I was late to the Groundhog Day party.
I remember it coming out some time vaguely in the early 90s, but I avoided it because the idea of Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell having a thing sort of grossed me out. It next came to my attention when Britney Spears had her epic meltdown in the mid 2000’s and she tried to explain her erratic behavior by way of her life being “like Groundhog Day.” It was sometime after that that I sat down and watched it and it blew my fucking mind.
It’s savvy, it’s esoteric, it’s bloody brilliant.
In the last 6 months I’ve watched it 5 times; there’s something so hopeful about Phil’s actualization. If Phil can do it, so can you, the movie tells us. I can do it.
If you watch closely enough you’ll notice that Phil is trapped in Punxsatawny for at least a short lifetime, 30-40 years depending on who you ask, and in that additional lifetime he tries every form of suicide to end the torture of the loop. He tries being selfish to no end. He tries being helpful to no end. He can’t figure out why he’s there until eventually he strives for real change and for truly, selflessly loving someone.
Our lives aren’t that different from Phil’s.
We repeat loops ad nauseam. Sometimes our loops are beneficial because we learned them that way, other times the loops are negative. I’d have to say that it’s the latter and not the former for the majority of us. We’re all just a little bit twisted.
Was it Einstein who said the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Well, he wasn’t taking into the human condition when he said that. We do what comes naturally and that sometimes means the stupid thing. I’m certainly a testament to this. So is The Neighbor.
He texted at 8:30 this morning saying he was hungry and what was the plan.
I had just woken up and was still feeling the effects of the two Benadryl I’d taken last night. I told him I’d pick him up in an hour.
My date last night wasn’t fun. I was stressed and sad and wrung out, but I didn’t want to cancel on him. I had made a commitment and I was going to do my absolute best to be fun.
He was charming and sweet, but frankly that couldn’t make up for the basic fact that I don’t want to date him. He’s not him.
A number of things made it next to impossible for me to get over the hump of my bad mood. First, he was clearly very stressed out about the bill of the meal. I ordered as cautiously as I could, but felt guilty. I offered to pay half; he said I could pay the tip. Second, he was critical of my pacing of my half of the wine. Dude, I got this. And third, he likes oh so many things I couldn’t give two shits about. He wants to run away to his mother’s upstate NY barn to make belts and coffee tables and insisted on talking at length about a table design despite my protests and assertion that I could not follow his words.
After dinner we went for a drink and I couldn’t stop yawning. I apologized profusely for being off, realized that more than just my broken heart was at play and opened up a little. “The first week-and-a-half of July is a rough time for me,” I explained. “I have a lot of really upsetting anniversaries,” was all I divulged.
My dad died 9 years ago on the 8th, I put my sweet cat down on the 6th 3 years ago after 15 years together, TN broke my heart 3 years ago before, during, and after the 4th, TN’s birthday is the 4th which has always caused me stress, my closest grandmother’s birthday is the 9th and she died a sad, awful death 6 years ago, and a dear friend killed herself 2 years ago on the 9th. It’s a brutal time for me.
I don’t watch the calendar, but on some magical, cellular level I know when it’s time. And this year, it all came together on July 3rd. Go figure. So poor Mr. Nerdy bore the brunt. And he wasn’t pleased. He said I should have just cancelled, but I didn’t know that I could. I thought I was doing the right thing.
He was also under the assumption that a successful date meant we’d fuck. I didn’t appreciate that.
He dropped me off and I gave him an apologetic kiss, walked upstairs, stripped, took two Benadryl and climbed into bed to let the pink curtains close on me.
Today is a Groundhog Day because I got a call at 10 am from TN. “Are you here?” just like old times.
I heard a knock on my front door.
It was him all over again. The same smile, the same look, the same everything.
He walked in and gave me a hug, said happy fourth of July or some such. I hugged him back and wished him happy birthday. The entire damn day reminded me of the day I took him shopping, with some degrees of less of flirting, but I’m confused. What does he want from me??
At brunch outside under an awning with coffee (him) and mimosa (me) in hand we laughed and talked and it was so easy compared to last night, compared to Thursday, compared to Monday and the previous Friday and all the other first dates I’ve had. It was impossibly easy. And it seemed impossible for us to avoid innuendo.
Waiter: So would you like the mimosa in the wine glass or the champagne flute?
Me: The big one, please.
TN: Of course you want the big one.
And so it went the entire morning. We decided to forgo the batting cages and go kayaking instead. At the convenience store I grabbed some ciders in a little 4-pack.
TN: Only four?
Me: Well, they’re extra big.
TN: That’s right they are. That’s how you like ’em.
We drove down to the dock and stood in line with all the other revelers and I felt so natural and relaxed with him that I couldn’t help but feel confused and sad. I didn’t want to be anywhere else but right there with him.
We signed our waiver, paid, and then had to apply sunscreen on one another. He dipped below my bikini bottoms with his warm fingers then pulled them up and let them snap back with a hushed thwap. It was intimate and surprising.
In our boats we paddled downstream, against the wind, and floated under bridges in and out of the sun. We hooked our feet on each other’s fiberglass boats and floated like locked dragonflies wherever the current took us. He handed me my hard ciders whenever I asked and encouraged me to flash the boats filled with hat-donning tourists that quietly moved past us.
The way we interacted, and to a very large degree the things we said to one another, were almost identical to what would have transpired one year ago today. I felt like in a time loop, like Phil Connors.
When we got back to my car I got a text from Sharon telling me she was bailing on our plans tonight. “I’m too tired,” she texted. “I’m so sorry. I have to take care of me.” I fought tears. I’d made plans with her so I didn’t have to be alone tonight. I miss Peyton who’s been out of the state all week and my other two go-to friends are out of state, as well, and well, it’s a massive holiday and I just spent the last 5 hours with my exboyfriend who broke my heart less than six months ago. I was looking forward to being with her and out and about.
“I know this bums you out,” TN said, “but it’s kinda crazy how different we are. If it were me and I just found out I didn’t have to go out with a friend I’d be thrilled.”
“What are you doing later?” I asked mostly just to fill the space.
“I have a barbeque at my boss’ house and then I’ll go home and do some work.” I felt somewhat relieved that he didn’t invite me. I couldn’t handle another Groundhog minute with him.
“That’ll be fun. I’m gonna make a steak and drink wine, I guess. Maybe I’ll head to the pool and sun my backside.”
I drove him to his building and we hugged tightly and I drove off thinking that the only difference between today and a year ago would have been he’d have fondled my breasts and I his cock; two or three years ago, we would’ve fucked at the end of such an afternoon.
Maybe this is just part of the process of change: little things shifting over time. I don’t know. I still am confounded as to why he wanted to spend any time with me today at all, let alone doing all that we did. It was everything I would’ve wanted when we were dating, minus the “Hey, I’m gonna go do my own thing without you now for 8 hours” thing.
I’m thinking of doing something drastic and going on a 6-month dating hiatus. That would be as close to a mid-life crisis as I could get. I am turning 40 at the end of the summer, after all; I’m due.
Is there a “dump everyone” button I can press?? I’m feeling claustrophobic and anti-everyone. I wish I had a million dollars because I’d go take a vacation on a mountain top overlooking an ocean right about now.
Happy Fourth of July, America.