply too effervescent not to be in the mix, and yet he feared that reducing the influence of both Charlotte and Sam to only 33% was a treacherous decision. On top of that, she seemed somehow less real than the first two. The premise of the movie also worked against her inclusion as he was neither a teen boy nor likely to be traveling with a rock band any time soon.
The problem was when he saw the scene where she was dancing alone in the empty concert hall with the rose it made him want to be a teen boy again. His heart ached. Penny Lane threatened the whole perfect girl construct.
It was with this metaphysical struggle going on in his head that he accidentally saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It wasn’t as if he found Clementine (Kate Winslet) particularly attractive, in fact she initially annoyed the crap out of him, it was more like as the movie progressed he found the ferociousness in which Jim Carrey’s character tried to hold onto her memory transcendent. He was nothing like Joel Barish and yet he hoped he would do the same if ever put in a similar situation.
Then two things occurred to him; the first being that if he found it hard to incorporate Penny Lane into his perfect woman because he was unlikely to ever travel with a rock band than what possible argument could he make for adding in a girl because she elicited such powerful emotions when some fictitious science attempted to remove her from another man’s memory?
The second and much more poignant thought was that he would never try to remove the memory of a girl in the first place just because it caused him pain. His mother had said something to him when he was a boy about mourning and it stuck. “Feeling sad just means that at some point that person made you happy. Don’t let one feeling ruin the other.”
An idea so simple a child could understand it and most adults could ignore it. He had often times tried to rephrase the advice in more intellectually-pleasing ways and pass it off as his own to friends going through one trauma or another but it never sounded as helpful as when his mother said it. Of course, in fairness she had also given him a cookie with the advice.
There was no way to bring Charlotte and Sam each down to 25% of his perfect woman just to accommodate the obnoxious Clementine. He just couldn’t do it. There was simply not enough room. And yet by excluding Clementine did he risk his perfect woman becoming the Héloïse d’Argenteuil to his Peter Abélard?
How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d
-from the poem “Eloisa to Abelard” by Alexander Pope
The Eternal Sunshine credits began to roll and he wondered how he could possible exclude his first girlfriend in his perfect girl (20%) and how he couldn’t include his last girlfriend (17%) and the girl from college (14%) and the receptionist at the design firm he just met (12%) and his perfect girl crumbled.
He was finally awake and he needed a cookie.