Forests .jpeg
Photo by Sebastian Engler via

In my Hitchcock class, we are discussing “Vertigo,” which now, to my older, wiser and more critical gaze, is much more appreciated.  I first watched “Vertigo” in high school, right after “Rear Window” and discovered a lifelong affection for the forties and fifties. People then seemed so polished; the women with their hair up and glossy, their nails manicured, make-up done and their flattering clothes well-tailored, not a stitch out of place. And the men – that James Stewart (Cary Grant is a litle too suave for me) – in their slim suits and ties and hats – a certain way of sitting and the simplicity of their manly drinks. The heavy clunk of their bourbon glass on dark, heavy wood. It was an age of quality and of measured words, enunciation. They spoke slowly. Everything had weight.

My professor wishes he lived in that era. Unlike me, he’s not afraid to run with it. He is a buff little gay man with expensive clothes (Bottega belts, LV shoes, cashemere sweaters, YSL denim which he wears rolled, etc, etc.), a perpetually ruddy complexion and grey circles around his eyes and he has devoted his life to coloring Hitchcock with his rainbow lens and then sharing his colors with the class. I appreciate him – he often lets us in, asks us questions we’re not certain how to answer, and is quite open with his assumptions – for example, that the straight men in the class agree with him on certain opinions he has on love.

We were discussing a scene in which Judy aka Madeline, played by Kim Novak (whose mouth reminds me incidentally, of Alan Rickman – but this is utterly beside the point) resists Scottie’s (James Stewart) attempts to recreate her in Madeline’s image. Change the clothes, dye the hair, pin it up. She asks Scottie why he can’t just like her “the way she is.” My Professor raised this point: who are we, once we subtract these statements: “Do you only love me because I’m beautiful, tall, rich, handsome, smart, etc. etc.?”

He speaks quickly and has a poor habit of ending his sentences in an excited mumble, as though he needn’t bother with enunciating the last words because “you know,” his gestures indicate, “you get the picture.” And normally I want to shake my head and say, “No, actually, I don’t.” But today, I saw the picture quite clearly. He colored it in for me, in better words than I could ever have put together:

“You love their whole world.” he said, “When you love someone, you love the world they live in…” this, I took to mean family, friends, work, hobbies, desires, etc. “And the fact of the matter is, you can love someone but not their world, and because of this you can let them go.”

‘Love’, presently, is a little too forceful a word. In the romantic sense, I have no one to apply it to – so for the purposes of this post, I’ll substitute the word ‘like’, just as Judy does for Scottie, so as not to put him in an awkward situation.

Like many young women I know who have graduated beyond the realm of “Oh he’s cute,” and are now on the veldt poaching bigger and better game, I’m a ‘whole world’ kind of girl. Out to find not just Mister Right, but Mister Right from the Right Universe. What does this mean? Superficially: status and attractiveness – but right now we are still looking at the tree and not the forest.

A sampling of the million questions I ask internally, upon meeting anyone:

What does he do for a living? How does he dress? Is he tall, lean, athletic? Will he age well? Does he read, travel, cook? Where does he live? Here, we get closer to the rest of the world – where does he see himself in ten years? Now we arrive at what for me, defines a world: who are his friends? His family? With whom does he surround himself?

Men – and feel free to disagree, but I think this is a fair generalization – are more likely to see the tree and not the forest. This is why my gay professor received only blank stares from his straight male students and fervent, albeit tempered, nods from his female students. This is not all women – unfortunately some of us are quite stupid – but for those with brains and taste and standards, the thought process is such:

“He’s handsome (I prefer this word over ‘cute’, which I reserve for certain Youtube videos and small frogs), I can really talk to him too…but can I talk to his mom? His sister? His friends?”

Men, on the other hand: “Oh she’s cute. I can talk to her. She’s the one. I think.”

Because the man or woman you love will inevitably bring you into their world (unless they have no world, in which case what you have is a parasite and from which you ought to run) and he/she into yours. Together, you cultivate your own, third world (in a venn diagramme, represented by where the circles overlap) which includes children, shared hobbies, and new friends you make as a couple. The rest of your respective spheres don’t necessarily have to blend, but they should arouse curiosity and care.

There are no doubt people who disagree, and their family backgrounds will differ greatly from mine. But I grew up beneath an excellent model and I hope someday, to find one similar. My parents came from different worlds and work in different fields, my mother being an educator and my father a developer. And yet, my brother and I existed quite happily in our home, underneath their care where the circles overlapped. Our parents were united at home and equally at home with each others’ families and friends. My father cares about my mother’s work to the extent that he can say, “She’s an educator” and my mother knows little about the logistics of buying land and building things on it.

But still, when they were courting, I am certain it was my mother who saw the vast, healthy forest behind my father’s sturdy trunk. She saw his two kind brothers, his gentle elderly father, his strong circle of friends. She loved the tree, but what’s more, she loved the forest it came from.

Suddenly, I no longer want to hunt – at least not on the veldt. What’s the word…preservation? I’m looking for a forest and in it, a tree I really want to hug. (God that’s cheesy).

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