Don’t Let the Hodor Hit You on the Way Out

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There is a Hodor-sized hole in my heart right now. I knew the medieval BFG was going to be absent from Game of Thrones this season, but now that we’re almost halfway through the emptiness is palpable. No lumbering innocence. No verbal nuance. No exquisite torture from simultaneously craving more “hodor” and dreading his last.

[For those unaware, the character Hodor is a large but gentle servant of the Stark family who speaks only one word: “hodor”. Imagine Lenny from Of Mice and Men hooked up with Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, had a three-parent IVF baby with The Hulk, wrapped it in wolf pelts and tossed it backwards a few centuries. He’s perfect.]

My own Hodor is also missing this season. He, too, was a large, joyous man with an unfortunate penchant for accidental damage and a real name other than Hodor. [Geek of Thrones: fictional Hodor’s given name is Walder.]

One Hodor can do plenty of damage, intended or not; two Hodors can really mess a girl up.

Human Hodor and I bonded over our mutual love for his namesake. When I described the character to a GoT newbie as “simple-minded” and he amended, “simple-worded, not really minded,” it was the first time I realized I completely loved how human Hodor’s brain worked.

Hodor became our talisman. One evening after a Thrones viewing he bid me farewell with a kiss and a “Hodor.” It was ho-dorable. Soon, it was our standard greeting. First thing in the morning: Hodor. After receiving a thoughtful gift: Hodor! In exchange for a lovely plate of eggs: Mmm….hodor.

Before long we had hodored our way into being completely hodor about each other. Then, after a deep and emotional talk one night, he left the room and hit me with a simple text: Hodor. “Hodor too,” I replied, and that was that. Like Westley and Buttercup, we had no need for “I love you.” As Hodor wish.

Scientifically, fictional Hodor is an extreme example of a person stricken with expressive aphasia – when the Broca region of the brain suffers trauma, leaving speech limited but comprehension intact. Giant Hodor was probably a giant baby, so perhaps his mother dropped him a time or two. My own Hodor did not have the excuse of a head injury; his affliction was more traditional: fear.

From early on, he was honest about his commitment skittishness. The word “relationship” frightened him, even though the trappings of one did not. In practice, he seemed pretty gung ho about the actions of a relationship, so I didn’t mind that he was more comfortable saying “Hodor” than “I love you”. The meaning was clear to both of us, so I didn’t worry. I probably should have worried.

In the end, my Hodor turned out to have more going on in his head than he was aware of (though in his case it wasn’t a warging Bran Stark). When we broke up, he refused to admit that his fear might be greater than he thought, insisting instead that he must just not love me. Oh, the Hodor!

Maybe it’s true – maybe he didn’t – but like his namesake, Hodor also doesn’t know what happened when he ceded control of his brain for a moment. He doesn’t know that on the last night we spent together (three days before he bolted), he actually told me “I love you.”

He doesn’t know this because it was one of the last things he said before falling asleep – right between “”I love my bed” and “I also miss the coffee” (he had been out of the country for a while). I’m not sure which made me happier – that he said “I love you” instead of “Hodor” or that he placed me ahead of coffee. Holy Hodor, Batman!

I have no idea what to do with this information now. It wasn’t worth making a big deal of at the time, and I did not know our next conversation would be a breakup. At that point, it seemed a little awkward to mention it.

But as Hodor knows, little words can pack a big punch. I have recovered from many romantic devolutions caused by many problems – not being right, not being ready, not being even remotely interested; I’ve never had to get over someone who loved me back but didn’t consciously know it.

Hodors leave big shoes to fill. What’s a girl to do? Oh right, stare at Peter Dinklage for a while. Mmm…hodor.

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Ceci N’est Pas une Post

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Love is a curious paradox; one no one can explain. Who understands the secrets of the reaping of the grain? Who understands why spring is born out of winter’s laboring pain, or why we all must die a bit before we grow again?

Due respect to The Fantasticks (from which the above are lyrics), but I don’t want to “try to remember” September. This past September broke my heart. Besides, The Fantasticks is a play where two dads arrange for an old dude to attempt the rape of one dad’s daughter so the other dad’s son can save her and fall in love. That’s fucked up.

(Yet it is a truly fantastic play – how paradoxical.)

Love IS a curious paradox. We can only find it when we aren’t looking for it, we have to fail at it to in order to succeed, and it is hardest to lose when we didn’t need it in the first place.

Sartre (the original Debbie Downer) nailed it in Being and Nothingness, observing that love is so vital to us we desire to control the will of our beloved; we wish we could guarantee their love in return. Yet love is only valuable when freely given, so the moment we could secure it would be the moment it lost all meaning. (Though he said it in a far more complex and French way.)

The very thing that makes love terrifying – the fact that it can be lost or not returned – is the only thing that makes it worth seeking.

Breakups are also paradoxical. A love that matters is thusly worth fighting for, but in fighting we risk removing the value entirely. Still, the fight itself is necessary.

A long time ago, when I was young(er) and dumb(er), I got mad at my boyfriend for not doing the dishes while I was at work. He pointed out that I had not asked him to do the dishes; had he known I wanted it, he probably would have. Or, let’s be honest, he probably still wouldn’t have, but at least then I’d have had every right to be angry. As it was, I couldn’t blame him for not satisfying an expectation I had never vocalized. Grubby dishes aside, he was completely right.

Now, I speak up whenever I want something. Including – and especially – when that something is a someone.

When a love matters, it is important to tell them they matter. It is important to say out loud what we want, to give voice to all of the good that stands to be lost, and to politely point out that they are making a huge mistake.

