The best and worst moments in life are when you get exactly what you want.
I was speaking with an ex-girlfriend the other day. She’s dating someone who, by all available evidence, is a fantastic guy. She’s been seeing him for over a month, and everything has gone absolutely perfectly. In spite of that, she finds herself nervous about the adolescent stages of her romance. “Do you ever feel unreasonably anxious when you start to see someone? Like nothing is wrong but you just feel edgy? I kind of feel like I’m always waiting for something to go wrong.”
Malcolm Gladwell describes “the tipping point” in his book of the same name as, “The moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” Tipping point moments are recognizable in most walks of life, but probably most universally experienced in romantic relationships. In these cases the tipping point is recognized as an emotional investment. It’s the time period where a couple is either going to break through or be defeated. Because of its pivotal nature, this period is automatically more stressful than the beginning, when little is invested in the romantic interest, and it’s also less stressful than being further along, where both partners have shown commitment and been through some fires. Most people understand relational tipping point moments, and anyone who’s ever watched The OC definitely understands.
This idea of the relational tipping point dovetailed nicely with a type of character I’ve thought about a lot recently, the manic pixie dream girl. Defined by film critic Nathan Rabin as, “That bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” Examples in movies are Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, Natalie Portman in Garden State, and Zooey Deschanel in anything. Existing in my personal dating history are two MPDGs, both avatars of my once diminishing boyhood, one from my high school days and one from my college days. I don’t think I saw them as dream girls when I knew them, and I haven’t physically seen either of them in a very long time, and those two statements are probably directly related. No one ever physically sees their dreams. If you do, then they’re not dreams anymore.
These ideas dovetail in the sense that I never reached a romantic tipping point with either of my manic pixie dream girls. You can’t, actually. Because only by never reaching a relational threshold is a love interest free to live on as fantasy, a perfect romance for the person we don’t become. For me, I like that my MPDGs exist that way in my mind, forever young. Of course, if I ran into either one of them today, I’d probably invite her to get a drink, maybe make some bad decisions. I’d push it until we were a thing or we weren’t. I’d demand a tipping point. No HIMYM drumrolls for me. I’ve decided that the romantic tipping point won’t scare me because it’s a fact that I’ll go for it even if it kills my dreams. I want the tipping point.
And if I get what I want, who knows? It will be the best or worst thing that could happen.