Contemplating Jon Brion’s “Ruin My Day”

Written by Music

I don’t wait by the phone like I used to
I don’t hope for kind words you might say
You don’t prey on my mind like you used to
But you can still ruin my day

I’ve always been amazed, amused and, ultimately, saddened by the importance of perception in our romantic interludes. In the span of days, or minutes (as the case may be), one can go from floating on air, dropping their guard completely, and falling head over heels for someone to being sickened by the sight of them.

It isn’t that the person who once caused our heart to skip a beat each time we saw them has changed, mind you, but that our perception of them has. We’ve all probably been on the receiving end of such changes in perception and, truth be told, it would be disheartening to know what minor detail brought about such a dramatic change in perception.

In one such instance, a friend of mine who’d been unreachable for the past couple weeks, caught up in the throes of passion with someone they described as “the one,” called me out of the blue and asked if I had any dinner plans. When I asked why they weren’t spending every available minute with ‘the one,” they rolled their eyes and informed me that they’d broken it off. “Too needy,” they replied with a shrug. You or them, I asked? “Not funny,” they shot back, punching me in the arm.

See, it was only when “the one” seemed aloof and unattainable that my friend had dropped everything to pursue them. Only after “the one” reciprocated the affection and then went one further by displaying a sense of vulnerability did my friend decide they weren’t really “the one” after all. The idea that my friend might go the rest of their life repeating this chain of events struck me as incredibly sad. What was sadder is that I knew I’d been guilty of much the same thing at various points in my life.

On the other hand, whoever it was that first said “For every beautiful woman, there is one man who is sick of her bullshit” (or words to that effect) hit the nail squarely on the head. There really is no such thing as love. There is, however, our need for there to be such a thing as love and we each propel ourselves through this life in search of it, manufacturing affection for people based on our own idea of what it is we want in a lover. Those we do find ourselves involved with romantically may initially seem to meet our needs, but, ultimately they can’t help but fall short of our expectations. How could they not? Our expectations are shaped by movies and songs built on improbable premises and living happily ever after is a mathematical certainty.

I don’t easily forgive like I used
And I seldom get carried away
No, you don’t have the pull that you used to
But you can still ruin my day

But seriously, after going through hell together in Speed, do we really believe that Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock rode off into the sunset together? United by a shared hardship, they had found comfort in each other’s strength. The next day, though, maybe they met for coffee and Sandra realized that she couldn’t live with someone who referred to her favorite Starbucks beverage as “ass in a glass.” Heck, I broke up with my first serious girlfriend because she admitted to liking Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” By the time I’d realized the error of my fickle ways, she no longer wanted anything to do with me and, truth be told, I can’t say I blame her one bit.

Even though I know it to be a questionable endeavor, I can’t help but fall in love at least a handful of times each day. A beautiful woman waiting for the train can captivate me in ways I can’t begin to describe. A minute later, I see the love of my life on the other side of the street as I wait to cross, knowing that the only thing keeping us apart at that very moment is a flashing do-not-walk symbol.

In those moments, she is absolutely perfect in her beauty, with my imagination filling in all the blanks, and my love for her remains unscarred by the harsh mistress of knowing that, at this very moment, there are three dead bodies in the trunk of her black Jetta or, even worse, she has spent the past three summers following the Dave Matthews Band across the country.

No, I don’t lose my place like I used to
I’m not moved by your artful display
No you can’t draw me in like you used to
But you can still ruin my day

Jon Brion “Ruin My Day”