As lovers, we must not only love what we see, we must also truly see the one we love.
My whole life revolves around romance, dreams, and soul mates.
I marvel when the right biochemistry ignites sparks that become a flame so intense as to burn eternally, when two people allow the most powerful and meaningful emotion to rule their hearts, and then embrace that magical potential where True Love will become the torch that lights the course of their future. I am an artist and lovers are my palette, a modern day Picasso of sorts. You see, I am a matchmaker. People look to me everyday to give them hope that yes; they too can find their soul mate. My specialized knowledge, however, has been learned, in part, the hard way.
My first encounter with the illusion of true love occurred when I was a young struggling actress in Hollywood. I had always felt very confident about myself in the looks department and was often asked for my autograph. I signed it “Molly Ringwald,” and then, “Just kidding.” Eyes shining with stars, body surging with hormones, I fell for an incredibly beautiful, charismatic, and talented French chef. Bruno. He had deep green eyes, full, pouty lips, and thick, chestnut brown hair that fell just above his shoulders in ringlets. I used to love stretching one out and letting it go…boing! I told my aunt one day, “I’m lucky to be with Bruno. I mean, it’s amazing I was able to attract such a great-looking guy in the first place.” She looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I pretty much had.
I had only known him for six adventure-filled months when we got married. I was smitten, while he mostly needed a place to crash. Yes, I know, a heartbreak waiting to happen. But it wasn’t just his looks I adored. Our wedding in his small village in France was a fairytale. We posed in the nearby woods where white cyclamen grew wild, my white lace dress rising out of the blossoms, white against white. And the food! To Bruno and his wonderful family, food was a spiritual experience, savored and revered as an art form. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the bonfire of my true love needed more fuel than my attraction to a gorgeously chiseled face, a French accent, and his skill at preparing coquilles Saint Jacques. I was in love, and I thought I understood that the key to having true love in my life was to begin by loving myself. I was pretty sure that I did, but the way I allowed myself to be treated, suggested otherwise. My beloved didn’t think that I was good enough the way I was.
In his opinion, I was an uptight ball-breaker with hair that was the wrong color; he wanted me to bleach it blonde. Teeth? Not white enough. My nails? Too short. Breasts? Too small. Skin? (Yes, skin.) Too white. You’d think I was a red-headed albino frog with fangs. I am pale, and my skin burns easily, but Bruno bought me a gift certificate for several sessions at the local tanning salon and started in on the idea of my getting breast implants, threatening divorce if I didn’t change right away. My self-esteem imploded, while at the same time, I was also in awe of his confidence.
He used to look at himself in the mirror, as he was getting ready to go out and declare, “God I’m good looking.” Then he would jump on his vintage motorcycle and speed off into the night, often not returning until the next day. Even though I had lost my mind, I adored hanging out with the “Frenchies” as I used to call them. His French friends held garden parties in the evenings, stringing twinkle lights and playing world music, the men and women in cool jeans, cigarettes of tobacco or marijuana at their lips. They talked of their international travels, their easy laughter filling the warm summer nights. I felt like I was in a new world, a secret club with a secret language that I quickly became fluent in as well. They were enlightening, exhilarating, carefree, and completely comfortable in their own skins—which I was trying to be. They lived in the moment. If they felt like making love, they could do so without getting attached. They did it for the pure pleasure, something I hadn’t quite been able to do. The casual way that the French viewed their bodies intrigued me. Men and women were never embarrassed to slip into a Jacuzzi nude together at a party. Women sunbathed topless all the time. It was completely natural to them.
Bruno would constantly saunter around the apartment au naturel. He went so far as to answer the door in his birthday suit. Frankly, I was appalled. His best friend James would knock on the door, and there came Bruno, treating his buddy to a full frontal extravaganza and a big bonjour! James wasn’t fazed in the least. One day Bruno shocked a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Aren’t you embarrassed to have your privates on display?” I asked.
He gestured toward his package and shrugged his shoulders. “C’est une partie du corps.” It’s just a part of the body. “You are so uptight, Marla.”
For all the French freedom, I watched the girlfriends and wives as they discovered their young men cheated on them all the time. I couldn’t figure out if they were just dumb, or if they had their own flings going on. I didn’t think I would be able to recover from a betrayal, but then it happened to me. I stayed with Bruno after he had an affair with James’ sister who was visiting from France. My self-esteem crashed to a rocky bottom—I thought. But it turned out that it could go even lower.