We all remember the famous scene in “When Harry Met Sally,” when Sally wants to prove to Harry that men can’t tell whether a woman is orgasming or faking it. “Oh, Oh, Oh, God, Oh, God, Oh yeah, right there, Ah, Ah, Ah, Oh, God, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!” Then Estelle Reiner gives us the unforgettable line: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
“When Harry Met Sally” was released in 1989, the same year our first child was born. It was such a happy time in our lives, the honeymoon phase. But it didn’t last. Nowadays, these famous words, “I’ll have what she’s having…,” convey an entirely different meaning. I’m haunted by them whenever I’m the only single woman in a crowd of boomer couples; when I’m the solo voyager on a tour of a scenic mountain lake, surrounded by vacationing couples boarding the boat two by two, like it’s Noah’s ark; or, when a friend tells me that her husband of many years wakes her up every morning with a soft kiss and whispers, “Good morning, Beautiful.” I envy my friend’s happy marriage. I’ll have what she’s having, I tell the Universe.
I’m thinking these words silently when a friend and I meet for a drink and a complete stranger comes over to introduce himself to her, leaving his business card with a discreet, “I’d like to get to know you.” This is another source of my envy, my green-eyed-monster. I want to be like my friend who effortlessly attracts suitable men like a magnet, and I envy her mysterious, magical abilities. “I’ll have what she’s having, “ I tell the Universe.
The simple fact is that women in my age group in my small mountain town are mostly married or otherwise partnered. I’m happy for them—truly I am. So, when I sometimes think to myself, “I’ll have what she’s having,” I am not thinking it literally. I want the women in my life to have the joy of this thing I desire, this thing that is proving elusive. I don’t resent them for their happiness. I resent, just a little bit and only once in a while, that I am having such trouble finding my own. And maybe that is something to which the happily partnered can relate.
But envy isn’t the whole story behind my I’ll have what she’s having moments. We can often become defensive when things aren’t going our way in life. And perhaps our defensiveness helps to shield us from the really big emotions that lie beneath feels of envy: sadness, as a result of unmet expectations, and loneliness, from a lack of desired connection
Certainly, I express my sadness and loneliness occasionally, to close friends. But, mostly, I try to bear my “I’ll have what she’s having” moments alone. When my women friends complain about their husbands’ everyday irritations, I employ a combination of patience, zipped lips, and occasional gentle reminders to my friends that “no one is perfect.” I want them to appreciate what they have—and to recognize what a universal gift it is to share your life with someone who willingly chooses to share their life with you.
But sometimes the gifts you share with each other don’t last, and other gifts come to take their place. For example, this singular moment with the dog snoozing at my feet as I watch “When Harry Met Sally” for the fifth time, while snowflakes fall softly outside the window. Watching the movie, I have a sudden realization: sometimes the person watching her from the next table thinks she wants what Sally has. But of course, Sally doesn’t have it—she’s faking it. Being coupled can look really good from one table away. But, from my own experience, being coupled is not always as good as it looks.
In this moment of living solo, which I hope is a temporary phase in my life, I have the freedom to pursue my creativity to the max while wearing baggy pajamas, wool socks, and my ugliest Uggs. I have the freedom to road trip to my heart’s content while seeking out remarkable stories and experiences. And, I have the freedom to imagine someone new, coming out of the blue, joyfully, into my life, and this is something that my married friends don’t have. I guess that even sometimes, my most contentedly partnered friends experience their own I’ll have what she’s having moments.