Ambigamy

Insights for the deeply romantic and deeply skeptical

5 Hollywood Film Rules For Finding and Sustaining True Love

Rule number one may not apply, but it's actually the least important.

The number one Hollywood movie rule to finding and sustaining true love?

Simple: 

1. Be sexy-gorgeous and have a sexy-gorgeous love interest. 

Oh, and be surrounded by endearing goofballs who make great friends.

Alas, it’s hard to apply rule number one, if you’re not sexy-gorgeous. We’ve got the bodies and faces we’ve got. Diet, exercise, make-up, clothes, dentistry, hairstyling, plastic surgery—you can work with what you’ve got to make it more physically alluring, but only with limits and only for a limited time.

Rule number one is fine for films, especially ones that end with a hand-waving happily ever after. 

In real life, no matter how sexy-gorgeous you are, eventually a partner gets used to it. Familiarity breeds contentment at best, not excitement. Partners eventually come to know your physical sexiness like the back of their own hand—not very exciting. 

And then we age. So presumably do the Hollywood partners, but usually off camera.

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The good news though is that there are rules beyond rule number one, the big one is that allure is more a function of your style of interaction than your hairstyle.

A lot of sex appeal isn’t how you look to your date but how you look at the world. 

True romance in the movies is largely a function of screenwriting and acting, conversations that feel alive, earthy, exploration, informal, playful, conversations bristling with potential for sustainable fun together. 

Great romantic chemistry isn’t a stable chemical bond, but the potential for a chain reaction, the prospect of lively interaction for years and conversations to come.

You’ve walked away yawning from bad romantic movies. The actors were probably sexy-gorgeous enough, but their interaction was tinny—no chemistry. You’ve also walked away yawning from bad dates too, even with attractive people. And why? Because the interaction was tinny too—no chemistry.

Here are four screen-writerly rules for making good sexy impressions that last, no matter what your body type:

2. Be childlike, not childish: Want to stay young and vibrant? Keep your curiosity alive. In conversation pick up on interesting things your date/partner says, and invite playful, collaborative exploration. Really wonder together, like kids playing.

Many of us misread such live wondering as a sign of immaturity, as though it’s more sexy to be all grown up. And grownups have all the answers.

Only the immature think grownups have all the answers. Don’t be childish. Don’t pretend you’re a grown up by being a know-it-all. Bullies and other big person wannabes desperately pose as authorities on everything. Unless you want a puny victim for a partner, don’t posture like you’ve earned the last word. Let the conversation breathe and sway, like kids jabbering on a swingset.

3. Demonstrate calm amused self-inclusive irreverence: There’s nothing so charming and endearing as your delight and amusement at human nature and your place in it. Not nervous laughter at traits you haven’t made real peace with, but true comfort in your own skin, hard earned perhaps, but earned. Don’t flaunt your flaws, don’t point them out, but show that they’re safe territory. That way a partner knows he or she doesn’t have to walk on eggshells to protect your fragile ego, an unsustainable dance if there ever was one. Make room for you both to be human. Enjoy a honeymoon romp through romantic exceptionalism whereby you both act for a time like you’re a clear cut above all the rest. But hint that there will be a soft landing in reality—two real and normal people romping through the fun house of life together. Very sexy. 

4. Moralize sparingly: Somepeople aren’t just know-it-alls; they’re judge-it-alls, as though their life purpose is to police humanity into high compliance with the one true way. They lavish moral praise and condemnation as if they have an unlimited budget for thought-enforcement. “I find that offensive,” they say, at the slightest flinch, meaning that the world had better straighten up.  They turn their every disappointment into an accusation. They’re moral spendthrifts indulging every whim, preference or superstition. "You eat that? It’s poison! Shame on you.” If only people lived the way they think it should, then everything would work out fine. And if you disagree with them they’re the first to moralize that “one shouldn’t be judgmental.”

Such people don’t play leading men and women in romantic films, and they don’t in real life either, unless they happen to find partners who share their moralizing calling, and even still, with such people there’s no room to grow without violating their exacting standards. It’s not sustainable, and it’s not sexy. Judge, but sparingly. That way your partner will have maximum room to be his or her self.

5. Learn to do the safety/freedom dance with grace: Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl feel vulnerable and unsafe, boy and girl reassure each other, boy and girl find partnership claustrophobic and consider breaking free. 

But then boy and girl figure out that love is like that. Boy and girl learn to manage their expectations to maximize each other’s freedom and safety. Boy and girl live happily ever after.

Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making.

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