1997. Like most teenage girls, I saw Titanic in the theater…four times. I was in love with it. In love with the scale of it, the costumes, the music, and most especially with Jack and Rose. Along with all those other young women in the audience, I was shocked that Rose couldn’t make room for Jack on the raft and that he perished in the water. I cried and cried over what could have been between the two of them. And while I recognized the positive impact his brief presence in her life had on her future, I couldn’t help but feel like it would have been so much better had they been able to live that life together.
2010. The movie Blue Valentine. It’s the story of Cindy, a practically minded girl and Dean, a dreamer of a guy (…sound familiar yet?). The movie’s hard to watch because these two people, when they’re young, have such a passionate romance and courtship. They decide to get married even though their entwined future is filled with uncertainty. And they end up hating each other because they are exactly who they seem to be.
2012. The 15th anniversary of Titanic’s release, and I make plans to watch it on the big screen with my friend Jennifer (with whom I saw the movie at least twice the first time around). We went in and had a very unexpected reaction. For one, I understood the line “a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets” in a way I never could have at 18 years old. And two, I couldn’t shake the feeling that if Jack and Rose had stayed together, they would have turned into Dean and Cindy. They would have stayed who they were and ultimately it would not have been enough. Rose would have resented Jack for not being able to keep a job, and Jack would have resented Rose for asking him to. Jack was in Rose’s life just long enough to inspire her to wish for more for herself. She went on to live a full life in honor of his memory but without any of the real life issues they would surely have had.
In that moment, sitting in the theater at the end of the movie, basically sobbing, I realized that back in the ’90s at least, James Cameron knew more than I did about relationships. And he made exactly the right choice for Jack and Rose.
2014. I have a five year old child who thinks he is a peer with adults. He is smart, articulate, and has been treated with respect his whole life, therefore he believes his opinions and preferences are on an even playing field with mine or any other adult’s. On one hand, this is adorable and awesome. We can reason with Cooper more effectively perhaps than other kids his age, because he catches on quickly. He’s fun to have conversations with because he can keep up (and if he can’t, he’ll just make it up as he goes along!). On the other hand, it is a constant challenge because he doesn’t buy into the whole “I know better because I’m older and wiser” argument. And honestly, I don’t fully either. I was a smart, opinionated, articulate kid for many years, and it was frustrating to feel like my thoughts/feelings/words were set aside *just* because I happened to be a child. So I very intentionally work to not do that with Cooper. Thanks to James Cameron, I can look back on my life through a different lens and accept that sometimes, though….sometimes adults knew better simply because they had lived longer. They had experience on their side where I only had instinct. I know we won’t be able to protect Cooper from every bad decision he may be tempted to make over the years. But my hope is that we can build a trust in our relationship that assures him that when we say we know something, even if the *only* reason we can give for knowing it is that we’re older, that we’re saying it because we have his best interest at heart. And until he has his own Jack and Rose Reality Check, I hope he’ll be able to trust whatever wisdom we’ve gained just by being alive longer. Until then, I hope he can reconcile himself (and sooner rather than later for my own sanity!) that sometimes….the adults are right.