OTP Friday: Scott & Zelda

 The King and Queen of the Jazz Age,  F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre.

 A Princetonian from Minnesota, Scott left school during his senior year to join the army. That’s how he met the  cheeky party girl from Alabama. He saw her dancing at a party one night, doing something called the “Dance of the Hours,” and asked around to see if anyone knew her. It didn’t matter that she was barely out of high school, he thought she was the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen and requested to be introduced to her.

 

They were both charming, stubborn, people who loved having a good time and ignoring things until after it is far too late for them to be taken care of.

Scott was not the normal type of guy Zelda was into. She loved the tall, strapping young men who could pick her up, but this sensitive, imaginative, indoor guy was something new for her. Zelda was very much like the last girl Scott was in love with. He was a romantic who kind of fell in and out of love and she always had many suitors she was never really happy with. But then Scott felt that spark that happened when that Soul Mate tether connected like one of those heart-shaped “Best Friends” necklace.

Things were lovely at first while they communicated via letters. Scott even sent her a secret chapter of his novel that had been turned down by a publisher. He visited her when he could, and they got a little wild together. But then he would talk about HIS future and how HE was going to be famous and amazing and be one of the “Cool Kids” (my words, not his) and leave events with girls who were not Zelda, filling her with jealousy.

Once he was discharged from the army, things were a little different. He went back to her but they fought constantly. Scott had always thought of himself as a Confirmed Bachelor, but Zelda totally changed his mind. He fell harder for her and they got involved in all sorts of shenanigans about town…and she was still going out with other guys. They both had ideas of themselves that made them more arrogant than they possibly need be. This arrogance, and his dreams had him wiring Zelda from New York after his discharge from the army: “Yo, Z. I know you love me, but I had to get to the Big Apple so that my Success Train can start moving. Hope you can get up here soon. Kisses, Scotty.”

(Ok, it didn’t say exactly that. But that’s the gist.)

They were really good at making one another jealous, whether it was on purpose or not. They were good at making each other smile, good at making each other miserable. They knew how to push one another’s buttons.

They cheated on one another constantly. Once, she was trying to send a letter and return a token to a suitor she met during college, and she “accidentally” sent it to Scott, who tells her to stop writing him but then changes his mind and hops on a train to propose. She says no. They break up. He’s inconsolable and life goes on for her. Pretty much.

Scott lost his girl, went home, quit his job, and went on a bender that lasted for three weeks, until Prohibition was enacted. Then he decided to do a rewrite of his first novel The Romantic Egotist, aka This Side of Paradise. In a letter to a friend, Scott wrote

I’ve tried to get married and then tried to drink myself to death but foiled, as have been so many good men, by the sex and the state I have returned to literature.

That was a really good idea. He sent his manuscript back to the publisher who’d originally rejected it and was immediately offered a contract for it. All he’d needed was just a little more life experience…that he threw into the mix of the words he’d written in college when he’d been in love with another girl. Also into the mix were some of Zelda’s actual words that she’d written to him.

Finally he could take no more. He wrote to her and asked if he could come see her. She missed him, so she said yes. They got re-engaged and decided to marry when the book was published. But she wrote to him and gave him an out. If he didn’t still feel the same about her, she would release him from the engagement immediately. But he was certain, confident, and happy. And in love.

Why can’t I write? I’d like to tell you how fine I think the book is and how miserably and and completely and—a little unexpectedly—I am thine.”

In another letter, probably written a few days later, she added:

I am very proud of you— I hate to say this, but I don’t think I had much confidence in you at first… It’s so nice to know that you really can do things—anything— And I love to feel that maybe I can help just a little— I want to so much— … I’m so damn glad I love you— I wouldn’t love any other man on earth— I believe if I had deliberately decided on a sweetheart, he’d have been you—

While Scott worked his fingers off in New York to make a name for himself, and enough money for a little nest egg, Zelda, who was inspired by Scott, starting writing herself , something that he eventually got a little mad about because he couldn’t plagiarize her. And he thought of it as a competition and he didn’t want any competition.

No personality as strong as Zelda’s could go without getting criticism… I’ve always known that, any girl who gets stewed in public, who frankly enjoys and tells shocking stories, who smokes constantly and makes the remark that she has ‘kissed thousands of men and intends to kiss thousands more,’ cannot be considered beyond reproach even if above it… I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity and her flaming self respect and its these things I’d believe in even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all that she should be… I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything. You’re still a catholic but Zelda’s the only God I have left now.

They were married April 3, 1920.

And that was just the beginning of the madness.

They married and lived ostentatiously, without reserve. Their friends and family never thought they’d last. They were a ticking time bomb.

And don’t think the flirting stopped after that ring was slipped on. There was plenty of that going on the whole damn time. The novelty of having his beautiful bird at his side wore off a little bit when he realized that she was pretty useless, an ornament. And that was during the honeymoon.

