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Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

I’m pretty sure I’ve written here before how having children so dramatically changes your perspective, not least of which has to do with regrets you may have had in life.  The steps you took in life, even the steps you may have regretted, ultimately led you to the path that brought your children into your life… and every day I see these wonderful little souls, these amazing lives that are growing and becoming more and more independent and curious, with dreams and hopes for their futures, I realize that even a slight deviation in my path to them might have prevented them from even existing.  It takes my breath away when I think back and contemplate how easy it could have been to take a different path, and so how can I regret the things I used to think of as mistakes and lost opportunities if they ultimately led me to these beautiful kids?

In the universe of previously-regrettable moments, there are two that are tied to one particular individual, an old friend I’ll call Mike.  Mike and I knew each other for years, but got quite close in high school and our early college years.  We had similar interests in nerdy stuff, were both smart and creative, and both rather big guys.  But while I tended to be more shy and introspective, Mike was outgoing and boisterous, which of course let him be much more successful with girls than I.

At one point in high school I went over to the house of a different friend of mine and met his sister for the first time, and I totally flipped for her.  I don’t even remember what I had gone over there for, all I recall was that his sister and I hit it off like long-lost soulmates.  We had a ton in common, we had a similar dark sense of humor and constantly laughed at each other.  While I tended to get extremely bashful around girls, something about her put me totally at ease, we kept constant eye contact, shared smiles, and by the time I had to leave she gave me a wonderfully long, lingering hug.  She was tall, long dark hair, a dazzling smile… I never wanted to let go.

I remember driving away in a daze, totally smitten… and in a quandry.  This was my friend’s sister!  In my circle of friends there were sisters who had gotten involved with friends and it usually didn’t end so well, and it tended to muck up the friend dynamic, often evoking the “protective big brother” response, which trumps friendship every time.

But… but… she was perfect! (more…)

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Today is one of those awkward dates in a recently separated/divorced person’s life.  You know…

The Wedding Anniversary.

14 years ago today, my ex and I said our vows in front of God, family and friends.  It was a lovely ceremony; we’d rolled the dice and crossed our fingers, picking an outdoor wedding at Maymont Park, and the weather was gorgeous.  The humidity was low, a nice breeze in the air, warm but not too warm.  Birds were chirping.  The very next day, the weather turned cold and rainy, but by then we were in the air flying to Cancun.

It’s certainly a bit sad now for me to think back to the man I was then, filled with all the hopes and dreams for our future together, and then ponder where we end up.  For many people, there’s probably a lot more emotion tied up in the Wedding Anniversary than a little bit of sadness, but that’s all there really is for me.

I recently had a nice conversation with Cdn Stormweather — who writes the awesome Life in the Dash Lane blog — regarding my previous post on a Reverse Bucket List, and she asked me if I died tomorrow, would I go feeling fulfilled and happy?  Certainly an interesting notion to ponder.  Yes, it would be easy to get caught up in regrets and other negative emotions regarding how the marriage turned out, but I have to say that I think I’d be fine on that front.

(more…)

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While reading various blogs about singledom and dating, I often run across these “non-negotiables” lists.  The bloggers draw out these lines in the sand, and if someone fails to stay within the lines, they are not worth dating or loving.

Really?

My friend Courtney wrote an awesome guest blog on Simply Solo called When He Cheats, about finding the strength to forgive.  In reading the comments, quite a few people said, more or less,  “I would never be able to forgive, I’d never be able to trust him again.”

Seriously?

I have to admit I find this sort of rigidity perplexing.  Yes, I understand having a mental list of what you want in a mate– after all, my blog is called My Ideal Woman, so I’m familiar with the concept!  But I think too many people get what they want in a mate confused with what they need.  Sure, I could picture what I may want my ideal woman to look like physically, and I could even sketch out a laundry list of personality traits that would indicate we’d be perfect soul mates.  I’ve written a ton of blog posts doing just that.  But honestly now, those are just wants.  They are hardly non-negotiables.   What people need are the big ticket items:  someone you love and who loves you, someone who’s relatively sane, someone who’s not wanted by the law.  Things like that. (more…)

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Shelter from the Storm, by Kendra Baird

I was in another lifetime one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness a creature void of form
“Come in” she said
“I’ll give you shelter from the storm”.
–Bob Dylan

Most people I know consider me a pretty optimistic, cheerful person; a “glass half-full” kinda guy.  But there was a time I wasn’t like that.  I had a lot of anger, a lot of hurt, a lot of self-esteem issues.  When life handed me a steaming pile of shit, my main response was “well of course, that’s just my luck.”  The world was out to stomp me at every turn and people, in general, were selfish, unreliable, petty and mean.

