I missed the memo about trust.
My good friend Stacey introduced me to the movie “Trust” back when we were in college. It’s a dark, quirky indie comedy that you should add to your Netflix queue right now. Go on, I’ll wait…
“Trust” tells the story of Matthew, an unemployable genius who habitually carries around a hand grenade, and Maria, an adorable, pregnant high school drop out. They’re an unlikely pair who find some kind of connection amidst the angst and banality of their suburban lives. That probably seems like a perfectly ordinary plot, but trust me about “Trust”…the characters are sad and smart and weird, and they say things that you’ll be thinking about for decades. Here, contemplate this exchange…
Maria: Did you mean it? Would you marry me?
Matthew: Because I want to.
Maria: Not because you love me or anything like that, huh?
Matthew: I respect and admire you.
Maria: Isn’t that love?
Matthew: No, that’s respect and admiration. I think that’s better than love.
Matthew: When people are in love they do all sorts of crazy things. They get jealous, they lie, they cheat. They kill themselves. They kill each other.
Maria: It doesn’t have to be that way.
Maria: You’d be the father of a child you know isn’t yours.
Matthew: Kids are kids, what does it matter?
Maria: Do you trust me?
Matthew: Do you trust me first?
Maria: I trust you.
Matthew: You sure?
Matthew: Then marry me.
Maria: I’ll marry you if you admit that respect, admiration, and trust equals love.
Matthew: OK. They equal love.
Are respect and admiration really better than love? Does respect, admiration, and trust equal love? I first heard this dialog about twenty years ago and I still haven’t quite figured it out.
I’m guessing “Trust” swam up to the surface of my brain because life recently handed me a memo about trust and what trust means for me in my personal relationships. I’m wrestling with what it takes for me to trust other people and what it means when trust breaks down. Specifically, does trust mean never asking for proof? And not to get all Ali McGraw on you guys, but does trust mean never having to say you’re sorry?
I would like to think I am generally a trusting and forgiving person, but I think years of lawyering have also left me with a suspicious mind and an utter inability to suppress the urge to ask questions about just about everything. This perhaps makes people feel that I don’t trust them, but I guess I’ve become a bit of an empiricist, even when it comes to matters of the heart. I hope it doesn’t make me a terrible cynic, but I don’t think evidence is anathema to trust. Evidence is like a little cushion, just in case trust gets yanked out from under you.
And I think trust means having to say you’re sorry a lot. Trust is something that can get chipped away and eroded by both tiny slights and big lapses in judgment. But apologies are the polish that can buff away those dings in our hearts.
So go watch “Trust” (and mourn the loss of Adrienne Shelly, who was so very awesome and just beginning to enjoy a wonderful career renaissance when she was senselessly murdered in 2006). Then maybe take stock of what trust means to you, and whether respect, admiration, and trust really do equal love. Memo received.