#293: Love! Movies! Adventure!

Little boy from Cinema Paradiso holding a piece of film.
You are here.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’ve always been one for bundling, so I thought I’d bundle 3 for the price of one 🙂 I will also try to make this as compact as possible.

#1 — I am a 19 year old guy, almost 20 in June. The first problem is that I have never kissed a girl, romantically so to speak. I have kissed a girl on the lips, but that was a dare. Now the reason for this is simple, I have not found the right girl. There have been relationships, and one in particular where I almost did kiss her, let’s call her A. But there were people all around us, and I wanted it to be special. I think the underlying issue is that I am filmmaker/musician/artist. I feel like I am the editor of my life, and I want to craft that romantic scene…those perfect moments. But in all honesty, there are very few people that I would actually date, that I know. People tell me to lower my expectations, but I simply will not. I believe there is nothing wrong in waiting for that right person. I know it happens, because it’s happened to me before. I knew the moment I saw A that she was someone I would date. And low and behold, we ended up dating. Now I understand that it is silly of me to think every moment can be that Hollywood blockbuster, and I know that now. I almost never plan things out and am a firm believer of fate. The only problem now is that I haven’t felt that initial spark with any girl I have met so far. (this will come into play with question two)

#2 — I met this girl on a chat site called Omegle. Now this isn’t a dating site, in fact I never thought I’d find someone I like on it. Out of all the people that were on at the time, 15,000 or so I believe, B was the one I came across. Our conversation was incredible, and I felt like I’ve known her for my entire life. We exchanged emails and a few weeks later I suggested we move to Facebook and text/call/skype. She agreed because our emails were incredibly long, and it became very tedious to write haha. So now I am currently waiting for an email from her with skype/facebook information. So right now the only major problem… is that she is from another country and we’ve never met. I really want this to work out, because I feel such a connection to her. But I’ve been hurt so many times, I have learned not to attach myself so quickly. I’d be able to just move on if this doesn’t work out. But I’m just worried it will be a while before I find someone else I connect so closely with…

#3 — I recently decided to withdraw from college, and pursue my film editing career through internships and apprenticeships. I am someone who learns through experience and using my hands, so to speak. I was not learning enough new material, as I am a very fast learner and knew the majority of what was being taught prior to college. I felt like I was ready to enter into the industry, so, after my school raised their tuition, my decision was made to not return. It didn’t help that mostly all of my teachers kept saying we didn’t need film school to be in the industry…since I am no longer tied to school, I could pick up and take myself anywhere, if I find the internship/job for it. So I could go to B’s country and find work there. But this is something that would happen only if the opportunity arises.

So in all, I guess I’m just very confused about these decisions I’ve made and committed to. If you could please help me out and give me your opinion, I would be forever grateful.

Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise
You want to be here.


I will try to answer your questions:

#1: I think it’s good to be picky and it’s time for everyone to stop apologizing or feeling weird about when and how they started kissing. HOWEVER I think it’s also a bit weird to script your own kissing & sex scenes like they are scenes from movies, for a couple of reasons.

  • There’s a whole other PERSON there, and she has her own magical fantasies and will and a mouth and hands and a brain, and it will be way more fun if you let things play out and invent things together than if she conforms to the movie in your head.
  • Most movie kissing/sex scenes just make regular people feel bad about themselves because we are not that good looking or bold or graceful. We get sweaty and accidentally fart and have a hard time getting into the right position and we make weird faces and noises. Movies also teach us that it’s the man’s job to initiate the kissing and to take the lead in general. That’s a lot of pressure that we don’t need.
  • There are a lot of possible Right People for you. Honestly, there are.  It’s a fallacy that “I’ve never felt this way” or “I rarely feel this way and now I do” requires some action by the other person.

So on the subject of #1, I’d keep your standards high in terms of who is worth kissing but let the kissing parts be more of an improv.

#2: I can think of many marriages and important relationships in my personal friend circle that started long distance – meeting in an internet community, sending long emails, staying up all night chatting, eventually meeting up, etc. So I don’t think that’s necessarily a weird thing to hope for or a weird way to find love – no weirder than anything else people do – though, for a storyteller like yourself, that is a really easy way to get caught up in a fantasy and feel like you’re living a story for a while. So do what you can to not be obsessed, take care of yourself and your day-to-day life, let things unfold at their own pace, make sure she is an equal partner in all of this (being someone’s muse is still majorly objectifying and uncomfortable, so don’t make her yours), make sure your plans (as they form) are realistic and mutual as possible.

