Dating, Relationships, & Sex

the butterfly effect: how the “you give me butterflies” lie is blinding us

90 minutes or so into the godfather, michael corleone–who’s been exiled to sicily–sees his first wife (appolonia) for the first time, and is so overcome by her that one of his bodyguards remarks that he’s been “struck by the thunderbolt“. to drive this point even further, the next scene shows michael asking appolonia’s father for her hand in marriage, despite the fact that he hasn’t even met her yet.

the father accepts michael’s offer, and michael and appolonia meet. he courts her, they marry and, if it wasn’t for an unfortunate plot-device car-bombing, they would have lived happily ever after.

i first watched this movie when i was 8 years old. for the next 15 years, i convinced myself that the love at first sight “thunderbolt” (or “fireworks”, “butterflies”, or “spark”) wasn’t just the right way to be in a relationship, it was the only way. in my mind, any romantic relationship that didn’t involve a perpetual fireworks display when you were in each other’s presence was illegitimate. you were either soulmates or just wasting your f*cking time.

this is where you’re probably expecting to read about some relationship adversity i faced that ultimately led to a “the thunderbolt doesn’t exist” epiphany, and you’d be (partially) right.

my first interactions with my ex-fiancee mirrored those of michael and appolonia. we met on a saturday, and by that next saturday we’d already met each other’s parents and slept together twice.

i had it all, the thunderbolt, the fireworks, the butterflies, the spark…and it was all bullsh*t. i allowed that initial thunderbolt–which was really just a mix of lust, like, and years of built up relationship idealism–to delude me into ignoring multiple red flags. and, thinking the thunderbolt couldn’t have possibly been wrong, i stayed in the relationship a full year past its expiration date.

it wasn’t her fault, really. i was so blinded by the butterflies that once a bit of adversity removed my gaga goggles, i realized we weren’t who i thought we were. but, no one could have lived up to that ideal. we were doomed from the start.

i realize my anecdotal evidence doesn’t “prove” the thunderbolt is bullsh*t any more than watching the godfather or the notebook “proves” it exists. i’m sure there are couples out there who fell in love the first time they locked eyes with each other. some might even be reading this right now, and i salute them and their matching snuggies.

but, while those initial thunderbolts, fireworks, and butterflies are possible, they’re improbable…and you can be perfectly happy without them.

in fact, the vast majority of people in good relationships follow the exact same script:

he thinks she’s cute. she thinks he’s cute. they like each other. they get together. they stay together. they die.

that’s it. no fireworks, no alignment of the stars, and no thunderbolts unless you’re within 10 miles of a cumulonimbus.

wait, actually that’s a lie.

they do eventually come, but not until you’re convinced your life is better with that person than without, and that can happen anywhere from 5 months to 5 years after you initially meet. you don’t build on the butterflies, you build to the butterflies. thinking that you need them in place in order to pursue a relationship is like waiting to win the lottery before you open a checking account.

i always wondered what would have happened if appolonia didn’t die in that explosion. would michael have stayed in sicily? would he have left the family business for good? would their eventual daughter still end up sleeping with her first cousin? who knows?

these questions are futile, though. her death was necessary. the thunderbolt scene resonates so deeply because appolonia’s sudden death fossilized her perfection, allowing the viewer (and michael) to reflect wistfully about the idealized version of what might have been instead of the realistic and nuanced version of what actually would have been. she convinces us that we need those butterflies to be perfect, to be happy, and she had to die to preserve that lie.

—the champ

Filed Under:
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • http://www.pinchmycheekie.blogspot.com Cheekie

    I’m guessing folks are expecting me to be first…

    No.

    • Andi

      *Sigh* The day is yours Cheekie…

    • Andi

      *Sigh* The day is yours Cheekie…

    • legitimate_soul

      Ahhh, but “Yes”!
      *cues music*
      Get your two step on! Victory is yours :)

      • Andi

        VIXEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3

        • legitimate_soul

          Thanks, Andi :)

        • legitimate_soul

          Thanks, Andi :)

      • Andi

        VIXEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3

      • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com/ Wu Young Agent of M.E.

        Dope Avi!

        • legitimate_soul

          Thanks, Wu! :)

          • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young Agent of M.E.

            I think her mini-series a few years ago was the last DC books I actually liked. Good character but too bad they should have kept her in the JLA.

            • legitimate_soul

              They should have. JLA had the most color when it was a cartoon on TV because a brotha was helping put it out. *sigh*

            • legitimate_soul

              They should have. JLA had the most color when it was a cartoon on TV because a brotha was helping put it out. *sigh*

          • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young Agent of M.E.

            I think her mini-series a few years ago was the last DC books I actually liked. Good character but too bad they should have kept her in the JLA.

        • legitimate_soul

          Thanks, Wu! :)

      • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com/ Wu Young Agent of M.E.

        Dope Avi!

    • legitimate_soul

      Ahhh, but “Yes”!
      *cues music*
      Get your two step on! Victory is yours :)

    • http://www.twitter.com/quiethaylestorm keisha brown

      the day after my bday..you wont let me be great??!?!! lol.
      i kid i kid. i dont aim for the number 1 spot. ludacris.
      ps: black ppl are really good at making money..kinda. why does ludacris have a cognac? why was it being given out for free at a club during ‘bana weekend? so many questions…

      • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

        Where are the lips??? My daughter is going to be mad. ;) How was your bday?

