The Love Story Lie

With Valentine’s Day on the way, some folks will probably go out to dinner and then take in a romantic or maybe even a nostalgic film. Although it’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years since the classic movie, “Love Story” first hit the silver screen in 1970. If you’re a boomer or beyond, you are probably familiar with the film’s storyline. “Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) the heir of an American upper-class East Coast family is attending Harvard College where he plays hockey. He meets Jennifer “Jenny” Cavilleri, (Ali McGraw), a quick-witted, working-class Radcliffe College student of classical music, they quickly fall in love despite their differences,” according to Wikepedia.org.

Huge spoiler alert, viewers know from the beginning that the ending will be heartbreaking. This is revealed in the film’s opening when the audience is presented with the poignant line: “What can you say about a girl who was 25 and died?”

The tragic romantic drama was written by author, Erich Segal, and based on his best-selling novel, “Love Story.” The American Film Institute lists the movie as number nine (#9) on its list of most romantic movies and was the highest-grossing film of 1970 taking in $106.4 million at the box office. But did this seemingly harmless heartbreaker of a movie negatively affect the romantic relationships of the countless then young, impressionable theater-goers who watched it? Sadly, for some individuals, I personally believe that it did.

You see, hosts of impressionable youth might have embraced Jenny Cavilleri’s (McGraw’s) famous line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” to Oliver (O’Neal) when he apologizes for an angry outburst. Later, Oliver repeats the famous line to his millionaire father (Ray Milland) after Jenny dies. With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, some theaters nationwide will host a special viewing of the film during February in celebration of its 50th anniversary this year. When I saw the advertisements, I wondered if a whole new generation of movie-goers might fall for this faulty philosophy. “Am I the only one who thinks that ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry’ is just plain wrong?” one individual asks the Internet website, www.Quora.com.

“Love Story” the iconic film is celebrating its 50th anniversary and available on Amazon, etc.

Apparently not, “Erich Segal’s classic is no friend to love,” writes www.DailyMail.com columnist, Amanda Craig in an archived post. “It is quite possibly, one of the worst philosophical guides by which to conduct your life ever to have been offered…Whatever love means saying sorry is a huge part of it.”

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to learn the art of apology. Admittedly, after being married for almost two decades, it’s still a challenge to acknowledge when I’m in the wrong. Yet I’m grateful I quickly grew to disbelieve the quotation’s dangerous message that when true love exists between two people in a relationship, it can be unconditional, no explanations necessary for bad behavior, and no apologies expected for negative actions or unkind words.

If human beings were perfect, never having to say you’re sorry could work. But we are flawed, and sadly our less than perfect natures can result in the unwanted outcome of hurting the ones we love the most. Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Jennifer Thomas believe so strongly that learning to apologize in a meaningful way is necessary to the health of a relationship, they co-wrote the book, “The Five Languages of Apology” in 2006. The book’s theme supports the theory that a sincere request for forgiveness can be an influential tool in mending a relational rift. Chapman is well-known for the New York Times bestseller, “The Five Love Languages.”

In “Love Story,” no apologies are necessary for anything ever, if you love the one you have wounded. The iconic film both won and was nominated for all kinds of 1971 industry awards winning one Oscar for Best Music, the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Drama) along with another eight wins and 16 nominations in various awards and categories. Ryan O’Neal was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He was a young, handsome heartthrob who undoubtedly sold us a bill of goods with his infamous line.  

Ironically in the last scene of his 1972 film “What’s Up, Doc” co-starring Barbara Streisand. Streisand’s character (Judy) tells love interest (Howard) Ryan O’Neal, “Let me tell you something, love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard,” replies Howard (O’Neal). 

Truthfully, I couldn’t agree more.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a national Amy and Ohio AP award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. She has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and on Joyce Meyer Enjoying Everyday Life TV show. Her latest book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is available through all major online outlets. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclapool.com.

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Liesl’s Legacy: A Holocaust Survivor’s Lessons for Life

Liesl celebrated our wedding as if she was the mother of the bride.

    Liesl celebrated our wedding as if she was the mother of the bride.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” said Eleanor Roosevelt. The late Elisabeth “Liesl” Sondheimer was deeply inspired by this former first lady who was once her house guest. Yet many of us in northwestern Ohio can readily admit that Mrs. Sondheimer was the one who inspired us.

