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On ‘Long Shot’, Leagues, and Who We’re Allowed to Date

The premise of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen’s new movie Long Shot is a simple one: the beautiful, successful person is romantically out of reach for the average, less than polished person who does not look like he has a personal stylist. Or is he? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

For years, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of leagues, as in, “she/he is out of your league.” Do we really mean that people are sorted into groups and that they can only be romantically connected within those groups? Are there really boundaries that manage our most intimate relationships? Sometimes it seems so, doesn’t it?

Still, ‘Long Shot’ is the latest in a genre of movie that asks the question: what if the normal guy got the girl? (Also popular is the movie about an average girl who gets to marry a prince, usually after a makeover). It’s worth examining the gender differences in these types of movies a bit. While Seth Rogen’s character might be a little grating (and I definitely was rooting for him to change out of his windbreaker), he doesn’t go through a metamorphosis. He changes the way normal people do in healthy relationships—he is still himself, but he makes the occasional compromise. When asked to go through the sort of life-changing protocol that would be expected of any woman choosing to date someone with extreme visibility, he refuses. I’m sure you can think of many examples of movie plots centered around lessons women take to learn to comport themselves according to the stations they aspire to. Rogen is definitely not wearing books on his head to walk, or learning to wave appropriately.

But these are movies, what about real life? For most of us, looking for love isn’t focused on status, right? We meet someone, we decide we like them, or not, and that’s how it goes. Or so we might think. Let me ask you this: when was the last time you wondered if the person you were messaging with might be disappointed meeting you in person? Have you ever avoided someone’s profile because you thought they were too attractive, or because of what they did for a living? Have you ever ruled someone out because you didn’t think they’d fit into your life?

There are good reasons to be thoughtful when it comes to thinking about who you are going to date. There’s nothing wrong with thinking through how someone will mesh with your routine, your family, your life goals, but there is something to be said for paying attention to other important things, like how you feel around that person, whether or not you can be yourself with them, and your level of respect for how they live their life.

For some people, the “long shot” might be someone they thing is very attractive, or very powerful (or both, as in the movie) but your long shot might be different. It’s worth asking yourself why you consider them “out of your league” just as it’s worth asking why you might consider yourself out of someone else’s league. You might be selling yourself short.

But it’s not a happy ending if you end up with someone you’re not convinced is right for you but that you “landed.” It’s not a happy ending if you have to walk on eggshells around that person, hoping they won’t see who you really are and leave. A romantic happy ending is about fully inhabiting yourself and being that person unapologetically and allowing that person to be the one who attracts someone else. You don’t need to learn how to cross your ankles or pick out the right clothes or speak a certain way so that whatever unattainable person will wake up and love you. The right person doesn’t need you to go to charm school in order to want you in their life.

I think we like movies like ‘Long Shot’ because they show us that regular people can find a happiness that they thought was out of reach. I liked it because it showed that even though Theron’s character seemed very cool, aloof, and out of Rogen’s league, it turns out that she was a regular person, too. She was funny and vulnerable and had needs and hopes and dreams. Both she and Rogen’s character were looking for the same thing. Meeting each other gave them the opportunity to explore whether it was something they could find together.

So let’s dispense with the leagues and the long shots and just think about individuals. Each person you meet is a person, just as you are, with feelings, hopes, dreams, a life. Just because you don’t choose to be with all of those people, doesn’t mean they are out of your league, or you theirs. Choosing to be with someone, or not, isn’t about categories, it’s about making choices about who you want to spend your life with, even if just for a while.

Cara Strickland writes about food and drink, mental health, faith and being single from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys hot tea, good wine, and deep conversations. She will always want to play with your dog. Connect with her on Twitter @anxiouscook.

Image courtesy: Lionsgate