#3: Your field is one where the work you do and connections you make count more than any specific degree, and if you can find an internship or apprenticeship – here, there, or anywhere – DO IT! Now is the time for you to take big risks and have big adventures.

If you do pursue work in her country, tell her you’re doing it. Don’t have it be a “Surprise, I moved here! For you!” moment, ok? Enlist her support and her help as much as possible, and pay attention to whether she follows through on promises and actually wants you to come. There are all kinds of details like work permits and visas to figure out. It’s probably better if you don’t plan to live together – have your own space. Use the internet to make other friends in the country so you won’t be 100% dependent on her. And pursue cool work opportunities in other places, too. Give yourself options.

One axiom for meeting people on the internet: Internet interactions are real, and feelings are real, but no matter what you’ve discussed in the past, the clock essentially resets when you actually meet the person face-to-face. Some people will feel like old friends you’ve known all your life. Some people at that moment will feel like total strangers. You have to roll with it and you have to give her a graceful out if at that moment she’s not feeling what she thought she would.

Remember, at the beginning of Before Sunrise, the Ethan Hawke character has gone to visit his girlfriend in Europe, planning an awesome trip for the two of them together, but he gets dumped right away and has to travel alone. And THAT’S when the good stuff happens. There is a real possibility that things will not work out if you and she are in the same place at the same time. She might not like you the way you thought she would. You might not like her the way you thought you would. And that’s ok, as long as you have a good plan B (an internship lined up, some savings backing you up, a plan for what you do if nothing works out like you planned) – you can still have a big adventure, learn about another culture, learn a language, learn more about your craft, and get your heart good and broken in a way that you will never forget.

I feel like the ways that this is a bad idea are obvious and there are many people (parents, friends, RESPONSIBLE ADULT AUTHORITY) standing by to explain those to you, so it’s fun to think about the ways it’s a good idea. All of this could be a giant mistake, but that’s okay. Go and make a giant, beautiful mistake. Take one Cinema Paradiso, one Before Sunrise, one Before Sunset, one cautionary Catfish, and send us a postcard.

21 thoughts on “#293: Love! Movies! Adventure!

  1. Aww, LW. The Captain has great advice for you! Only kiss people you want to kiss (who want to kiss you back), for sure. But some of the most memorable times you can have are unscripted. Life can be wackier and more fun than a comedy — if you let it happen.

    And remember, letting yourself get off-script will also help give you new and different perspectives that can broaden you and inform your work. Messy real life is fodder for artists of all stripes (which isn’t to say “use people as unknowing extras”, don’t do that).

  2. I think the underlying issue is that I am filmmaker/musician/artist. I feel like I am the editor of my life, and I want to craft that romantic scene…those perfect moments

    Nope. Sorry. I know I shouldn’t call folks out on their illusions, but this is Not True.

    Filmmakers and musicians and artists know that you don’t get perfect moments on the first try. You want a hit song? You write it and re-write it and re-write it, then practice it and practice it and perform it over & over, learning from each round. Anyone who has done film or music editing knows that you shoot the scene dozens of times, record dozens of tracks, and then, only after you’ve taken the shots/laid down the tracks, do you go back and try to piece together a perfect moment, a romantic scene.

    The notion of being the ‘editor’ of your life is both seductive and harmful. Seductive, because it allows you to find meaning in things, lets you control the narrative of what’s happened to you. Harmful, because as I said, editing is done after principle production, after the shoot, after the concert, after the “thing” has happened and been done. You shouldn’t be waiting until after the concert, until after dinner is over and she’s walking to her front door while you drive away, to decide if you were having fun. At best, you wind up over-thinking things, and at worst, you wind up missing all of the good things happening around you in the moment.

    Here’s the uncomfortable internet diagnosis to be taken with a grain of salt: wanting to craft a perfect moment, waiting for things to be just right is often a defense mechanism. By setting the bar for success so high, you give yourself permission not to try at all and avoid failure.

