01 March 2018

Every Day

In the film Every Day, ‘A’ awakens every morning in ‘A’ new body. (Me too, but that is another story.) The first body he occupies is that of Rhiannon’s boyfriend, Justin, who really doesn’t treat her well. He is neither physically or emotionally abusive, but he just doesn’t pay her much attention; almost every day he takes Rhiannon for granted, offering himself to her when he has nothing else to do. But on the day that ‘A’ wakes up inside Justin, the latter becomes attentive, warm and caring. Rhiannon recognizes the difference in Justin, and I guess she assumes that her boyfriend has changed. On that day Rhiannon enjoys ‘A’ happiness she has not yet known, and she anticipates Justin to be every day as he was on that day (unknown to her) occupied by ‘A’. Alas, on that next day, when ‘A’ has again awakened in ‘A’ different body, Justin behaves again as the somewhat insensitive boy he was the day before.
     Every day ‘A’ reaches out to Rhiannon from whatever body ‘A’ has that day occupied—’A’ has found in Rhiannon ‘A’ sympathetic soul--and Rhiannon out of her own curiosity and emotional need continues to meet with and engage ‘A’ wherever ‘A’ seems to be located. This is ‘A’ film adapted from ‘A’ Young Adult novel, and so the extent of sixteen year old Rhiannon’s necessary travels is relatively small—she travels once at least an hour from her relatively middle-class neighborhood to meet with ‘A’ in ‘A’ distant diner—and these assignations are essentially platonic—once ‘A’, occupying ‘A’ girl’s body asks to kiss Rhiannon—and until the film’s conclusion this is the only sexual contact between Rhiannon and ‘A’. And since ‘A’ occupies both male and female bodies, since ‘A’ occupies bodies of all races, since ‘A’ occupies bodies of all shapes, and since ‘A’ occupies bodies of all sexual orientations, I can’t say that ‘A’ has ‘A’ definitive gendered, racial or sexual identity, though the film concludes in an emerging heterosexual relationship. Nevertheless, clearly ‘A’ has fallen in love with Rhiannon, but more important for me, Rhiannon has fallen in love with ‘A’. And so, I wonder what it is that Rhiannon has fallen in love with when she chooses ‘A’-- at some point she rejects her callous boyfriend Justin telling him that she believes it is time to take ‘A’ break. Her love interest has become ‘A’. But clearly it is not ‘A’ physical attraction or some sexual attraction to which Rhiannon responds, nor is it ‘A’ particular race, gender or sexual orientation that draws her to ‘A’.
     I think I know about adolescent longing, though I can’t say I know very much about adolescent love—the feeling and expression of love changes every day. That is, I have felt what is called love, but the word itself as ‘A’ container is empty. I know how the word is defined but I don’t know what the word means. I remember the girls for whom I longed beginning all the way back to the fourth grade—then she was Marjorie Eisenberg—but I don’t know that I ever would have honestly used the word ‘love’ for any of those relationships, nor known what the word meant if I had then uttered it. Nor after all these years can I say that that what I felt was love after all! I guess I have been often ‘in love’ but I can’t even now say what I meant by my use of the word. I think ‘love’ is an overused term for ‘A’ very complex phenomenon—certainly how I feel about Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is very different from how I feel about my children, but I use the same word to express my serious attachment to both. I can do without the ice cream but not without them.
     At some point, Rhiannon tells ‘A’ that she loves him. And I think that what Rhiannon might mean when she expresses love for ‘A’ is the reflection of herself that she comes to experience in her relationship with ‘A’. Every day ‘A’ occupies another body, and so every day he is changed; and her willingness to accept ‘A’ regardless of ‘A’’s externality—gender, race or sexual orientation—requires that Rhiannon change as well. It is change that Rhiannon learns to accept and her strength to tolerate, to use, and even to enjoy that change grows every day. Because every day ‘A’ is different, and her willingness to fall in love with ‘A’ accompanies Rhiannon’s acceptance of herself and allows her to expect and enjoy change.  It is not ‘A’ narcissistic, self-absorbed love that she expresses in her statement to ‘A’ (well, maybe all ‘love’ enjoys ‘A’ certain narcissism), but an expression of her own desire (always unrealized) that is made valid and accepted by ‘A’’s ‘love’ for her. Rhiannon values herself because she is valued.
     Every day we make ourselves anew. Unlike ‘A’, we remain the same physical body, but we are every day different. Rhiannon inhabits the same body from day to day with its mostly normal individual and species-particular growths, of course. But Rhiannon’s relationship with ‘A’ changes her every day as in her interactions with ‘A’ she matures (Kurt Vonnegut said that maturity is a disease for which laughter is the only cure, if laughter can be said to cure anything) in her willingness to accept and enjoy difference and change, to develop ‘A’ core sense of personal strength and insight, and an awareness of those qualities that she had ignored in others. Her capacity for what is called love has grown every day.