All is Fair in Love & War


I saw Mr. & Mrs. Smith last night. I had forgotten how much I had once loved that movie. It would seem silly to most people; but to most people, the history of my love life would seem silly too. I would burst into uncontrollable laughter one moment, but then settle into quiet reflection the most. Wow! I thought. What I wouldn’t give to have a woman love me so much as to shed tears after thinking she blown up my elevator car over “seventy stories of air.” Or to carry so many levels of unspoken, accumulated affection over another person as to a high level assassin & fail to shoot your enemy at close range because—no matter how dangerous they were to you—you couldn’t bring yourself to forget all the times she made you smile.

There’s a saying—I’m not plagiarizing here, you’ll just have to take my word that I don’t know where it originated. But there’s a saying…”All is fair in love & war.” This statement would have served an accurate title for this movie. Moreover, I’ve always felt this statement would make the ultimate slogan for marriage. Forgot, “Till death do us part” (don’t know where that originated from either). That motto sounds so fatalistic & single minded. “Hang on for dear life until it’s over!” “Once you’ve promised yourself to someone, there’s no turning back!” That sounds so passive & one-dimensional. But “All is fair in love & war” carries so many more dimensions; so many diverse routes & eventual outcomes. It is assertive. It is active. And more importantly, it seems true.

I’ve compiled over thirteen years of direct customer services experience. The majority of the time, I’ve hardly ever seen my clients face-to-face. But I usually get a very clear sense of their personalities; & sometimes, even benefit from the wealth of life experience on the other side of the line. One older gentleman had called me to plan a multi-year wedding anniversary. I courteously congratulated him on reaching the milestone…maybe it was his golden. He thanked me but then began to reflect openly. “You know, it almost seems impossible to me that we made it this far thinking back over all the hardships we went through. But I’ll give you a bit of advice. If you’re marriage hasn’t already gotten to this point, it will. You’ll get to the point where you can’t even stand being in the same room much less looking at each other. That’s a cross roads. Once we made it through that point, & once you do…take my word…you can be together forever if you choose to do so.”

Mr. Smith (Brad Pitt) & Mrs. Smith (Angelia Jolie) certainly got to that point when they couldn’t even stand looking at each other. Even worse, they took great pains to kill each other using an array of crafty methods. Now again, this is a movie I’m talking about here, not real life. And the backdrop story is that husband & wife were both highly trained assassins who unknowingly worked for rival black op contractors. Wow, & you thought that your marriage had secrets!

It was so believable to see the betrayal followed by the self-doubt. Did she ever really love me? Was marrying me just a cover for her true love—her job? Was that really her father who gave her away at our wedding? The self-doubt was the worse. It made both husband & wife in turn question their value, the desirability, & eventually, their authenticity. But the trouble couple would ultimately discover that the more reasons they had to hate each other, the more they realized that they loved one another.

I remember being in love before. But now, I usually just remember how much it hurt. It’s was an inescapable unpleasantness that followed me everywhere, seeped its way obsessively into ever crevice of my life. It felt like a “not-so-temporary” insanity. Normally, I’m glad that I don’t feel that way anymore. But when I saw that movie, I also remembered how the most mundane actions could carry so much joy.  How a simple trigger like burnt toast could bring back layers of happy memories: the first bed in breakfast, the first morning of waking up together. Brad Pitt’s character brought it all together succinctly when he finally confessed the thought that crossed his mind when he first laid eyes on his bride to be: “It felt like Christmas morning.”

Yeah, I remember feeling that way once. I remember the dichotomy of a Christmas morning; on one hand, serene & decorative while on the other, barely restrained excitement. But then I remember the mess of wrapping paper & the sadness of staring at a tree bereft of the beautiful presents underneath. I remember having to go back to school & the happy memories getting buried further & further behind the muck of every day & I think, “All is fair in love & war.” Oh well. At least we can have happy endings in the movies.

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