    Kiss the girl! Your first kiss might be great. It might be awful. It might be memorable or it might be forgettable, but the one thing it probably won’t be is your last or only kiss. If the LW really does want to be an editor, he knows that you’ll shoot dozens of takes before picking the best one. So get out there and start shooting! The myth is that you can pick up a guitar and the first song you play is a hit; the reality is that you can’t shoot the perfect scene unless you’ve shot a whole lot of not-perfect scenes first. And not-perfect scenes, while not perfect, can still be fun and good. Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss; it doesn’t have to be anything more than that to be an amazing and wonderful moment.

    I’m just worried it will be a while before I find someone else I connect so closely with…
    Remember what I said about over-thinking things? This would be a good example. There really is no way to know how long you’ll go between sudden, strong rapports. It could be a while, it could be a week. (it depends, in part, on how often you reach out to others, and how you react to others reaching out to you…) Having a connection is good, and wanting to follow it is good, but trying to chase that connection because you don’t know when the next one will show up? Not so great; you’ve already skipped over growing that connection and enjoying it and having fun and jumped all the way to “when this ends, how long will I have to wait for the next one?”

    As the Captain says, there’s a whole other PERSON involved here. Be in the moment, shoot the scene, play the track, and wait until after to start editing.

    So I could go to B’s country and find work there. But this is something that would happen only if the opportunity arises.
    If this could only happen if the opportunity arises, then don’t think about it until the opportunity arises! Until then, take other internships and apprenticeships, and keep in contact with A & B ( & C & D and whoever else comes along) and let things happen as they will. You can make sense of it all after the fact.

      1. Agreed! And this is what really resonated for me:

        [W]anting to craft a perfect moment, waiting for things to be just right is often a defense mechanism. By setting the bar for success so high, you give yourself permission not to try at all and avoid failure.

    1. Wow what a great comment. Relevant to me too, because of reasons.

      LW I too struggle with wanting things to be perfect and beautiful all the time and RodeoBob is right, it gets in the way. Being in the messiness, not knowing how things will end, being unsure, trying, failing, all that stuff…it’s the stuff of *life*

      Make and edit movies, for sure. But also – live a little!

      1. Yeah, I like this, for reasons:

        “It could be a while, it could be a week. (it depends, in part, on how often you reach out to others, and how you react to others reaching out to you…”

    2. My instructor for a writing course I took last year said that one thing that makes life super hard is the fact that we have to live as unedited versions of ourselves. I completely believe that, and I also think that while unedited (or unrehearsed) work can make for crappy performances, it can make for way more fun in actual life.

      But I can think of at least one area where the creative process and regular old life living actually match up. Like RodeoBob said, “the reality is that you can’t shoot the perfect scene unless you’ve shot a whole lot of not-perfect scenes first.” You can’t get to the edited version of anything if you don’t have a first draft. In art (or science, or, like, anything), that means that you start by just starting, just making something, and then you build on it until you have something amazing. In life, that means taking risks and trying things. Sure, you can (and should) have standards about who you want to kiss and who you want to spend a lot of time with and what you do with your career, but if you expect perfection the first time you try anything, you might eventually stop trying things because you’ll be too busy focusing on how to phrase the first sentence.

  3. I think that big life adventures are a great idea, and I support you getting out there and doing something awesome and a little scary so long as it’s a reasonable risk that involves, as the Captain says, some savings and a job/internship that is targeted at what you want to do. But while I don’t want to say that relationships that begin on the internet can’t work out — they can! they do! — I think it is a really bad idea for you to move to another country if even part of the reason for doing so is a woman you’ve spent a few weeks talking to on the internet.

    If you’ve been talking for a longer period of time, and you’ve discussed wanting to be together (not in a “man, it sucks we don’t live in the same place” but rather in a “we both want to give a real-life relationship a try, let’s discuss ways to make that possible”), then moving to where she is might make sense. Even then, I would personally be very hesitant about moving for someone I hadn’t previously met in person, because as the Captain notes, it is basically a whole new relationship when you take things into the real world. And even if you have an internship lined up and some savings and it’s not throwing your life totally off track to move there, moving *for* someone creates a whole lot of pressure and expectations on both sides.