Then at one point, in my early 20s, I had a revelation.  A revolution of sorts in my attitude.  I wasn’t a musician or poet or a darkly handsome hipster, so being sullen and angry was not at all attractive.  It wasn’t attractive to women, it wasn’t attractive to friends, and it wasn’t attractive to teachers, employers or potential business contacts.  What good was giving in to my dark emotions doing for me other than making me feel horrible, and repelling those around me?

Now, that’s not to say I was 100% sullen and angry back then.  There was a big part of me that was kind, sympathetic, and found pleasure in soothing and healing other people’s pain.  It’s just that for too long I let the dark side dominate my attitude and something needed to change.  I made a conscious effort to pack away the anger, the hurt and the self-esteem issues and let the other side rule my life.  It made a big difference in my enjoyment of life and made me someone who was a lot more fun to be around.  I’ve done a pretty good job keeping those positive thoughts and feelings in the forefront of my mind for 20 years now, even through the tough times of a disintegrating marriage and subsequent divorce.

But sometimes it gets really, really hard.

This Fall and Winter has been hard.  Yes, there have been good things that have come my way, blessings from special people in my life and a few lucky breaks, and I’ve tried hard to focus on them, to let those things light my path.  But there have also been a steady stream of bad breaks, bad news, and stress that have accumulated and left me in a general funk lately.  And it’s made me realize just how awesome it would be to have a special someone in your life that you can turn to in times like these, to give you that shelter from the storm, who can share in the burdens and soothe that pain.  Yes, family, children and friends can offer some level of comfort, but nothing beats having a lover that can wrap you in her arms, give you warmth and kisses, to be not only shelter and shield but your comrade-in-arms, our love the swords beating back and conquering the negative forces that surround us.

let's whoop some ass

In times like these, not having someone like that leaves a great gaping hole that threatens to let all those dark forces I’ve kept put away come pouring back out.  But I know that giving in to that will do nothing to help my situation and, indeed, likely just make it worse.  So no need to worry—my positive attitude remains the dominating force in my life, but right now it’s just really hard, and has left me with a serious case of the February Blahs.

One day she’ll come into my life, someone special who will be shelter, shield and sword for me, and I will offer her the same, and together we’ll handle anything that life throws our way and come away smiling.

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The other day I was listening to the awesome Sex Nerd Sandra podcast and she was talking with guest Dr. Christopher Ryan, the co-author of an  interesting book on human sexuality called Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality [the paperback is called Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships].  Basically the theory is that we human animals have a million years of sexual and social behavior that’s been hard-coded into our bodies and brains, with just a thousand year thin layer of “modern” notions of sexual and social behavior trying — often unsuccessfully — to paper over our natures.  If you’ve never listened to her podcast this is a great one to sample (though she’s got a wide variety of topic and show-styles outside of this interview show).

Among the many topics he touched on was one that kinda blew me away… and really hit home.  Basically he said studies have shown that birth control pills tend to suppress the chemical responses in women that draw them to particular men as mates… and also supress similar chemical responses in women that repel them away from particular men as mates.  After listening to the show I Googled up an article he published in 2010 about the topic (How the Pill Could Ruin Your Life), and here are some of the key things he brought up:

“In 1995, Swiss biological researcher Claus Wedekind published the results of what is now known as the “Sweaty Tee Shirt Experiment.”  He asked women to sniff T-shirts men had been wearing for a few days, with no perfumes, soaps, or showers. Wedekind found, and subsequent research has confirmed, that most of the women were attracted to the scent of men whose major histocompatibility complex (MHC) differed from her own. This preference makes genetic sense in that the MHC indicates the range of immunity to various pathogens. Children born of parents with different immunities are likely to benefit from a broader, more robust immune response themselves.”

