I have a problem with Jerry Maguire. It’s got nothing to do with Tom Cruise’s toothy grin or with the fact that I can’t watch Renee Zellweger without thinking of her character in Empire Records.
I take issue with one of the most famous lines from the film:
“You complete me.”
People, can we just stop for a minute. Not only does he say it, but then apparently there was never any need for him to say it because he had Renee Zellweger at “hello.”
For many people, this is one of the most romantic lines ever uttered on film or television. But to me, the concept of two people completing one another – of two people being only half of themselves until this magical, mythical other piece comes into play – seems flawed. Love is diverse and takes many forms: straight or gay, monogamous or polyamorous, bicultural or biracial, intercultural or heck, maybe in the not-so-distant future, inter-lovotic. But one thing, I feel, holds true: the best kind of love is having one complete person come together with another complete person. Because though they may enhance each other’s lives, true completion comes from within.
I’ve always been this way about romantic love. When we read Shakespeare in the 9th grade, I adored Much Ado About Nothing’s Benedick and Beatrice so much more than Romeo and Juliet. Even as a teenager, there was an element of quiet dumbfoundedness that this – the story of two horny teenagers who fell in lust and just wanted to get it on without the fear of censorship – was supposed to be the greatest love story of all time. Beatrice and Benedick’s story felt so much more grounded. Here were two people completely at ease with themselves, enough so that they took each other to task left and right. There’s a sweet assurance about their witty banter, something heartening about the way they fight – because they’re not always just fighting each other, they are just as fiercely fighting for each other.
Relationships like these pop up in science fiction all the time. The richness of the characters and the character development means there is depth to the relationships, heft that goes beyond superficial romantic love. Sci fi for me has long been ahead of the curve in representing kickass women who are on par with their male counterparts: it’s a magical realm where equality is a given. My friend, geek psychologist Ali Mattu over at Brain Knows Better, hosted a Valentine’s Day themed podcast with his co-host and their respective partners. In the podcast (which is as super awesome), they run down their favorite sci fi couples. Their lists made me take a good look at my own list, and at what it says about me.
Not for me the will-they-won’t-they story of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and Inara on “Firefly” – I preferred the unlikely pairing that was Zoe and Wash. Zoe – the hardened soldier and veteran of war – and Wash – her goofball husband and a brilliant pilot – were comfortable and steady, but by no means boring. I loved John Crichton and Aeryn Sun in “Farscape” – he a cocksure astronaut from Earth stranded in another dimension, she a species of human-like alien bred to retain practicality in battle. The list runs on with Han Solo and Princess Leia from Star Wars (arrogant vagabond ruffian meets feisty rebel princess), Captain Adama and President Roslin from “Battlestar Galactica” (stern commander meets feisty leader), the Doctor and pretty much all his companions (900-year-old Time Lord meets feisty intelligent human female)….
There definitely seems to be a pattern here.
A big part of being an adult geek is acceptance. We lost many of our geek/nerd brethren on the other side of the adolescence war, and the severe PTSD from that era makes them block out all memory of the awkwardness they endured. For those of us who soldier onwards in the constant battle to be our most authentic selves, we are surprised to learn that life is a bitch. Society and the world around us constantly try to beat us down, to beat out individuality and the beautiful things that make us unique (and yes, complete) out of our systems. As a kid, adulthood is a magical place where your problems are erased by a heady combination of independence, an adult body, modes of transportation, and an income.
The reality is that you spend adulthood fighting tooth and nail for everything: for jobs, for recognition, and yes, for love. Recognizing and accepting some of the less destructive patterns within ourselves is half the battle on this road to completion.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to people tell me all the things I’m doing wrong when it comes to dating. But I’m really not one of those sweet romantic girls who’ll hold your hand and let you pay for my food. Like the women of science fiction who I admire, I’m feisty. I like challenges and pushing past boundaries and honing in on who you really are, just as I hope you’d do with me. Like Aeryn Sun in “Farscape,” I prize loyalty. Like Starbuck in “Battlestar Galactica,” I crave independence and authenticity. Like Kaylee on “Firefly”, I inevitably fall for the people I’ve known for a long time, people I’ve delved into beyond the superficial.
When you’re a nerd, you obsessively stick to your guns. You are comfortable with discarding the things you don’t like (superficiality, dumbing yourself down for a crowd, following the pack), and you hold on to your passions and to the people you love with an insane ferocity. Love is not something that just happens to you. It is something you go out and seek. It is something you fight for every day.
Might as well fight on your own terms.
Zainab Chaudary works in politics by day and as a writer by night. Her blog, The Memorist, ruminates upon travel, religion, science, relationships, and the past, present, and future experiences that make up a life. She tweets @TheMemorist