Allow me to introduce myself. I am Anne Hathaway. Improbably hot, obsessed with sex (and not because I don’t get any); refusing to get close to anyone, or to let them get close to me. Like her character in the new film Love and Other Drugs, I have early onset Parkinson’s Disease. Not as early as hers but hey, give me a break here.
I saw the film on Wednesday. As I walked into a lit cinema populated by coupled-up students and giggling, texting gaggles of girls, I felt astonishingly conspicuous. A 43-year-old man, on his own watching a romcom in the afternoon? I wanted to shout: ‘I’m here for the drugs, not the love!’
Sitting alone in a cinema is a passable imitation of the mental weight of Parkinson’s. I desire secrecy and revelation simultaneously. Everyone looks, but no-one sees. It’s an odd, not out-of but hiding-inside body experience.
Then came the movie. I was expecting a crass, exploitative, romanticised version of Parkinson’s. I could write about the symptoms, the clumsy way they show the tremor (they show the clumsiness better), but anyone who knows anything about Parkinson’s will tell you that both symptoms and progression are quite personal.
Unable to decide whether it’s a serious drama, a romcom, or a teen flick, the films ends up as Four Weddings and an American Love Story Pie. It has many, many flaws, but whoever wrote the damn thing got some stuff spot on. For me.
Hathaway’s character wants plenty of commitment-free sex. Her seduction line (apart from, two minutes after sitting down for coffee, “Shall we?”) is simple: “For you it’s not the sex, but an hour or two to relieve the pain of being you…that’s all I want too.”
Without putting too fine a point on it, I know how she feels. Add this desire to the side-effects of the drugs (which can, in rare cases, include compulsive sexual behaviour) and well…
This disease destroys your sense of self, and your sense of self-worth. And nothing provides self-validation and insulation like a few hours of frenetic sexual activity. Sex makes me feel that I can, while taking me away from me. Being inside another body makes me forget my own, and its insufficiencies, inabilities, inadequacies. At some point, Parkinson’s will probably render me impotent. Cheers.
Yes, the love story clunks. Yes, the sub-plot is crap. Yes, the film drips sanctimony. But get this: at points, I cried. Truly. Not for the fucking characters, but for me.
Like Hathaway’s character, I have done everything I can to avoid getting attached: refused to call anyone my girlfriend, shrugged off the boyfriend tag, and sure as hell haven’t told anyone I love them (at least, not when it could have led to anything). Why would anyone want me, when in ten years I may well be a gurning, incontinent idiot? Children? Fuck off.
Yes, I’m ranting. I’m furious that while some of these points were dealt with quite beautifully, they were wrapped in a teen movie wrapped in a romcom. The rake (me) falls in love with a fragile, broken woman (er, also me) and heals her soul. Why so furious? Well, it’s ridiculous that they could sum up my life so well. Parkinson’s has led me to live in a way that’s part farce, part black comedy, and (as one character in the film observes) part Russian novel.
But there will be no happy ending. I am not getting better. I am getting worse, and will continue to do so.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
That seems to be the most effective short-term therapy.
This post was edited on Friday 7 January to include reference to the side effects of Parkinson’s medication. To see the original version of this article, click here