“The problem is that women taking birth control pills don’t seem to show the same responsiveness to these male scent cues. Women who were using birth control pills chose men’s T-shirts randomly or, even worse, showed a preference for men with similar immunity to their own.”

Consider the implications. Many couples meet when the woman is on the pill. They go out for a while, like each other a lot, and then decide to get together and have a family. She goes off the pill, gets pregnant, and has a baby. But her response to him changes. There’s something about him she finds irritating-something she hadn’t noticed before.

Now, I think it takes a lot more to make and break up marriages than pheromones and whether someone is on the pill or off, but I’m also a firm believer that biochemical reactions in our bodies and brains drive a lot more behavior than most of us realize.  What blew me away though was that this was weirdly the perfect answer to what had been a rather perplexing ending to my marriage.

My ex and I had a really long, on-and-off-again relationship before we got eventually got married.  I was always under the impression that there was plenty of love between the two of us, but once we had our two kids (nearly back-to-back) it was like a light switched off with her, and everything I said, did, didn’t say, or didn’t do annoyed the shit out of her.  Built up over time, it was pretty impossible to stay together.

In the aftermath, trying to make sense of things and learn Life Lessons from it, I cooked up several theories that I thought did a pretty good job of explaining What Went Wrong… but none of them easily “fit” as a good answer.  That’s okay– life’s complicated, people are complicated.  Sometimes you can’t explain everything.

But… our relationship prior to children, which spanned about 11 years of-and-on, while up and down certainly did not seem to lack passion and love.  I’m pretty sure she was on the pill that whole time.  Stopped taking the pill to have kids… and everything went to hell between us.

Both my heart and brain tells me that such a simple answer can’t be right, but then I think of Occam’s Razor, the pill + bio-chemical responses… and damn if it doesn’t seem to fit what happened much better than my other theories.

I know there are things we could have done — should have done — differently that might have made a difference, but I find it both fascinating and appealing to think that perhaps our bodies just weren’t bio-chemically compatible all along, and we just didn’t know it until we wanted to have kids together.

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The other day I was reading the awesome blog  Life in the Farce Lane and her entry End of an er…or inspired a comment from me that inspired this blog post.  She talks about recently taking her engagement ring off, months and months after breaking up with her fiance, and how it felt to take off the ring and having a personal “farewell” party.  It was a very touching and bittersweet post.

It’s tough going through those sorts of milestones, putting away important pieces of your old life. Reminds me of when I first stopped wearing my wedding band after my ex and I split.  It just felt weird not having it on.  My finger was used to having it there, the small indentation and slightly lighter color where the band was took a while to go away.  Oddly enough, what bothered me the most was, when tapping my fingers to music, I couldn’t add that metallic “clink” to the rhythm.  It also made me realized that I used to “clink” the ring against stuff as I’d put my left hand against it sometimes without really thinking about it, but often enough that it was a little jarring not hearing that sound anymore.

I still find the white gold ring lovely to look at; it’s scuffed and worn from 11 years of getting brushed against whatever I put my hands on or carried, taking showers with it, swimming with it, doing yard work with it.  Some of those years weren’t happy ones, but I still see the ring as a reminder of the happiness we felt when we bought it and got the inscription made inside the band (both our initials, plus the wedding date to help my forgetful mind remember as the years went by), the optimism and the excitement for the future when we gave our vows and exchanged rings.  The scuffed and dull finish now reminds me of the time invested in a relationship that produced two beautiful and sweet children that I adore.  While the marriage didn’t ultimately last, I don’t regret it.

I remember when we went on our honeymoon, and we had to sit in seats across the aisle from each other on the airplane, where we could chat but obviously not really act like newlyweds and hold hands, snuggle or show more blatant public displays of attention.  Even so, one of the stewardesses asked me if we’d just gotten married.

“Yes!  How did you know?” I asked.  I was 32, she was 31, so we weren’t kids.  Did we have a newlywed glow?  Was there some vibe that we gave off?

