The And interactive documentary tells us way more about relationships than any self-help book or how-to-date manual ever could. This isn't just because actions speak louder than words, or because a picture is worth a thousand words, or any other cliché that minimizes writing — obviously, as a writer, I think words are pretty darn important. On my now-deleted Facebook page when I was younger, back when people had little taglines à la MySpace, I posted "verba volant, scripta manent," the Latin proverb that means, "spoken words fly away, written words remain." Yay, words! But as important as words may be, there's nothing like the rawness of two people sitting in front of one another telling each other exactly how they feel about anything from cheating to sex to the first day they met and everything in between, unscripted and unrehearsed.
You too can participate in The And documentary — just head over there, hit "Grab your partner and try your own," follow the directions and prepare yourself for a very enlightening night. You'll probably cry. Just as you will when you get sucked into this beautiful project, and spend way too long clicking on more, more, more videos, until you look up and discover that the sun, which was only rising when you started, is now at full tilt. Or at least that's what happened to me. These are the documentary's six most wrenching moments.
1. "You Are The Sexiest, Most Profound Lover I Have Ever Met."
Sidra and Ben are by far my favorites. They've been married 10 years, and they are the most emotionally fresh, truthful couple I have ever witnessed (with, perhaps, the exception of one particular married couple I know that lives in Santa Fe and is just a big ball of love-joy). I find this one so important: Sidra asks Ben, "Am I the best sex you've ever had?" He doesn't have to think about it. He just gets a total shit-eating grin on his face and answers, without hesitation, "Yup."
That could be a complete sentence, but then he elaborates: "One of the things that just blew me away about you, and still just continues to just blow me away about you, is what an amazing and erotic sexual human being you are. You are the sexiest, most profound lover I have ever met." She tears up. Just watch it. It's wildly lovely. And it's a great reminder of how important sex is in a romantic relationship — how vital it is to truly adore having sex with your bae.
2. "You're The Most Important Person In The World To Me."
I also absolutely love this moment: They're discussing what it would be like if they have a child, and Sidra were to prioritize that child over Ben. He admits that he wouldn't be thrilled, but then he expresses this gem of a sentiment: "We have been through so much. And I know that we will get back to this. Maybe it's three months, maybe it's six months, maybe it's a year — but we know how to climb back up this hill and get back here." Then he says the thing that totally made me lose it: "And I'll do that as many times as I have to. You're the most important person in the world to me." Complete face-melt.
3. "If I'm Scared To Tell You Something, It's ... The Signal That I Need To Tell You."
One more of Sidra and Ben, because I can't help it: I'm totally enamored. Ben asks Sidra what she's scared to tell him. And she says, "If I'm scared to tell you something, it's kind of the signal that I need to tell you something." And then she remembers something, And he goes, "Oh no — what did you buy?" They both completely lose it laughing. She tells him what it is, and honestly you can't really understand them through the hysterical laughing — something to do with a home-improvement–related purchase — but the point is that they are so f--king solid. Their connection is palpable. It reads through the screen. It's love, but it's more than that. It's incredible communication, mutual admiration and respect.
It's really sweet, but it's more than that. The way this doc is filmed lets us see both sides of a couple in real time: eyes, mouths, tiny ticks, the glistening of tears, little tells — the minuscule giveaways our faces broadcast in times like these. When people are being honest, you can really feel it. And when they're not, you can feel that too. Ben and Sidra kill it with their honesty, and make me so happy.
4. "I Don't Want You To Forget That ... I Loved You."
Giulia and Elijah are still in high school. They've been dating seven months. Their relationship is infused with that feeling that many of us had with our high school loves — that perhaps the timing was wrong, that if we'd met later, maybe it would work out long-term, but since we were still in high school, the relationship was suffused with this sinking suspicion that it could never work out in the end. And most of us were right. (When I was in high school, my boyfriend, who was four years older, and I loved listening to "Wouldn't It Be Nice," the Beach Boys dreamy surf-rock anthem about just this topic. So glad I didn't wind up with him, but still.)
Giulia asks Elijah, "What's the one thing that you don't want me to forget about you?" — the perfect question for a couple in high school, whose future may be a ticking time bomb. He says, "That I loved you. That you mean something. I don't want you to forget that." And then my heart totally shattered.
5. "Do You Think We'll Ever Get Back Together At Some Point In The Future?"
Giulia asks this question of Elijah, and immediately I was just struck with the feeling of — oh! Love is so hard. But so beautiful. And so worth it. But so hard sometimes.
He says, "I'm sure we'll see each other again, but, like, will we get back together? I'm not sure. But I would love if that happened." And the sincerity in his eyes! So kind. So real. Reminds me how capable and emotionally intelligent high schoolers can be. These two are way more present and emotionally vulnerable than, say, the last couple I mention.
6. "We Respect Each Other."
This was such a sincere, pleasant, honest moment. Allie and Mat have been dating for two years. They're going through it, having their emotions, answering their questions. And at one point, Mat says, very matter-of-factly, "We respect each other, I feel like." Allie looks pleased, and says, just as factually: "We value each other's opinions." He says, "Mmm hmm." It's so clear that they're a team. And sometimes, "mmm hmm" is all that's necessary to say. This one was a quiet moment, but incredibly nice and pure.
7. Bonus: "Do You Remember This At All?"
And lastly, a note on one couple, who happen to be an ex-couple, and why their interaction didn't spark any heart-rending feelings for me, except maybe a fleeting thought of, "Wow, this couple was so terrible for each other, and this chick is way better off without this guy."
Ali and Andrew, exes who dated for seven years and had been broken up for two at the time of the interview, don't incite the same emotional reaction for me that, say, Sidra and Ben do, mostly I think because Andrew doesn't strike me as genuine. OK, if I'm being totally honest here, he strikes me as a jerk, and I think, at least in part, that is because he is totally closed off from himself, and is completely incapable of emotional honesty and availability. He's just. not. there.
He acts like he is, and is physically sitting in the chair in front of his ex-girlfriend, but he's not present. He's someplace else. And I'd put money on it that he was that way when they were together as well. They start reminiscing about the best memories of their relationship, and Ali describes a night when they were going through a "rough patch" (one of many, I'd wager), and Andrew came over and slow-danced with her and rubbed her feet. As she tells the story, she pauses and says, "Do you remember this at all?" Andrew goes, "Not really." Sums it up.
Here's Sidra and Ben, because everyone should have the super cathartic experience of watching this power couple tell it like it is over and over again. I'd suggest watching this alone, preferably with a box of tissues nearby. Cue heartbreak, in the sweetest and most profound way there is.
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Images: Glamour Magazine/YouTube