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Read Letter

The Prestige

Who can ever forget Michael Caine’s speech at the start of the movie, The Prestige? It’s the cinematic equivalence of a hook in music. [A hook is a short riff or phrase used to make a song appealing. It’s like a chorus]. The Prestige, the 2006 drama film directed by Christopher Nolan was adapted from Christopher Priest’s novel of the same name.

“Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course, it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”. This is the link to The Prestige opening scene if you care to see it:

Every great relationship has three parts or acts too. The first part is called “The Pledge”: A young man woos a lady, makes promises. He promises heaven, earth and Texas. Sends cards, writes poems. The second act is called “The Turn”: Something ordinary is made into something extraordinary. The ordinary words of the young man create something extraordinary in the heart of the young woman. It’s called “love.” You’re looking for the secret but you won’t find it. It’s a mystery, just as Solomon said. The young woman doesn’t really want to know how it happened, just that it happened. Don’t clap yet.

Making a woman’s heart say yes isn’t enough; you have to bring the moment back after you marry her. That’s why every love story has a third act, the hardest part – it’s called “The Prestige”. It is bringing back the feelings that captivated the woman’s heart, over and over again. That requires effort. It’s where many relationships fail. Because that which magically transmuted into love is not brought back again, and again. Look at the evidence all around you. How many marriages can you describe as truly, truly happy?

To be sure, the demands, ablutions and responsibilities of life can turn a marriage humdrum. You’ve heard of couples taking each other for granted but couples also take their marriage for granted. When couples take each other for granted, they do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do were the contract not sealed. They become insensitive to the feelings of the other party, though without malice aforethought. They’ll rather cater to the needs of others than the needs of the most important person in their life. They treat the other party like a permanent fixture of furniture, a dumb witness of chronicles. They assume the man or woman will always be there, won’t ever leave – and that guides their conduct. Efforts put into things like food preparation become permanently under-appreciated. It’s “expected”, “required”. Efforts put into working for family provision is assumed to be a duty that needs no appreciation. And the marriage becomes a background event, like an ambient noise nobody pays attention to. And so they slip into taking their marriage for granted.

When a woman is taking her marriage for granted it shows, even in dressing at home. She’ll rather impress outsiders than her husband. The wedding is done! Priorities go out of whack!  It’s not unusual for the hairnet to become permanent headwear. She begins to resemble a Rastafarian prophetess! Albeit without a staff of office. Holding a semblance of one, like a ladle and you’ll expect prophesies to issue forth.

And when a man begins to take his marriage for granted, he’ll become triumphantly careless. He’ll be careless with words, careless with money, careless in conduct, careless in physique. The sin of careless physique disconfiguration is not exclusive to men though. Women too. They just let go! The weight soon begins to asphyxiate consummation appetite, to the protestations and chorus of “I have large bones”. The couple will no longer pay attention to each other’s words, or even each other. When the woman changes hairstyle the man hardly notices. That omission brings feelings of inadequacy: “I’m no longer attractive or what? I’m no longer good enough despite my best effort?” Doubt. Insecurity. And the woman begins to compete with TV characters, especially villainess Angelina Jolie!

The marriage becomes routine like a civil service procedure. The couple no longer go out together, no longer hold hands or each other, no longer cuddle. Joy becomes a prisoner, locked up somewhere nobody remembers, the key probably somewhere forsaken. The passion in the marriage is less lucky. It gets locked up in a freezer. Goes frigid, becomes whited in temperature. Sex becomes a duty – a monthly ritual to be gotten over with; done just to blunt accusation of neglect. The man no longer looks forward to coming home. The welcoming routine has since disappeared. Dinner is a ritual of absentest. The parties no longer eat together. By the time the man gets home, late, someone is already asleep! Dinner is in the microwave!

The end of a thing is better than the beginning, Solomon said. That has implications. It means a marriage should gather steam as the years go by. The graph of affection should not plunge. But it also means that a marriage started well will not automatically end well. A desirous end requires effort. It’s not auto. A good start does not imply a good finish. There’s a lot in between.

The beginning of a relationship is like a match combustion – a flame kindled no one knows how. From then on however, relationships require work. How much effort you put in indicates how much you want your marriage. Love takes effort.

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder 2014

Tags : Couple, Marriage, Heart

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