    I was once in a long-distance relationship where the guy moved for me — in a reasonable way, where he chose a slightly-less-good grad program in the place I was instead of slightly-better grad program on another continent — and even though it was not an enormous sacrifice and it was only for a year or two and he was the one who broached the idea, I felt a HUGE amount of pressure because he had given something up to be where I was. Even though we did know each other in real life before he moved, I found the relationship very different once we were in the same city and I stayed with him for months longer than I wanted to because I felt like I couldn’t end things when he had made this sacrifice of moving to be with me. We broke up near the end of his time in that city, and he told me straight-out that he was pissed he’d given up his ideal grad program to be with me if things were going to end anyway. Which is a jerky thing to say, but probably a natural reaction to have.

    And LW, I think for you specifically it is a very bad idea to get too wrapped up in this one woman. Both the likelihood of things not working out and the probability it will not be worth the move to give things a try are heightened the less time you’ve known each other and the less contact (particularly voice and in-person contact) you’ve had. The fact that you’re invested in making this work because you don’t think you’ll find someone else, even though you’ve only been messaging a few weeks, is a big red flag to me. It says that you’re projecting a lot of fantasy-relationship things on this (because really, you can’t know from a few weeks of internet chatting that this woman is your perfect match), and it also says that you’re trying to lock this down not so much because you’re in love with this woman but rather because you’re scared there isn’t another person for you. There is! There are probably many other people for you! And while it can be scary to go out and find them, that is a really bad reason for deciding that you need to be with this person who you don’t know very well and who you can only be with if you radically redesign your entire life.

    So go ahead and keep chatting, but my advice would be to really, really try not to think of this woman as your one-and-only shot at love, or really as a potential romantic partner at all. If in the future you end up in the same place and both want to give things a try, go forth and date the heck out of each other. But in the meantime, don’t let your chat connection with this person be a reason not to go meet people and become interested in other women wherever you are. If you find it difficult to meet people in real life, internet dating sites are a great, great way to show you how many interesting people are in your neck of the woods and will help dispel the myth that you’ll never meet another person you could be interested in. Don’t lower your standards, but broaden your horizons.

    1. THIIIIIS. LW, please take a trip to meet this woman face-to-face before you do anything permanent. Like the Captain says, the clock is set to zero when you meet someone in person for the first time. You have to be ready for the possibility (for me, semi-certainty) that you won’t click like you did online.

  4. Augh. I would have a perfect book to recommend to the LW, about people who do start to live their lives as movies, but alas. It exists only in Finnish, so the only thing I can offer is seconding Captain and RodeoBob.

    1. Actually, Anna Karenina is a pretty good novel about people who live their lives as novels. Poor woman keeps having these dramatic grand resolutions to her drama (they kiss! She gets pregnant! She leaves her husband! She has the baby! She nearly dies! They go abroad! They move into their dream home! Etc!) but they never actually neatly resolve the storyline, because life doesn’t work that way. It just keeps happening. Right up until it stops; death is the final resolution of the story, but that doesn’t make it meaningful or necessary. It just makes it sad.

  5. I waited for my first kiss, and that worked for me.

    Not that I was fussy or anything — I didn’t have a whole script — but I had a principle of wanting a first kiss that meant something to me at the time, that I would look back at and smile on. So even though I was really interested in kissing, I didn’t try to get close enough to someone I didn’t care as much about, just to try it out. Instead I took the plunge and asked out my crush object by sending him an email explaining that I was “kind of sweet on him” and would he like to meet some time? He would, and while sitting in his car at the end of our second date remarked that he was “kind of planning on kissing me, actually,” to which I naturally expressed swift acquiescence.

    He wasn’t a bad kisser. I liked the smells of his hair gel and his leather jacket as sort of symbols of closeness. He started slow, the interaction got to the point of being pleasant and natural, and not needing to have everything thought about in advance, and it was altogether full of the best sort of squidgy excited romantic feelings.

    A few weeks later he dumped me, but that doesn’t spoil the memory for me. Looking back, I think a kiss was what I wanted, and I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go from there, after that, besides clinging a little too tightly to him in an uncertain way because, you know, crush object. So that’s okay. I learned how to kiss; I learned that I liked kissing. That was enough.