They were obnoxiously drunk most of the time and just obnoxious the rest of the time. There’s a lot of partying, but Scott worked a great deal, even using some of Zelda’s ideas for stories. With or without her consent, I am not sure.

Then they had a baby girl, but it didn’t seem Zelda was too suited to motherhood, so the child was in he care of a nanny. Three months later she found herself pregnant again, but they weren’t ready for another child so soon, so Zelda got an abortion.

That’s just the early years. This doesn’t even TOUCH the tip of the iceberg that is the life of the Fitzgeralds. Scott’s drinking gets worse. Scott may or may not have had a gay affair with another writer, which may or may not have been just one more block in the mind of Zelda that crumbled that plunged her into the madness in which she lived, until she died in a fire in a mental hospital in 1948, outliving Scott, who died in Hollywood in 1940.

From the outside, it was glamorous and romantic. On the inside were two people who were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.

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Story Time #3: Inspired By Neil Gaiman

“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, and then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life…You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you cry in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should just be friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.” –Neil Gaiman

Setting: The darkened living room of a married couple in their mid-30s who don’t have children. It’s not that they have super nice things, but there are a few sharp corners and delicate knick knacks. The only baby pictures in the house belong to their friends. 

It’s very late when the bedroom door opens. SHE is wide awake and in need of something to calm her down, make her sleepy. SHE stumbles to the kitchen to make herself some tea, shooting whiskey while the tea steeps. Deeming the tea ready, SHE pours in a healthy glug of whiskey and heads back to the living room to sit on the couch, all alone in the dark, drinking her hot toddy. SHE stumbles along the way, much of that having to do with the Xanax she’d taken before bed to help her sleep and maybe stall all thoughts on why she she was all alone in her bed so late. 

SHE sits on the couch in the dark, sipping her tea and trying to think about not thinking. 

A long while passes. SHE’s not asleep, she’s just quiet. Very quiet and trying to relax in the dark. After a very long silence the front door opens, barely making a noise. HE enters, keeping his own noise to a minimum, not taking into account that SHE would be in the midst of a bout of insomnia. SHE clicks on the lamp and scares the everloving hell out of him. 

HE: (jumping like a little girl) Jesus! What the hell?

SHE: You’re home late.

HE: What were you doing in the dark?

SHE: Nothing. Drinking. Trying to get sleepy.

HE: (clearly trying to divert attention away from his activities) Why can’t you sleep?

SHE: (taking a long drink of her tea) Because you weren’t home. Because I couldn’t hear your breathing. Because I couldn’t feel you, couldn’t smell you…(Sniffs the air) Still can’t smell you. What is that? (Sniffs again) Is that the J Lo perfume? No? It’ll come to me. Just give me a minute.

HE: It’s late, but I can take a shower if the smell bothers you.

SHE: (with a fake Aw, how sweet look on her face) Thanks for that. I have a feeling you were going to take one anyway, but that’s a good enough excuse to get you out of the room with no further conversation on the topic of where you were when you were supposed to be in bed with me and why you smell like that.

HE: (Knowing he’s finally caught, he flounders for a second but then starts to lie)

SHE: Don’t bother lying. You’re not good at it, you never have been.

HE: (stands there silently for a moment, a little dumbfounded) I don’t know what you want me to say.

SHE: Well, I’d like you to say that you aren’t sleeping with someone who’s not me, but we both know that would be a lie, and you can’t lie to save your life.

There is a surprised silence while SHE pointedly concentrates on her empty tea mug. HE hadn’t realized…HE should have realized…SHE isn’t an idiot. SHE isn’t blind. But SHE is, first and foremost, his Best Friend. They are together because they love each other in so many ways and they can’t live without each other. HE wonders if there is any way SHE can lock up his Wife so that he can talk to his Best Friend. 

HE: I’m sorry.

SHE: (mechanically) Don’t apologize. If I’m not doin’ it for you, then that is your prerogative. I apologize for everything I’ve done to make you lose interest. If there’s anything I can do to regain your favor, just tell me. I am here to fulfill your every fantasy.

HE: (uncomfortably clears his throat) Hey—

SHE: I’m serious when I ask if there’s anything I can do to improve myself. I mean, what do the girls you’re sleeping with do to attract you? Are they extra flexible, do they do things in bed that you think I won’t do, because I’ve told you before—

HE: Stop it. No. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re perfect. You’re amazing.

SHE: (nods to herself) Ok, so then why are you coming home after three am, smelling like dirty sex instead of staying in and having the dirty sex with me?

HE: It has nothing to do with you.

SHE: (barks a bitter laugh) I’m sorry, but I beg to differ. It kind of has everything to do with me. And you. Me and You.

HE: No, it really doesn’t. I promise. I love you.

SHE: That’s a nice sentiment. But I might believe you if you stayed home more often to have fast and furious wall sex with your wife, babe. (SHE sees the blush on his cheeks) Oh. I see. You’ve found someone else to do the vigorous wall sex with. Congrats. (Silence) Nothing to say to that?

