Drew Barrymore and Justin Long play a couple who get involved in a long-distance relationship in Going the Distance, a movie that hits theatres today. It's so Alanis-Morissette ironic because I, too, have been having a long-distance relationship for the past 15 years with Drew Barrymore, ever since I saw her as a pregnant nymphomaniac in Boys on the Side. She hasn't written me in a while - well, never - but long-distance relationships are a lot about trust, and I believe that she will one day.
With online dating and various technologies to make communicating easier, it's not surprising that one U.S. survey I came across found that one in 10 marriages these days include a period of geographical separation during the first few years, with time apart averaging about a year. But is this a healthy trend?
I did my own survey of friends and acquaintances - as well as my own history - to take a very serious look at the purported pros and the reality-based cons of long-distance loving.
Pro: Distance, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder
My first LDR occurred during the summer between first and second year of university. I went home from Montreal to Colorado; she was in Toronto, then Paris. I wrote her letters. I fantasized about seeing her again as I lay in bed, eyes closed, listening to Billy Joel's She's Always a Woman. I fell in love harder than ever. She was always a woman to me, and she was perfect.
Con: Her heart didn't grow fonder
She wrote me one letter, which she read to me the first night back at school, just after she dumped me. She liked what she'd written so much that she decided not to hand it over, even though I could have definitely used it as a Kleenex.
Pro: It's good for nurturing your artistic side
As we hit the path one day, my running partner regaled me with his long-distance love story. In perhaps one of the first romances ignited by e-mail, my American friend and his Ontarian paramour exchanged missives via their Mac Classics. "I started it off by writing her a poem in Spanish," he told me. Later, he sent her seashells and proposed sensual activities associated with each one. "One was in the shape of a swirl, so I told her to take a bath with that shell. Another looked like a lung, so I told her to pay attention to her breathing and imagine us breathing together."
Con : The muse may only inspire one of you
My friend's sweetheart is an illustrator, so he asked her to sketch each shell that he sent her. "She didn't fulfill her part," he said. "She was smoking a lot of pot and decided it was too much work." (But screw the muse - the two are now happily married.)
Pro : You'll have epic dates and randy reunions
Michael met Janie at a wedding in September of last year. It wasn't love at first sight - she hooked up with the best man instead of him - but after that weekend the two started up a Facebook flirtation. He was in New York, she was in Vancouver. "I had free opera tickets to the Met on Christmas Eve," Michael told me. "I just needed a nice, Jewish girl to go with me. I asked Janie." Playing it cool, Janie told Michael that, sure, she'd come to New York, she had friends to see there anyway. Truth was, her friends were all out of town. The opera started at 8 o'clock so the two met at 6 for dinner at an empty Italian restaurant.
Con: You might not make it to the show
So enamoured of one another, Michael and Janie missed Hansel and Gretel. Oh, wait, that's a pro. My bad.
Pro: In the early stages, that sex thing doesn't get in the way of getting to know someone
A friend of mine recently got into a relationship with a woman he met a year ago. She had a boyfriend back then, but once they broke up she got in contact. Their first six months as a couple were spent 14,000 kilometres apart. They talked by Skype daily. "I'm in love," he told me, though they had never touched, not even a handshake. This friend's, um, healthy sex drive often got in the way of his finding someone intellectually compatible, so I was thrilled that it seemed he'd found the perfect solution to that problem.
Con: In the end, not having sex might get in the way of that sex thing
"It was a case of two strangers who know too much about each other," my friend told me of their awkward, substance-fuelled reunion. "Until finally one of them grabs the other by the face and says 'Do you see me?' And you say, 'Oh, now I see you. You are so awesome, I love you.' And then you make spiritual whoopie in the tent." (I'll have what he's having.)
Pro: Distance gives you a chance to find someone better
I left a girlfriend of three months for New York, the city that never sleeps with only one person a week. One night during our four months apart, a new, feisty, female friend and I went to a club together. She ended up taking off her shirt in a stage dancing contest and then spent the night in my room.
Con: You realize there isn't anyone better
Topless friend slept on my futon and I slept on the floor. Given the time and space to find someone else, I didn't. I know what you're thinking: This sounds like a pro. But it's not.
"Long-distance relationships suck, pretty much," Michael summed up.
He and Janie lived together this summer, but last weekend parted ways for what could very well become a two-year physical separation. "You're in a relationship with your phone," he joked.
But that phone, he pointed out, was also their salvation. "We do a lot of texting, which let's us share mundane things," he said, pausing. "Almost like you are actually together."
Micah Toub's memoir, Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks, will be published Sept. 28.