“Your wedding band is so shiny,” she pointed out.  “When you wear that ring every day that shine wears off pretty quickly, so yours is obviously really new.”

I lost the band a couple times over those 11 years.  I’d rarely take it off, and occasionally when I did I’d forget to put it back on, then forget where I’d left it.  It usually wasn’t hard to figure out where it was, in part from my habit of tapping the ring against stuff to give me that “clink” sound, and how I’d notice when suddenly that sound didn’t happen when I was subconsciously expecting it.  It was usually within the hour or so, and I’d quickly find it.

One time the band was missing for over a week.  I remember tapping my hand against a doorway, realizing the “clink” sound was missing… and I couldn’t remember when I may have taken it off.  Or when the last time I had been conscious of it on my finger, the last “clink” sound.  I retraced my steps, checked all the floors in the house, checked my car.  The next day I checked my cube at work.  It was nowhere to be found.

After a week I was resigned to the fact that the ring was gone, and contemplated whether I should get another one or not worry about it.  I’m not really a jewelry-wearing kind of guy anyway.

Then one day, as I walked to the shed to get out the lawnmower, a gleam of light reflected off something in the grass in the middle of the yard.  I knelt down and there it was—my ring, deep in a clump of grass!  It kinda blew me away that something so small, in the middle of my back yard, which is mostly shaded by trees, could have given off a reflection of sunlight at just the right angle for me to see it as I walked.  Finding it again seemed remarkable.

Right now it’s packed away… safekeeping it for whichever of my kids might want it when they grow up, maybe as something to hang on a necklace, or something else interesting.

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GREAT movie!

[NOTE:  I recently watched Lost in Translation again and, even after all these years, I still find the movie mesmerizing and enchanting.  But having gone through the crucible of a failed marriage the movie resonates even deeper.  Murray’s Bob is a lifer in a loveless and cold marriage and feels disconnected from his kids.  Johansson’s Charlotte is just starting out in married life but is justifiably having second thoughts and concerns due to a spouse that seems to take her for granted and not be all that interested in her.  They both are longing for something greater, more meaningful. I relate and connect to both of their characters in such different ways than I did back when I first saw the movie and was moved by it.

I’ve always thought of “art” as the space between what the artist creates and what the viewer brings, it’s that intermingling of intention, perception and perspective that makes something special that moves us.  I find it a rare joy when you can enjoy a film one one way when you first watch it, and have that enjoyment change in tone and texture as you yourself have changed over time.  I thought I’d repost this review I wrote up for Livejournal back when it first came out in theaters.]

I could feel at the time
There was no way of knowing
Fallen leaves in the night
Who can say where they’re blowing

Scarlett Johansson is intoxicating. She first hit my radar in the delightful Ghost World where she gave a solid performance in a supporting role that nearly felt like a co-lead. With Lost in Translation, she’s even better. The critics have been showering praise on Bill Murray– and it’s warranted. It’s his finest performance ever. I guess he’s getting the attention since, for the first time that I can remember, he truly transcends himself. When you watch you often forget that it’s Bill Murray up there, you think of him as his character Bob.

Lean on me

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Being a Chill Co-Parent

I feel fortunate in a lot of ways.  I’m of an age where I see a fair number of friends and acquaintances going through breakups and divorces and most of them seem to be incredibly messy and full of hurt feelings and anger.  Thankfully, I don’t have that in my life.

Not to say my divorce isn’t laced with hurt feelings and anger, but those emotions are just a by-product of two people who came to realize that they no longer wanted to be married.  Those emotions aren’t driving our actions or consuming our thoughts like I see so many others going through.  They mostly flare up and annoy, if they need venting I’ll vent, but then I just let them go and move on.

Of course, we have two children that we keep forefront in our mind, and our number one concern is raising them to be happy and well-adjusted people.  Having two parents at war with each other isn’t going to help with that plan, and when I see a couple that’s split and has children and they constantly inject drama and high negative emotion into their lives, I just flinch and feel bad for their kids.