HE: I love you.

SHE: Stop saying that. I love you, too, but that doesn’t matter in the least right now. So shut up. (HE shuts up but SHE wants to say something, just can’t get it out of her mouth.) As your wife, I am hurt and appalled and angry and scared and a whole lot of things right now but I cannot deal with those right now, so I’m going to lock those up for now and hope that they don’t lead to violence. (Her chest starts heaving, then SHE starts huffing sobs. Before any tears come, SHE calms herself down.) But as your Best Friend, I am pissed and offended. I am so mad you didn’t come to me and tell me you needed… whatever it is that you need. I’m supposed to be The One Person you can talk to about everything. I’ve known that something was wrong, but I thought that for sure you would tell me, but then you didn’t. And now I can’t sleep. I’m up all night, whether you’re here or not, worrying that I’ve lost my Husband and my Best Friend and my Soul Mate in one fell swoop. And despite how calm I look on the outside, I can assure you I’m a quick trip away from falling apart completely, and frankly, I’m not sure what will happen when I do, because it’s never happened before.

(SHE looks at him sadly)

And I know I have lost at least one of the three tonight, and I’m not sure which one yet. And you haven’t said anything yet, so it’s all up to you. But…if I’m reading the situation right, if I know you at all, you need some time to form your words. This is a life changing situation and you need time to put your brain together, and post-sex is not the time for that. So unless the situation changes at all, I will give you time to figure it out.

(Trying not to cry, she heaves herself up from the couch. SHE is drunk and wobbly.)

I’m going to bed. I think I can sleep now.

(As SHE moves around him, she inhales deeply. It suddenly clicks where she’s smelled that particular fragrance before. She stops before she even gets halfway to the bedroom.)

Oh. I remember what that is. Dolce & Gabbana. For men. Ok.

(inhales deeply)

I’m gonna go sleep in the second bedroom and you do whatever you want. After I’m done feeling whatever it is I’m feeling I will figure out what I want to do. Good night.

SHE turns and exits the room calmly and gracefully, like her whole would just hadn’t been shattered into billions of little shards, impossible to glue back together. HE stands stock still, so heavy and sad. After a while, HE follows her down the hall, stopping briefly to look at her closed door, before continuing on to his room alone. 

The Dark and Twisty Side of the Coin

Finding your Soul Mate can be the best or the worst thing that could happen to you.

Sid & Nancy. Kurt & Courtney. Scott and Zelda.

All examples of how finding your Soul Mate is both the best and the worst thing that could happen to you.

Love is hazardous to your health. You never know when it’s going to blow up in your face, when it’s going to up and leave you without a backward glance, when it’s going to blindside you.

Love is stressful. You worry so much about the health and well-being of someone else that you neglect your own health and well-being, stressing out your body, stressing out your mind even more than it already is.

Love leaves you vulnerable. It lulls you into a false sense of security and runs you over with its car. After stabbing you fifteen times with a very sharp but dirty butter knife. After rolling you in honey and letting the bees have at you. Naked.

Love changes you. You can never be what you were before that Love. Your destiny was changed the moment you decided to accept that Love. Your path altered, you can only go forward, not backward. You may stop, pause, but you can only move forward. No matter how many times you try to rewrite history. You’ll only end up repeating it.

If you let it, what once lifted you up, made you glow from the inside out and shout from the rooftops, it  can take you to some pretty dark and twisty places. You can never forget the dark. It stays with you and eats at you until you crumble beneath guilt and fear—or worse.

Love makes you into a different person, with different priorities, different views. Sometimes these differences are nothing in the beginning. But after a while, those priorities change, viewpoints change.

Love changes.

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Love Poetry Monday: Sonnet 76

I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.

I love you only because it’s you the one I love;
I hate you deeply, and hating you
Bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you
Is that I do not see you but love you blindly.

Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm.

In this part of the story I am the one who
Dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you,
Because I love you, Love, in fire and blood.

–Pablo Neruda, Sonnet 76 I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You

Single Feature Saturday

There were three versions of Much Ado, but there’s only ONE Moulin Rouge.

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Some folks aren’t too crazy about those movies where the characters break out into song, but you know what? I would break out into song, too, if I felt the love and passion that Christian and Satine felt for one another.

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They’re doomed from the start. She’s a high class whore and he’s a penniless writer with too many romantic notions. She’s supposed to marry The Duke. He’s supposed to be finding himself.

They find each other, they need, they want, they love each other.

But none of that matters, because’s Satine is sick. And not the kind of sick you can bounce back from. Not to mention the fact that her fiance is planning on having her lover killed.

DRA-MA.

There’s singing, there’s dancing, there’s joy, passion, love, sweetness, comedy, and tragedy. And music from Nirvana, El Debarge, U2, Elton John…and so many others.

Check out THIS video. It’s a tango to die for.