        • http://www.twitter.com/quiethaylestorm Keisha Brown

          @SFG: surrree..your “daughter”. lol.
          the bday in all its entirety was WICKED!
          thanks for askin! back to reality..
          but at least NFL is around the corner!

        • http://www.twitter.com/quiethaylestorm Keisha Brown

          @SFG: surrree..your “daughter”. lol.
          the bday in all its entirety was WICKED!
          thanks for askin! back to reality..
          but at least NFL is around the corner!

      • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

        Where are the lips??? My daughter is going to be mad. ;) How was your bday?

    • http://www.twitter.com/quiethaylestorm keisha brown

      the day after my bday..you wont let me be great??!?!! lol.
      i kid i kid. i dont aim for the number 1 spot. ludacris.
      ps: black ppl are really good at making money..kinda. why does ludacris have a cognac? why was it being given out for free at a club during ‘bana weekend? so many questions…

  • http://www.pinchmycheekie.blogspot.com Cheekie

    I’m guessing folks are expecting me to be first…

    No.

  • Andi

    Drat!!!

    • Andi

      Ooo good one Champ! I love the Godfather and I always thought Appolonia was so beautiful and tragic (as beautiful movie ingenues tend to be). I agree whole heartedly with this post though. In my last relationship, we started out as friends and he had to convince *ahem* pursue me. He got me though and they’re were eventual fireworks. I don’t really believe in love at first sight because I see love as an action, and a very involved one. I do believe in infatuation at first sight and we all know infatuation has a very short shelf life….

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

        “I see love as an action, and a very involved one”

        good point

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

        “I see love as an action, and a very involved one”

        good point

      • MsEsquire77

        @Andi—“I don’t really believe in love at first sight because I see love as an action, and a very involved one.” <—–This is absolute truth!! Love isn't a noun, it's a verb! Relationships are great but they require daily work. Love isn't enough if there isn't communication, trust, patience, kindness and sacrifice.

      • MsEsquire77

        @Andi—“I don’t really believe in love at first sight because I see love as an action, and a very involved one.” <—–This is absolute truth!! Love isn't a noun, it's a verb! Relationships are great but they require daily work. Love isn't enough if there isn't communication, trust, patience, kindness and sacrifice.

    • Andi

      Ooo good one Champ! I love the Godfather and I always thought Appolonia was so beautiful and tragic (as beautiful movie ingenues tend to be). I agree whole heartedly with this post though. In my last relationship, we started out as friends and he had to convince *ahem* pursue me. He got me though and they’re were eventual fireworks. I don’t really believe in love at first sight because I see love as an action, and a very involved one. I do believe in infatuation at first sight and we all know infatuation has a very short shelf life….

  • Andi

    Drat!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Brklyn2Chi Brklyn2Chi

    All I need is 1.

    Hey maybe its just me…

  • http://twitter.com/Brklyn2Chi Brklyn2Chi

    All I need is 1.

    Hey maybe its just me…

  • coldsweat3

    damn. i kept refreshing. no luck!

  • coldsweat3

    damn. i kept refreshing. no luck!

  • http://www.twitter.com/PenelopeSanchez Penelope

    I NoL’ed approximately 4 times while reading this post (nodded out loud).
    Now, excuse me while I copy some of the gems of this post into my EverNote (which is, after my spiritual relationship and Google, the single greatest thing to ever happen to me).
    Good day.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      Now, excuse me while I copy some of the gems of this post into my EverNote

      you and your evernote need to get a room

      • http://www.twitter.com/PenelopeSanchez Penelope

        here i am PRAISING your philosophical prowess, and this is the thanks i get? I’m being blackballed by VSB; I know it– I can’t even put a picture up! Crabs in a proverbial bucket, I say.

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          thanks, big p.

          was that better?

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          thanks, big p.

          was that better?

      • http://www.twitter.com/PenelopeSanchez Penelope

        here i am PRAISING your philosophical prowess, and this is the thanks i get? I’m being blackballed by VSB; I know it– I can’t even put a picture up! Crabs in a proverbial bucket, I say.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      Now, excuse me while I copy some of the gems of this post into my EverNote

      you and your evernote need to get a room

    • http://www.twitter.com/courtney_mcg Courtney (VSB)

      You’re an EverNote lover?!?

      Pardon me while I admire the fireworks…

    • http://www.twitter.com/courtney_mcg Courtney (VSB)

      You’re an EverNote lover?!?

      Pardon me while I admire the fireworks…

    • http://www.divinetranquility.wordpress.com Miss Patterson

      I love Evernote too! :)

      • http://www.iamyourpeople.com I Am Your People

        *Googles EverNote* Hmmm, I may need this in my life…

      • http://www.iamyourpeople.com I Am Your People

        *Googles EverNote* Hmmm, I may need this in my life…

    • http://www.divinetranquility.wordpress.com Miss Patterson

      I love Evernote too! :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/PenelopeSanchez Penelope

    I NoL’ed approximately 4 times while reading this post (nodded out loud).
    Now, excuse me while I copy some of the gems of this post into my EverNote (which is, after my spiritual relationship and Google, the single greatest thing to ever happen to me).
    Good day.

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