On Being Mysterious

That charming cafe   in  You've Got Mail  where Kathleen waited with a book and a rose...

That charming cafe in You've Got Mail where Kathleen waited with a book and a rose...

If you're like me, then you grew up with the likes of Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, and Sandra Bullock up on the big screen. And, like me, you probably spent a lot of time on the living room carpet with your chin propped up by two lazy fists to watch You've Got Mail or Runaway Bride for the millionth time. I would lie there for hours, with my feet and gym socks waving back and forth behind me, just to hear Kathleen Kelley in all her adorable quirkiness say...

"Once I read a story about a butterfly, and today, I saw one. It got on at 42nd and off at 59th, where I assume it was going to Bloomingdales to buy a hat which will turn out to be a mistake - as almost all hats are." 

You might ask... but didn't you watch it for the relationship between Kathleen and Joe Fox? Didn't you watch it to put yourself in agony over whether or not they'll end up together?? Yes, of course I did. Of course. But there's another reason why I loved these movies so deeply. I loved them for the mysterious, adorable, and perfectly complicated female characters. 

But then, somewhere in my twenties I slowly started to realize that no matter how hard I try, I will never be like them. And the truth was in front of me all along, perfectly articulated by Peggy as she tries to explain to Maggie - the elusive, Runaway Bride - how intimidating her mysteriousness is. But Maggie argues back...

"But you haven’t lost your mystery! You’re very mysterious!"
"No. I’m weird. Weird and mysterious are two different things"
"But I’m weird."
"No. You’re quirky. Quirky and weird are two different things."

And there it was. The truth all along. I'm weird Peggy. And I'm not what I've made Maggie, or Kathleen, or Gracie Hart post-makeover out to be all these years. I always saw them as these kind of women who were clumsy, but always charming; clever, with the perfect amount of aloofness; gorgeous, walking with her head in a book; thin, but obsessed with ice cream; vulnerable, but never failing to make everyone fall in love with her even more. 

Does this perfectly dynamic woman actually exist? Can you really be so lovely that you never get unattractively angry with someone? Or so fun-loving and adorable that no one could ever get seriously annoyed with your socks all over the floor? Or have such a high metabolism that you can have fries every day for breakfast? But most importantly, why exactly do we strive to become "those women" who appear to defy nature? Does this illusion of mystery keep others far away enough to never be able to see our "uglier" flaws? Does it keep us from looking too boring, or irrelevant, or regular? Maybe mysteriousness is really just code for, "all the raw, normal, not-so-adorably complicated parts of this human are not apparent at this moment". For example, I remember one time many years ago, I was on a bridge overlooking a river with a friend, trying to look off into the distance to seem reflective and profound. She was a very thoughtful person and therefore I was trying to be. The entire time I was staring off I was secretly asking myself, "Does this make me look deep??? Should I furrow my eyebrows a little more or will she just think I'm angry?" 

Regardless of what she actually thought of me in that moment... I didn't want to appear Heaven forbid, boring or simple. I wanted to look like my life could easily be turned into the next big movie about an always interesting, always mysterious young woman. Played... obviously... by Julia Roberts. 

So now I have two questions. One - do you relate?

And okay, who would play you in that movie....? And if none of the above characters spoke to you as a kid at all, who did and why did you want to be like them? 


*photo by Rob Young for Wikimedia Commons

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