Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Sex, Love and Other Drugs" = Movie with an "Outsider" and Universal Theme

In the critically acclaimed movie, "Sex, Love and Other Drugs," Maggie (Anne Hathaway) has a terminal illness (Parkinson's). She relies on sex as her ticket in with spontaneous and flirty male relationships. Drugs are the answer for prolonging her life.

She knows that because she's sick, the chances of men committing to her is less than none. (thus the sex part)

Until Jaimie (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) comes along and tells her that she is the first person who has ever cared about him and he is willing to be THAT one who will "carry her." (Thus the love)

All three of these issues came together on a plot level when I thought "is there really hope for Maggie? I wasn't too worried about Jaimie, because it was clear he was on the mend. It was Maggie who was weak, vulnerable and in a very precarious position.

Will she ever find love despite her feelings that she is not good enough for someone? And will Jaimie listen to the voice inside that tells him that this women is truly for him and to go beyond the "lip-service and call of duty?"

What resonated with me so strongly with Maggie's character was her feeling as an outsider which seemed to be inked all over her throughout the movie.

1.She was deeply misunderstood.

2.She coped with her illness by putting on a bravado front - especially with men.

3.She didn't want people to feel sorry for her, so she coped with her fears, insecurities and isolation alone ...silently. (For me, this part reached its climax when she struggled opening one of her pill bottles, only to find that it was empty.)

She especially didn't want men to be privy to her pain. That's got to be a difficult thing for anyone... Afraid to let someone in for the sake of showing what is really there and maybe that person won't love him/her.

Well, if you can't tell by now, I fell in love with this movie and not just on a plot level, but, because I could see 'pieces' or 'slivers' of my own life as a returning immigrant. Maggie's journey reflected that.

Here's How

At the very beginning

I came to Pittsburgh in 2007 straight from Israel. I felt I was making a grave mistake. I spent the first hour of my arrival crying in front of Ivry's new teacher. I was scared to death. When the feeling of newness finally simmered down, I kept a bravado front to both Israelis and Americans (even to those who tried to understand me) by keeping a distance, not sharing too many details about motivations for leaving - Israelis like to get into these things and I gave just the facts.


After one year of working on my book, (sabbatical) I started to teach English to ESL community college students. During that first semester, I announced to the dean of the department, “I love teaching these ESL students. I feel as if I found my home in the cultural classroom.” In Israel, I was special because I was a native English speaking teacher teaching English to Israeli schoolchildren who mainly spoke Hebrew. But in Pittsburgh, none of this mattered. I had to now find a different kind of cultural classroom.

Again, I felt like a stranger to teaching even though I had been teaching for 13 years.

**I was on my way to NOT becoming a stranger.**


When I would first describe in English certain teaching and educational concepts and objects enmeshed in Israeli emotion and imagination, I became more aware of how the “right” word would resonate in both Hebrew and English even in simplest written and verbal expressions. The words “authentic” and “educational” seem to be simple enough for a native English speaker. Yet, unless an American had heard these words in an Israeli context, his or her cultural understanding of the sentence would be different. Even when I read email responses in English, I imagined how the words would sound and look in Hebrew.

Social Interactions

In daily conversations with people, I felt something uniquely missing. New friends would sympathize with my loneliness and isolation. Still, that didn't compensate for the connection with "Israel" that deeply missing from the emotional, social, and political landscape of Pittsburgh. And it wasn't enough to want to go back to Israel.

Again, I felt like a stranger to English even though English is my mother tongue. I can't imagine what an immigrant to America must feel trying to learn English...

Family Life

On the weekends, I would go to Steelers and Pirates games with my then, three year old son to feel connected with the "Americana" I had missed for the last 19 years. In-between lessons at the community college during the week, I would talk with other professors, and from our conversations, I could see that between their Pittsburgh upbringing and my New York City and Israeli roots, we had very little in common.

**Even though this is still true, I no longer feel vulnerable by it...**

So as you can see, Maggie and I are both on the mend even if we felt and still feel like an outsider from time to time...

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