It made me feel a little better the other day, when I was talking with a co-worker and come to find out he was a single father.  I asked him how often he got to see his son (assuming as is usually the case that the child lived with his mom), and he smiled and said he rented a room from his ex-wife, so  he got to see his son all the time.  While I don’t think I could ever live with my ex again, we did share a hotel room for a couple days at the beach with the kids for vacation the summer after we split, and I spend the night on Christmas Eve so we can all get up and do Santa Claus together with our children.  We’re not a couple and not really friends, but we’re friendly enough and we share a love for our two little ones that gives us common ground and common interest in the way we interact through everyday and holidays.

I wonder how that dynamic might change when one or the other of us brings a significant other into the mix.  I’ve not dated and I don’t think she’s dated since we split… on my side, it’s not been because I’ve not wanted to date, but mostly because it’s so difficult to find time.  I’d likely make a really terrible boyfriend right now unless I find a gal who wouldn’t mind keeping odd h0urs with me until I find a roommate and can cut back on my insane work schedule.  I’m not even sure how I’d go about finding such a woman!

But one day it’s going to happen.   One of us will fall for someone and that person will become a part of the relationship dynamic.  And it makes me wonder how he or she might react to the fact that my ex and I aren’t at war, and we try to both share in our children’s lives as much as we can.  Will they find it awesome, will they find it tolerable, will they freak out about it?

What do you think?  Have you covered this territory before?  It’s uncharted waters for me, so any tips or tales ahead of time would certainly help.

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As I drove to go see Crazy, Stupid, Love I realized this was the first time I’d been to see a movie in 2011… and it was the end of August.  What a fucking travesty that I don’t even have time to go out to see a movie!  I used to go see 2-3 movies a month, often just by myself since I’m such a movie buff and it seemed difficult to coerce friends and significant others to go see them with regularity.  Yet another reason why I’ve got to change things, get more free time in my life.

Anyway, back to the movie review.  Since I first saw the previews for Crazy, Stupid, Love I knew it was a movie I wanted to go see.  The leads are all actors I like, and the premise really hit home—dude in his 40s, works hard, married, two kids and suddenly his wife asks for a divorce.  Check, check, check, check and check!  Dude moves out and struggles to start again, and gets help from ladies’ man.  The part about “gets help from ladies’ man” is where our stories diverge, but I was certainly hooked by the setup and intrigued by the notion of these two men from wildly different social backgrounds learning from each other.

Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly play out that way, to the slight detriment to an otherwise totally enjoyable night at the movies.

For the most part though it was great.  Steve Carrell did a wonderful job as the blind-sided schlep who’s in shock when his wife orders a divorce for dessert.  Of course, if eternally gorgeous Julianne Moore was your wife having her dump you would be catastrophic.  I mean, seriously…

it's hard to beat red hair and freckles in my book...

She tries hard to be the sad, unsatisfied middle-aged housewife… and Julianne Moore actually is 51, married with children, but seriously come on…

seriously, come on...

She’s a great actress and I’d get caught up in the scene and she’d be Emily the mom and ex-wife, but suddenly there’d be a close-up and other scenes flash through my head– making out with Amanda Seyfried in Chloe, her awesome orgasm face when she’s shagging Ralph Fiennes in the pivotal scene from The End of the Affair, and so many gorgeous nude and sex scenes in Boogie Nights…

Somehow though I don’t mind the distractions…

So back to Steve Carrell’s schlep Cal.  He devastated, numb… and goes out into the world to start his new life.  Gets an apartment, has the kids over (totally hit home with me).  But then he goes out drinking every night… which is when I stop relating on a personal level.  In fact, it’s a bit distracting because it does hit so close to home which is why that angle rang a bit false– I understand why you’d want to drown yourself in sorrow, but buying drinks in a bar is expensive.  Renting an apartment by yourself while also paying child support is expensive.  Yes, Cal and Emily both are shown to have decent jobs, but not necessarily upper upper upper middle class jobs.  I mean, me and my ex both have decent jobs, but I’m having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet (which is why I’m hunting for a roommate).  When I want to drown my sorrows, I hit the ABC store and kick back in my recliner.  Not only is it much more economical but I’m not risking a DUI or killing someone driving home.

