There are a few good reasons to watch the 1999 movie, The Runaway Bride. They are: Julia Roberts’ laugh, Richard Gere’s hair, and the bit about the eggs.
The movie is about a woman who molds herself into whatever and whoever the man she’s currently with wants her to be. She eats eggs the way her man likes them and doesn’t realize that she doesn’t know her own preferences. She can get herself to the brink of marriage, but then something—let’s call it reasonable fear—kicks in and she understands she’s about to make a mistake. But it’s a mistake she keeps making.
It’s not a great movie, though it should have been. It should have been because it hits home for so many women. It illustrates a problem many of us recognize, even if we’re loath to see it in ourselves.
I was thinking about The Runaway Bride as I spent the day recently on the border of Idaho and Montana. We were on cross-country skis, out in the middle of nowhere, my dog Helen running in deep snow like some kind of crazed winter critter, my boyfriend John carrying a pack with cookies, Wheat Thins, chocolate, miso soup, and water, and I knew there wasn’t anything I would have preferred doing at that moment.
The day before we had gone alpine skiing at a resort. It was cold. I was cold. I am always cold—it is one of my least appealing traits—but that day, even critters with thick white fur wouldn’t have wanted to be outdoors. I’d ski off the chair and we’d go all the way down and I’d never warm up. Then we had to get right back on that chilly chair. After a few morning runs, I told John that I was going to go inside for a while and that I’d meet him after lunch. I had my Kindle with me and, after thawing out for a few hours, when I came back again I was able to enjoy myself.
I skied as a kid, but didn’t start again until I was in my mid-twenties and had hooked up with my future ex-husband. We lived in New York City and he loved to ski. So each weekend we’d work our day jobs and then drive four or five hours to ski. We skied as if it was a job: up early to catch the first chair and didn’t stop until the last. At that time, I wasn’t an athlete, and I wasn’t able to say no. My future ex-husband introduced me to the “Accelerated Learning Method,” where he’d take me to a run that was way too hard for me and say, “You can do it.”
I could do it. Sort of. But it took a really long time to get down, and it wasn’t much fun; terror isn’t the best catalyst for a good time. To be fair, I never said I didn’t want to do any of those black diamond runs. I never said I didn’t really like to go skiing. I didn’t think about whether or not I liked it. He did, so we went.
For the last couple of decades, I hardly skied at all. It never seemed worth the bother, worth the cost, worth suffering in the cold. Last year, I decided to try to make friends with winter and started skiing—both Alpine (what I’d learned to call “downhill”) and cross-country, now known as “classic” or “Nordic.” I went to a number of different ski areas with friends and had an okay time, but what I really liked was skiing around my neighborhood with my dog on a long leash in an approximation of a sport called “skijoring.”
John isn’t picky about his snow sports. He’s the kind of guy who has more pairs of skis than he does shoes. In fact, he has lots of different kinds of gear for lots of different kinds of sports and outdoors activities. Some of those are things that I like, some I will never do (whitewater kayaking? NEVER), and some I might just try.
The difference in meeting someone in your fifties as opposed to when you’re a twenty-something is that at this point, I know how I like my eggs—and pretty much everything else. I am willing to take a crack at new things, and sometimes I surprise myself by liking activities that I didn’t think I would. But now I choose not to pursue them if they’re not a good fit and don’t make excuses. Like Popeye, I understand that I yam what I yam.
RACHEL TOOR is a distance runner who used to be an “either/or” kind of person. She thought: either you were a nerdy little egghead, or you were an outdoorsy jock. She spent the first thirty years of her life indoors with a book. Then she started running... more »