But somewhere in the middle of the argument, in the middle of the tears, the declarations of “we’re awesome”, and the “that’s no reason to throw it all away”, there is also that little voice inside speaking the truth we don’t want to acknowledge. The one that knows the paradox cannot be resolved, asking, “What good is a love I talked someone into?”

Winning the fight means losing the value of the love. Yet to not fight would mean it never really mattered in the first place. And round and round it goes… the following statement is true; the previous statement is false… this sentence is not here.

I guess the trick is to fight for what we want and also have the nerve to never get it.

I do not know the answer; I only know it’s true. I hurt them for that reason, and myself a little bit too.

(It really is a Fantastick play. Go see it.)

Born With a Broken Heart, Part II (Ginger Ail)

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Hello. My name is Kate, and I am an addict. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, but I have owned my addiction for years now and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Experts also say it is important to understand the root cause of your addiction before you can treat it. I have always though it resulted from my first experience with love, back in Kindergarten; my mother thinks the formative event was my open-heart surgery when I was two. If I am right, then I have spent over three decades trying to recapture the superficial magic of a first crush. If she is right, then my problem is merely a savior complex.

Does it really matter, though? Either way, the end result is the same: my abnormal, unhealthy, increasingly destructive addiction to red-headed men.

I hear you scoffing at me, deriding my deviant drug of choice, but this addiction, no matter how irrational, is real. My experimentation with redheads started as soon as I was outside the home, crushing on the one freckle-faced flame head in my elementary school. After my first taste, I continued to send my affections down roads less traveled, favoring the goofy red-haired Mouseketeer instead of traditional cuties like Justin (Timberlake) or Ryan (Gosling). Between the two Coreys, I chose Team Haim, not Feldman.

My experimentation quickly formed a habit, as is the common progression with addiction. When all of my peers tacked posters of Kirk Cameron and Rob Lowe to their walls, I dreamed of dating Seth Green (long before Buffy). I even created a fictional character based on that redhead from the Mickey Mouse Club, and imagined a fantasy world where he lived with an idealized version of me. By high school, I was obsessively giving my heart to the brightest red hair in the room.

Stage three of addiction is when the habit starts to prompt risky behavior and abuse. For me, that was college. My inability to go without a ginger fix led to four years of emotional dysfunction with my Eggplant, and kept me from fully realizing any other, healthier relationships. In later years I went completely irrational, at one point dating two guys and refusing to choose between them even though one was clearly more mature and respectful – simply because the other had such gorgeous copper hair. There was even a time when this kid argued with me about whether half of something was the same as 50% – he took the side against math, and I still didn’t break up with him, because, man, that ginger was tasty. Its hold on me was absolute. When my adoration of carrot-topped actors progressed to a brief but actual crush on Carrot Top, I knew the problem was serious.

But it was too late. My dependency was complete. I needed ginger in my life all the time. The fantasy world I had created around my beloved red Mousketeer took over my dreams – I could not fall asleep without visiting that mythical ginger every night. On several occasions, I tried to convince my brown-haired boyfriend to dye his hair red, or at least copper. Once, my gay best friend (a blonde – I have never been attracted to blondes) dyed his hair red, and I made the picture of him the screen saver on my computer!

Things were out of control. My best friend married a copper-top, and I wrote a whole movie about it. I spent a week doing research on redheads in history, then composed a poem titled, “A Taste for Ginger.” In class, I openly doted over my red-haired students, in flagrant violation of both classroom ethics and common-sense age restrictions. Ron Weasley became my ideal man.

Any one of these shameful acts could have been my rock bottom – a couple of them certainly should have been – but my deviance knew no bounds. I kept sinking, self-respect a thing of the past.

My first major wake-up call came when I agreed to date a boy with bright red hair who I knew to be an immature pot head. He asked me out via text message two minutes after finishing a two-hour stint in the same room with me – a deal breaker for any healthy person – and then he called me a tease to my face on our second date because I didn’t sleep with him. Did I slap him in the face as he so rightly deserved? No; I was actually sad to see him go. All of my judgment and standards were lost, and yet, there was still farther to fall.

Absolute rock bottom came – as so many rock bottoms do – at a wedding. When I found myself in a hotel bathroom stall with a boy I had already dated and dismissed, someone I knew to be disrespectful (not to mention ten years my junior), just because he was a delicious six-foot-two drink of ginger water? That was when I finally felt the cold, hard stone beneath my face.

Recovery in the years since has been slow and unsteady. I was okay for a while after the wedding, fueled more by a renewed sense of shame than a desire to kick my ginger habit. But there are still so many temptations out there! Donal Logue and Louis C.K. certainly don’t make things easier, and even though Alan Tudyk hasn’t had red hair since Firefly, I still have to go see any movie he is in – even if it’s a piece of crap like Transformers 3.

Last year, I relapsed completely. I found myself on a date with an adorable ginger depressive, simultaneously flirting with our hunky red-haired bartender, and trying to figure out how to convince both of them to make out with me. Then, when J.K. Rowling wrote in an online interview that Hermione Weasly (neė Granger) would have been better off with Harry Potter, I cursed her name and nearly broke my computer monitor. Clearly, my taste for ginger isn’t going anywhere.

For what it’s worth, I do think my mother is right about the root cause of my addiction. Our concept of beauty is largely a product of the influential people and experiences of our childhood, and having a red-haired heart surgeon save your life at age two certainly must leave an impression. It makes sense that, ever since, my heart has been searching for another redhead to make it whole.

I am an addict, and I always will be. After more than thirty years chasing the sweet taste of ginger, I have come to accept my fate. Still, I believe it can get better. While I may never kick this orangutan off my back, I can try what every addict knows is the next best thing: replace this addiction with a new one. So look out, all you Jewish men out there; this shiksa goddess needs some sugar.