Monday, October 10, 2005

There's a line buried within a monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross that's always stuck with me: "You cheated on your wife...? You did it, live with it." It echoes a theme Mamet wrote into House of Games: "When you've done something unforgivable, you must forgive yourself."

Two contexts cast different lights on a common thread: Your problems are your own. Solve them or don't, keep them in your pocket. Used to be, a man didn't talk about his ailments. You call yourself a patient, folks pity you or they loot your house. Your clothesline is for clean laundry. What's dirty stays indoors.

People complain about the demise of the American neighborhood. We used to visit each other's porches and drink lemonade, they say, and today we hardly know who lives next door. I don't know about that. Whatever may have happened to porch swings and picket fences, families today live with their windows open and their shades drawn. Rest in peace, discretion and shame.

Roger Rueff wrote a terrific screenplay, the gist of which was that character is shaped by regret. Pardon the local colour: "You can't learn, you don't fuck up -- and you ain't learned, you ain't worth shit." I'm a good fiancé, and I figure I'll make a decent husband; but that's only because I spent so many years being a lousy boyfriend. My ex-girlfriends paid the bill for my future wife. And so it goes.

Life is worthless without mistakes. The human condition requires hurt feelings and bruised egos, anger and jealousy and betrayal. When Thanksgiving rolls around, count the people you've hurt among your blessings -- because ultimately, maturity is about doing a better job tomorrow. Take a breath, learn something -- and then forgive yourself. Your life is your own.


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