A Letter to Sandy from Grease
I think of you as the Patron Saint of Women Who Change for Love.
“The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes,” wrote Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex. “For woman…to love is to relinquish everything for the benefit of a master.”
Sandy, when I watched you and Danny, I saw what Beauvoir meant. While Danny danced, I watched you croon, “My head is saying, ‘Fool, forget him.’ / My heart is saying, ‘Don’t let go. / Hold on till the end.’ / And that’s what I intend to do / I’m hopelessly devoted to you.” Who but a “master” benefits from such desperate devotion?
I watched you change for love while Danny stayed the same. The cigarettes that soiled your tongue when the school year began fit easily between your lips by graduation. Did Danny notice? Did he care?
In my spare time I search for the possibility that your love is more than a power dynamic. “If he hadn’t lied to you, he would have been a different person than he is,” Maggie Nelson’s therapist tells her in an attempt to bring clarity to her destructive relationship. Might it be true to suggest that if you hadn’t been the type of person who would change for love, then you wouldn’t be the type of person to fall for Danny in the first place?
(But then this begs the question: Why are you such a person, and is this relationship a good one?)
Perhaps I need to challenge my own assumptions: Are you truly changing in this relationship? What seems like a transformation from Sandra Dee to greaser chick Sandy might not be a change at all. Sandra Dee was Sandy all along and vice-versa; the only thing that changed was your wardrobe. People are complicated, and you’re no exception.
Here’s what I know to be true: Regardless if you’re a pawn in a network of power dynamics or a woman able to manipulate the illusions of identity to achieve something more, love is complicated. You can’t help who you love.
Sandy, all I can hope is that you got yours in the end. When you flew into the sky wrapped in Danny’s arms, you looked truly happy. I hope you were.