{The following post contains spoilers of the TV show How I Met Your Mother, though only up to the first season because that’s all I’ve seen to date. I start watching the second season today and wanted to put these thoughts out there while they still apply to the series in my mind}

In the first episode of the first season, Ted meets the woman of his dreams, Robin. While the show is generally about Ted’s attempts to meet “the one”, most of the first season focuses around Robin. The hook is that in the first episode it is revealed that Robin is not the one. No other woman he meets in the first season is the one, either. The show toys with its audience with the focus on Ted and Robin as well as with a couple other really nice girls that Ted meets along the way.

Where the show succeeds, somewhat astonishingly, is in getting its audience (well, getting me) to root for Ted and Robin to work out. I’m sort of a sourpuss when it comes to sitcom romance and frequently find myself rooting against two characters getting together because I get no payoff when they do and the sexual tension of the show, if there ever was any, dissipates. And when the characters do get together, they typically have each of them do stupid things to keep things from being imperfect (because comedy is about, if nothing else, the imperfectibility of human nature).

But rather than the fact that Robin and Ted (and Victoria and Ted, etc.) don’t end up together being limited, it actually frees up the show somewhat. The characters weren’t meant to be together so you know that they won’t magically end up in each others arms and happy despite their stupidity, as is frequently the case in such shows. In one sense I expect to spend the next season waiting for the shoe to drop. But rather than doing it with anxious anticipation, I view it as the natural extension of their personalities. When things don’t work out there is usually a reason and all that has to happen is let the writers run their course with it. In the meantime, you get to appreciate the relationship for what it is: earnest, sweet, and doomed.

In the most healthy of outlooks that’s how almost all relationships are. After all, despite all the relationships we go through in life only one is going to work out (except in weird religious communities, of course), if any do at all. Sometimes I find myself looking back at old chatlogs and emails with former girlfriends, former almost girlfriends, and former love interests of all sorts. I guess it’s a function of getting older, as well as having found one that things did work out with, that I look back more with a smile than a sneer. Even the ugliest relationship I’ve been in has a sweetness in retrospect. Even Libby and I had our moments, however buried they are in all the acrimony.

The most wise and helpful advice from Evangeline I never took was when she said, “This would all be a lot easier if you would just have some fun.”

If I have any regrets with Eva, it’s not that things didn’t work out (if they had I wouldn’t be married to Clancy, after all). It’s that I failed to enjoy the ride. Being human, I was unable to take a step back and say “I know that things aren’t going to work out, but it will be a beautiful and wonderful thing while it lasts.” I did know that things weren’t going to work out, but it was more with a sense of panic, heartbreak, and loss that I recognized it. I spent many long hours, days, and weeks trying to repair that sinking ship. My main regret was that I spent so much time trying to repair the ship when it would have been so much more fulfilling to be the violin players on the Titanic.

And thus far that’s How I Met Your Mother‘s chief success. It gives us the opportunity to enjoy the ride without regard to whether or not things work out. Quite a gutsy thing for the sitcom to do, but so far it’s working out. And since we know that things did work out with Ted in the end with a woman that he hasn’t met yet, we don’t have to worry about how he’ll come out in the end. I think most of us have a relationship in our past where we were devastated that things didn’t work out, where we know that things might have worked out if things had been slightly different, and where we’re ultimately not sorry that they didn’t.

Viewed in that context, How I Met Your Mother is a romantic sitcom unlike any other I’ve ever seen. I’m looking forward to queueing up the second season and watching it over the next week while I replace all my burned CDs, with more than a few tracks I will always associated with bittersweet, doomed romances of years past.

Category: Coffeehouse

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One Response to Not The Mamma (The Bittersweet Beauty of Doomed Love)

  1. Hit Coffee » Clarine, Erinalc, Clarine says:

    […] rst or second date. That reminded me of How I Met Your Mother, which I’d just written a post on. In the first episode, Ted ruins his burgeoning relationship with Robin by professing his love fo […]

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