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I May Not be a Smart Man

My wife and I spent our 10-year wedding anniversary in New York. During our stay, we saw two shows.

Amour, a French film released this year and showing in the Film Forum in Greenwich Village, is a story of an elderly couple who grapple with their ailing bodies and minds.

It is about love, and it is not a comedy.

Aida, an Italian opera playing at The Metropolitan Opera House, is a four-act story of an Ethiopian princess stuck in Egypt, an Egyptian commander, and all of the hijinks and hysterics that predictably tumble out of that.

It is also about love, and it is also not a comedy.

Despite both being “love stories”, they shared zero common ground on the subject.

In Amour, I don’t think the word itself — “love” — was even mentioned. Instead, the husband and wife simply lived love for each other. Emotion manifested through devotion, a bond wrought from a lifetime of experiences, like two trees growing so close their trunks become indistinguishable from one another.

In Aida, every sentence was constructed around “love”. But here, love was a thing to be controlled, conquered, suffered over, weaponized, used as bait, traded and ultimately objectified to the point of unattainable vaporware. This lead to laughably inauthentic lines like “I shall die without love”. “Love” became a character unto itself: a villainous opiate slurring every conversation.

In Amour, death was purified through the agonizing slow-burn of the couple’s suffering. It was just. It was acceptance, forgiveness, and sacrifice; it was imperfect, impatient. It was expected and unexpected and sad and beautiful and frighteningly real. It was human.

In Aida, Ramades “loved” Aida enough to die for her. But in the story’s context, it was selfish; he was already condemned and was simply fulfilling the sentence against his prideful ways. It was an empty gesture. He was willing to die to end his own misery and you hated him for it.

My wife and I have been married for ten years. To my kids, ten years is as incomprehensible as a light year is to me; to my grandparents, ten years is simply the on-ramp for the long life yet to come. We’ve been married through three presidential elections, the birth of two children, the construction of the Hadron Collider, getting another kid through high school and into college, four Spider Man movies, two moves across the country, and the entirety of America’s longest war ever. If all goes well, we’ll witness far more before the curtain closes.

I may not be a smart man. But I know what kind of love I have, and what kind of ending I want.

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