You ignore someone and it’s totally fine. Not ideal, but not the end-of-the-world either. Someone starts talking about, say delayed public transportation, and your mind begins wandering because that’s what minds do when the current subject isn’t interesting enough. We all do this on a daily basis.
What we don’t do on a daily basis is take a conversational risk (CR). “I love you” is a textbook CR because it can’t really exist in isolation; it demands reciprocity. Thus the head nods and “uh-huhs” that so define “ignored” speech will not suffice. Even if you don’t know how to reply, acknowledgment of the risk must be made. This implied requirement is witnessed at times when someone goes the CR route, faces silence, and then breaks the silence with, “Say something!”
Now, I get that “I love you” isn’t some courageous CR after love has been firmly established and shared in a relationship. I get that Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) in Fifty Shades Freed have firmly crossed that CR threshold wherein “I love you” is now normalized.
Still, I was keenly aware the few times Christian uttered “I love you” to Anastasia and received nothingness for a response. Christian in no way seemed bothered by it, yet I couldn’t help being genuinely moved to change my own behavior in the face of CRs.
This is going to seem like a preposterous stretch. This is surely going to make me laugh anytime I remember to do it and am forced to think back about the pretty terrible film that was Fifty Shades Freed. This, though, is totally true to what started running through my mind the first time an “I love you” wasn’t met with an “I love you too” or some other normal pattern of response.
“That must have been hard to say.” When you don’t know how to reply to a CR like a request for a raise or a massive favor or an admission of tremendous error, at least recognize that the person took a risk in saying anything at all. Hell, even if you do know how to reply, even if you are going to give the raise, start with that sentence. (Note: “That must have been hard to say” almost certainly wouldn’t be an appropriate rejoinder to “I love you.”)
Because trying to create a culture of candor, which everyone should want to do, means vulnerability must be rewarded. But that reward need not be a concession to every hard request. It does, however, mean an authentic appreciation that CRs are hard. The better this appreciation, the more likely CRs will occur, which means a greater likelihood that the most important things will not go unsaid.
As for the terribleness of Fifty Shades Freed, there was only one thing that surprised me. (The inane plot and poor acting were expected.) Film violence grows more graphic and yet the sex stays the same – we are allowed to see breasts and nothing more.
The Fifty Shades series was most newsworthy because of the books’ sexual detail. Like, I actually remember being in a Fresno, CA, backyard and girls were screaming, legit screaming, about how sexual the books were. Fifty Shades was pitched as revolutionary stuff in the way it focused on the female and catered to her desires.
And then we receive a movie with sex so tame and implicit that only a pre-teen boy witnessing a half-naked woman for the first time could be riveted.