Of course, drowning his sorrows night after night at a singles bar one way to advance the plot, which involves sad-sack Cal meeting up with Jacob, played by the incredibly handsome Ryan Gosling.  Ladies, if you’re lamenting the lack of eye-candy in your life, Mr. Gosling provides quite a bit of it.  Jacob is a lady-killer, with moves so smooth he never has to spend the night alone.  Of course, the womanizing is to paper over inner pain and tormoil, and so we figure the arc of the story involves Cal and Jacob helping each other deal with and overcome their pain.

Emma Stone is cute! Red hair is nice... does she have freckles?

Add to the mix cute and perky Emma Stone, who pops up as Hannah, the object of Jacob’s affection but who is one woman unmoved by his overt charms.  She actually plays a larger role in the movie than I initially figured she would.  This role is much more “grown-up” than previous roles I’ve seen her in, and at 23 she should be playing older roles and yet she looks so young and tiny it almost feels like Jacob trying to score with a high-schooler.Another woman in the mix is Analeigh Tipton, who plays Jessica, a high-school senior who babysits for Cal and Emily.  Analeigh plays Jessica well, adding in the right level of teenage awkwardness and innocence, and yet the actress herself just radiates this feline sexiness that I had moments lamenting this was not rated R so there was no chance of American Beauty-style shenanigans.  I mean, just check her out:

It's okay, she's actually 23...

It almost felt like they miscast the movie; even though they’re actually the same age, having Emma Stone be the babysitter and Analeigh Tipton be the law student who gets tangled up with Gosling would have “felt” more correct.  Now, I still liked Emma’s performance — speaking of movie rating, she’s central to a funny scene where they’re talking about movie ratings in a fun almost self-referential/meta way that I won’t spoil here because it’s quite amusing with a surprising twist.  Of course, Ms. Stone is a bigger star and Hannah is a bigger role so the producers probably wouldn’t have even thought about switching the roles… especially given the PG-13 rating.  If it were rated R and Hannah’s role called for nudity it might have been weird seeing Emma naked.  She just looks too young and cute to see unclothed on the big screen.  I think she needs some more seasoning before she goes that route.

Which is actually a nice segue for the next woman I’d like to talk about– Marisa Tomei.  She’s a woman that just seems to get more and more sexy the older she gets.  I remember when she first hit the scene she was a lot like Emma Stone– cute, perky, soooo young looking.  The years have given her a bit more curves, laugh lines, and a self-assuredness that just radiates sex appeal.  Her turns in Rescue Me and Before the Devil Knows Your Dead… whooie, red hot!

Mmmmmmmarisa....

Marisa plays Kate, a woman Cal meets in a bar after Jacob gives him tips and a make-over, and the scenes between Cal and Kate offer up quite a few laughs.

One last woman I’d like to mention — the awesome Liza Lapira plays Liz, Hannah’s best friend and confidant who in some ways is trying to help Hannah somewhat like Jacob is trying to help Cal.

Looooove Liza!

She isn’t on screen much, but when she was I found myself riveted by her smile and great dialogue.  I tried to remember where I had seen her from, and later realized she was on one of my favorite cancelled TV shows– Traffic Light.  The show revolved around 3 friends in various stages of relationships, and Liza played the spouse to the married friend.  A what a spouse– her performance was a tour-de-force and it was a damn shame the ratings didn’t carry the show to a second season.

Now, about 2/3rds of the way through the movie I realized that the plot was angling back towards the gravitational pull of a relatively tidy Hollywood romantic comedy ending, and I was a tad disappointed.  I thought the potential was there for something better, more muddled and complex and ultimately more satisfying.  I won’t spoil the details, but in terms of Hollywood romantic comedies it actually ended pretty well and I found myself smiling and even a little sentimentally misty-eyed.  However, in my idealized version of this movie, Cal would end up with Marisa Tomei, at least for the short-term (I mean who wouldn’t want at least a year with Marisa Tomei??).  And Emily realizes she made a huge mistake giving up on Cal and laments that it’s too late to go back.  It would make for a bittersweet ending and a break with Hollywood convention, but sometimes that’s a bit much to ask from movies these days.

Go see the movie, tell me what you thought about it in the comments!

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