Ever seen a movie that just gets under your skin? You kind of hate it, yet somehow you want to watch it again. I recently had the pleasure/pain of one such motion picture: 500 Days of Summer. This indy film with Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a hilariously thought-provoking account of a failed “modern” relationship. It recounts how this guy Tom tries to woo and win over a new girl in his office, Summer. In a series of flashbacks and flash forwards, you learn how Summer has no interest in being anyone’s girlfriend and doesn’t believe in true love. However, she has no problem being seriously intimate with Tom, as long as they can go on saying they’re “just friends”. You can imagine the turns it takes as Tom is swept along, trying to convince Summer that love really does exist. But this film, as it asserts from the very beginning, is not a love story. I won’t bore you with details, mostly because I want you to watch the movie and be tortured like I was. Seriously, go watch it now. Then come back and hear the 500 reasons we should NOT do what Summer and Tom did. Ok, actually more like 500 divided by 100.
1. Sex outside the commitment of marriage is lying with your body
Let’s get this one out of the way first, since it was my biggest problem with this relationship. All Tom heard was “blah, blah, blah,” when Summer asserted that she didn’t want to be in a committed relationship. The reason is obvious: she was touching him in all the right places, giving him all the right looks, and doing all the right things to make him want nothing more than to get into bed with her. Tom is not a pervert; he’s human. We were made to respond to one another physically and emotionally. When you make that physical attachment in intercourse, when it’s like the two bodies have become one, crazy emotional bonds are formed. Bonds that in emotionally healthy individuals are supposed to last a life time. I won’t go into all the chemicals at work in your brain during sex that make you attached to that individual, but believe me, it’s intense stuff. When you have sex with someone, you’re saying “I want all of you, forever.” I can’t blame Tom for hearing this message over Summer’s verbalizations that she doesn’t believe in love. After all, only 10% of communication is the words you say. Body language is a lot louder.
2. Leading someone on is not being a good friend
Sure, they were “just friends.” Tell me, do you view lying and hypocrisy as good traits in a friend? Because I sure don’t. Summer lied to Tom (see #1). She allowed him to get very attached to her, thinking that as long as she continually asserted that they were “just friends,” anything was permissible. The absolutely maddening part about this movie is watching Tom get strung along like a puppy dog, hoping somehow that things work out for this “nice guy”. It will stir up in you all of those times a guy or girl lead you on and then let you walk off a cliff. I’m actually glad they depict the woman as the one leading on in this story, because too often we pin guys as the ones who just want sexual satisfaction and don’t care about a woman’s feelings. But it can and does go both ways. And it’s the farthest thing from being a good friend.
3. The let down is totally not worth it
The 290 days of bliss that Tom enjoyed with Summer lead to about 200 days if acute misery. At one point he’s so depressed he can’t get out of bed. When he finally does get up, he won’t leave the house except to buy alcohol and Twinkies. He sucks at his terrible job. There is nothing about his life that isn’t affected by Summer’s lead-on and let down. And he allowed it to happen to himself. That’s right. In #1 and #2, I sympathized with Tom. But it takes two to tango. Tom allowed Summer to break his heart by ignoring all the red flags of an unhealthy relationship. And he wasted 500 days of his life over it. Sure, he learned some valuable lessons; we all do when we hit rock bottom. But rock bottom sucks. Have some respect for yourself, don’t allow yourself to be lead on, and you’ll probably still become an architect. Or whatever it is you want to be.
4. It shouldn't take a bad relationship to make you follow your dreams