  6. LW, I’m a bit concerned with how emotionally invested you seem to be getting in the stories of these ladies. You haven’t yet moved to facebook/skype with Lady B (who else misses early rap? anyone?), but you’re already gaming out moving to her country. That’s…a big leap. And you mention relationships, particularly A, but you didn’t kiss her because there were ‘people all around us’. This is not to say that romantic relationships have to have a sexual component (asex, what), but generally a relationship means more interaction than one missed moment. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and generalize that if you haven’t spent time with a person, just the two of you, without ‘people all around’, then it is likely not a full fledged relationship.

    So! I’m wearing my concerned face. Because that ability to fantasize a full story is a huge asset for your career but can make big problems in your personal life. Ladies usually don’t like to find out they’re playing a starring role in a person-they-don’t-know-well’s fantasy life. Maybe when you realize your head is thousands of miles in front of your interactions, it’s time to take a breath, jot down an outline for a script, and reset your expectations.

  7. I’d totally second all of the fabulous advice given above….

    And add that the problem with seeing yourself as the main character in the movie of your life is pretty much that it relegates others to supporting characters when in reality they are individuals with their own complex lives… Who don’t revolve around you.

    Also, I am rather older than you but i am someone who met her current partner online and he lives in another country to my home country. I got to know him for a year, traveling back and forth (I was lucky to have a reasonably well paid job and could afford to travel) before upping sticks and moving to his country.

    Whoa, was that ever tough. And a couple years later, it still is sometimes even though it’s not the first time I’ve lived abroad.

    Even though our relationship is pretty solid, it was hard. Culture shock, job issues, friends left behind, family, the whole thing.

    Seriously, having something set up before you go, making friends outside your partners circle, etc, would really help you.

    I wish you well with your epic adventure 🙂

  8. I was someone who wanted that “perfect” moment. Then I ended up falling deeply in love with someone who was very far from my ideal. We lasted almost three years before differing life goals got in the way.

    Right now I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m falling for a guy I never even thought I’d kiss. There is a whole list of reasons why this is a bad idea, but I kinda just forget all those reasons when I’m close to him. My heart skips a beat every time I see him and even though life will probably get in the way sooner or layer I’m going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

  9. I heartily recommend living abroad, it gives you a new perspective on things and is a wonderful experience. Bear in mind, it can be difficult to achieve. There are visa laws that continually change, different boxes that you need to tick. From personal experience, if you’re from the US and looking to move to say, the UK, you need to be there on either a student visa or a skilled worker visa, which requires you to be working at a university graduate level job (which may actually require you be a university graduate in order to get these jobs). This isn’t to deter you from moving, just to get you thinking of it. And believe me, an entry level job in film isn’t enough to get you a visa (I’ve spoken with a couple of production companies). Not sure how things are in other countries.

    My recommendation? Move out to NYC or Hollywood and focus on industry. Let your relationship with B grow naturally.

  10. Waiting for the perfect occasion to do something often leads to never doing it at all. I have a good friend who I’ve known for about 7 years. For 7 years she has been talking about getting a cat in the next couple of months. She wanted a bigger apartment, she wanted to wait until she wasn’t traveling, she wanted to wait until she found the kind of cat she wanted… so and and so forth. She’ll probably never get a cat.

    In the end it comes down to utility. You’re not going to get the perfect cat, and you’re not going to get the perfect kiss/relationship/firstanything. Next time you catch yourself holding back for the perfect moment try asking yourself, would I rather have an imperfect cat? or never have any cat at all?

    I have 2 cats, I love them, they are furry and wonderful and make me so happy and I can’t imagine life without them. They vomited 5 times this weekend. No cat is perfect, but that doesn’t make them not worth having. Thus ends my cat metaphor.

    I also want to encourage the LW to make learning about other things part of his new adventures. I know so many people who are experts at one thing, but don’t even have a grasp of how much they don’t know about other fields. I know you don’t need to take economics or history to work a camera and edit film, but it might give you some unique insights into the work you do or just your life. Tons of universities are offering free online classes, check out coursera.org, MIT and Stanford also offer online classes you can follow. There are also free online language learning systems you can try.

    I think one of the most important things you can learn from college is how much you don’t know. It’s obvious your college failed you in that regard by boring you to death. Try branching out into some other areas to keep your mind active and stimulate your creativity in other directions!

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