Liesl has been gone for almost a decade now, but her life lessons live on. Being a Jewish Holocaust survivor, she had every reason to believe that the world was an ugly place filled with horrific evil. As a young woman she was forced to flee her beloved Germany during Hitler’s regime.

Instead of becoming bitter, she embraced forgiveness. Not the cheap kind of forgiveness that pardons atrocity by denying its existence, but genuine forgiveness which is a gift to yourself. Once, during an interview, I asked her how she could forgive. She gazed at me intently, and simply said, “You must forgive, or Hitler has won.”

Liesl was silver-haired and wrinkled, but still ethereally beautiful, by the time I met her shortly after her 90th birthday in 1997. While interviewing her for a TV feature about the Holocaust, I was honored when the local celebrity asked me to join her for supper. One of my greatest life blessings was that this courageous woman took me under her mentoring wing.

Since Liesl loved adventures, especially ones that involved supporting the arts, music or books; I would occasionally pick her up and whisk her away to an event. It was on these outings that she freely shared her wisdom about life. Once while I was driving her to an art museum, my friend absentmindedly asked, “Did I ever tell you about the time Eleanor Roosevelt stayed at my house?”

“No, I think I would have remembered that,” I jokingly replied.

She then began to share how decades ago, she had invited Eleanor Roosevelt to visit northwestern Ohio simply by sending her a letter. Her cause was successful, due to some assistance from an influential friend. This Liesl dissertation was the, “You never know… anything can happen if you try” lesson. I needed this motivational message, because life circumstances had tattered my own faith.

My brokenness was probably one of the reasons that this dear lady reached out to me. Surviving a near fatal suicide attempt, and then being confined in a state mental institution as a teen had left scars on me that only another survivor could see. Sadly, others battling mental illness whom I had met along my recovery journey, did not survive. Therefore, Liesl, who had been educated in social work, gently guided me in understanding the lesson of “Survivor’s Guilt,” that I must go on, and be grateful for surviving.

In explanation, when one triumphs over negative circumstances, it is easy to get stuck in the guilt created by contemplating why others have not been so fortunate. After the Holocaust, the Jewish survivor admitted that this quandary haunted her, too. But she refused to allow this never to-be-answered question about the past destroy her future.

Yet to prevent these tragedies from reoccurring, she also believed that it was a survivor’s moral responsibility to speak up on behalf of those still struggling. Even though she forgave, she never forgot the millions of Holocaust victims. Instead she passionately shared her story to warn others about the dangers of prejudice.

On a lighter note, there was also the “Beauty is Ageless” teaching, which I learned vicariously while watching Liesl shop for clothes. She took time to look her best, and never stopped caring about fabric, color, or finding just the right accessory. In 2007, for her 100th birthday, I drove her to a mall in a neighboring state where she enthusiastically tried on countless outfits looking for just the right pieces for her wardrobe.

Although most important was the “Love” lesson that Liesl taught me. When I met school administrator Larry Claypool in 2001, past hurts had left me too afraid to love. When it came to romance, Liesl used to describe me, “As a burnt child, who was afraid of the fire.”

But at heart, Liesl was a hopeless romantic, who challenged my initial fears about dating Larry, by asserting that one must be willing to risk everything to have another opportunity for happiness. My own mother had given me this same advice. The following year, Liesl sat smugly in a church pew dressed smartly in a pale pink suit smiling with satisfaction as Larry and I recited our vows in a candlelight ceremony.

For me, Liesl’s legacy of living courageously includes: the challenge to embrace forgiveness, to speak up against injustice, to support the arts, to reach for your dreams, and to always look your best.

However, I will always be most grateful for Liesl’s “Love” lesson. After all, it was my precious husband’s protective arms that comforted me when we buried my remarkable 101-year-old friend in spring of 2009.

This humble humanitarian shared her messages with civic clubs, women’s groups, universities, and in school classrooms across our community. Her story of surviving seemingly impossible circumstances graced her listeners with the gift of hope everywhere she went. Upon her passing, people of different faiths honored her legacy.

Today, her lessons live on. You see, those we love never die. They are always in our hearts, shaping our tomorrows with their valuable influence.  

Christina Ryan Claypool is the author of the Inspirational novel, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife” which will be released in fall 2018. Her Website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com

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