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Wednesday, Dec 1, 2021

The Middlebury Romantic: The Real-Life Horror Movie

Here’s some advice my grandmother gave me when I was young: always watch a horror movie on a first date. I mean, what could be more romantic than shielding your eyes as your partner wraps their arms around you? What a great excuse to do the ol’ “yawn and stretch,” the ultimate protection from the characters that could very well jump off the screen and into your house. I still firmly believe in watching horror movies on the first date, but now I hold this belief for different reasons.Whether or not you agree, it does seem like the monsters that creep across our screens sometimes appear in real life. Horror movie tropes represent different types of partners you might find in your life, and certainly here at Middlebury.

I remember the time I watched “Ouija: Origin of Evil” my senior year of high school. The movie was projected on a great, grassy expanse that honey-scented summer night, and my cheeks began to burn with the heat of the screen. While the movie’s promise that evil spirits would possess those who dare to play with a Ouija board surely gave me a jolt, the true nerves came from my knowledge that this movie meant my date would put his arm around me. It was our first time going out (a brief summer fling) but sure enough, he wanted to protect me from danger and comfort me in my exaggerated terror.

Was my grandmother right? Should you always watch a horror movie on a first date? You may have had a Twilight phase, or, for those die-hard fans out there, are still in it. Everyone knows the age-old debate: Edward or Jacob? Whether you fantasized about an uber-hot vampire and an uber-hot werewolf fighting over you or not, both characters had certain draws. Edward symbolized a certain “lust” rather than, perhaps, what one might call “love.” I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve had my own Edward in the past. You’re so infatuated you think you might faint when they walk in the room. You find yourself searching for their smell on your clothes after you hug and doodling your name next to their last name all over your notebook… OK, maybe a little extreme. Still, you want to be close to them and realize you care more about that closeness, the idea of them, than the actual person.

Jacob, in my head, is the nocturnal love interest. How many of us have been settling into bed comfortably in our pajamas when we check our phone and see two meager words (if you can even constitute them as such): U up? This is the crush that doesn’t ask you to lunch dates or walks in public, but as soon as the moon takes its stately position among its tricky stars, you are THE ONE. And, in that case, should you leap out of bed and pull on your best trousers and red lipstick? Morally? Don’t settle for this either. Take a partner who wants to see you in the light, around other people, in contexts other than purely physical.

My first high school crush was a warlock — I was utterly bewitched. His impish smile and slightly nerdy glasses had me under his spell when he stapled my papers for me that first day of freshman-year English class. Well, he didn’t quite turn out to be the charming magician I had made him out to be in my head, but he had a certain charm: under the guise of his freakishly good looks was just a guy who went on to date a chain of girls and left them clutching their hurting hearts. Whew. Dodged a bullet with that one. Those spells, while tempting, should be avoided. At. All. Costs. Get to know someone first rather than drinking the potion of image and looks.

How about those ghosts? Those romantic interests that seem to really like you and then drop off the face of the planet entirely. Yeah, sometimes those ghosts are the Caspers of the world: sweet, good people who get spooked by their own baggage or the idea of something new. Sometimes, though, the ghosts are poltergeists — merely noise that distracts you from what you deserve. Who you deserve is someone who gives you the time and the place to be ALIVE, not some wispy version of yourself floating for eternity.

And zombies. Oh zombies… some view all crushes this way, but the zombie takes it to an extreme. They’re hungry for brains, alright. YOUR brain. You spend so much time pondering hypothetical situations with this crush that you’ve never even spoken to, pining after them day in and day out until your thoughts are consumed. They eat up your brain and, trust me, it’s not worth it. You’ll have more bandwidth in your brain if you let some of that idealizing GO.

Halloween sure is spooky. But honestly, the dating scene is spookier. These tropes and more live rent free in our brains and in our lives, coming and going like apparitions sent here to teach us lessons about what we want, what we deserve and how we love. Ultimately, they’re all skeletons of our past: constructions rising from their graves to remind us of our experiences. We’re all a little haunted.

But, hey, try checking out a scary movie this Halloween and see if someone puts their arm around you. I have a feeling that there is always someone, a friend, a neighbor, a significant other, to put an arm around us... scary movie or not.


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