The Antidote to App-Based Dating: Barbra Streisand
I decided to take a hiatus from dating recently. Tired of being one of those people who says they want a change but never does anything about it, for my New Year’s resolution I committed to going on 15 dates this year.
By date 17, I was done. I’d been on good dates, lousy dates — and mostly dates that weren’t worth repeating. At least bad dates (not dangerously bad, of course) provide the kind of stories that entertain friends and coworkers in the following weeks.
But boring dates — when you have nothing in common, different communication styles, or just know after 10 or 15 minutes that it won’t go any further — are so emotionally draining. They beg the question, what’s wrong with me that I’m finding it so hard to connect to someone else?
So after nine months of Tinder, Bumble and Hinge dates, I closed shop — deleted all my apps, and decided that, for a little while, I would be on dating hiatus.
Love had become too chore-like for me — a to-do item that needed to be checked off my list. And while dates can be fun, they’re also time-consuming, fund-consuming, and emotionally taxing. I was still hopeful that one day love would just walk through my door, but in an attempt to save my sanity, I knew I had to close that door for now.
Enter my truest of loves: Barbra Streisand.
I absolutely adore Barbra Streisand movies. The glamour, the songs, even the lighting — it all just comes together in such a way that I’m never disappointed. So when I saw that A Star Is Born (now being remade by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga) was on Netflix, on it went.
But there’s something strange I’ve noticed about Barbra’s movies. They always seem to feature a great love — a larger-than-life, stop everything, quit your job, move across the world, get married ASAP type of love. But they also feature the dissolution of that love.
I can’t find one Barbra Streisand movie where she actually ends up with the larger-than-life-love guy.
Consider the evidence (spoilers, obviously):
Funny Girl is, IMHO, Stresiand’s best work. She meets, falls for and marries a gambler, who she eventually separates from after his debts and business failures land him in jail and his pride can’t recover from her helping him out of a problem. Love sparks, love grows, love dies. She belts out My Man as her heart breaks.
She leaves the man she loves in Yentyl, in the hopes that America will have more opportunities. Her love is strong, but her conviction comes first.
In Hello Dolly she remarries at the end — but she explicitly says when she speaks in private to her deceased husband ‘It won’t be a marriage in the sense that we had one, but I shall certainly make him happy. You can be sure of that. I am going to marry Horace Vandergelder and send his money out into the world, doing all the things you taught me.’ She isn’t marrying for love — she’s marrying for security, and to rejoin the world. We’re not even sure that her husband-to-be likes her until he proposes, he’s so grumpy…
The Way We Were has Barbra reprise yet another role of ‘Difficult woman’ — she loves to much, pushes too much, demands too much. Never able to relax, she and Carey Grant never stop loving each other, but decide it’s too difficult.
I could keep going — The Mirror Has Two Faces, Prince of Tides, and On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. The list goes on. Barbra never quite gets love right.
And yet, she’s brilliant. Her wit, her movements, her singing — everything comes together. She meets most of these men through her work, performing — outshining everyone around her. You start to think that, even though she keeps getting her heart broken again and again, that maybe it’s not that she’s not ‘good enough’ for these men. It’s simply that they can’t keep up.
Barbra’s characters never play the victim, either — even when they ought to. When her husband cheats on her in A Star Is Born, she tells the journalist involved to print every word. Most of her breakups occur because she refuses to be anything but her truest self.
She’ll survive, and she knows it. We know it, too — her audience is under no illusion that she’ll lock herself away and cry herself to sleep forever. Even if her ideal is to love and be loved — what every woman is meant to be chasing, including her — she’ll be OK without it.
I want that. That clarity, that peace of mind — to know that I’ll be all right no matter how many boring dates I go on, how many times I feel like things aren’t quite right with the guy across the table. To know that even if the worst things happen — the death, the cheating, the disillusion of relationships — that I’ll feel them deeply, and still be able to move on.
Maybe I’ve got to wait until I’ve developed a talent strong enough to be on Barbra’s level. But until then, I’m taking comfort in the words of Fanny Brice: No one’s going to rain on my parade.