What relationship choices are you making?
I’m often amazed at the many life and relationship lessons there are all around us if we take the time to notice them and learn from them.
Not all profound lessons have to come from the “relationships experts.”
There are some iconic characters in our culture that just seem to transcend generational boundaries and find a special place in which they will always be remembered.
One of those characters is the one and only Popeye the Sailor Man.
I was reminded of Popeye recently when a friend of mine responded to some feedback he was given with “Well, I am what I am!”
I thought, “Geez, I haven’t thought of Popeye since the last time I ate spinach.”
I guess you could say that Popeye was the first comic book superhero.
I grew up watching Popeye cartoons and throughout my life have continued to be amazed at the staying power of such a simple character.
Sure, kids today have characters like Spider Man, Super Man, Captain America and even the Hulk, but they all seem to have such a serious take on life.
I know—humor me.
You’ve just got to love Popeye’s personality.
He’s always clearly the underdog against his arch rival, Brutus (who’s name was later changed to Bluto …Copyright issues even with our beloved cartoons.)
Bluto was the big, burly he-man that was always throwing his weight around, (literally) to cause our hero Popeye a truckload of trouble.
Enter Olive Oyl.
Olive Oyl was a typical damsel-in-distress.
I never quite figured out the mysterious allure of Olive Oyl and exactly what it was about her that Bluto and Popeye were so willing to fight over.
But I’m guessing it was her endearing personality.
Just in case you’ve been out of the loop since Popeye began in 1929, Olive Oyl is an incredibly thin, tall and always fashionable girl who fancies big strong men.
She doesn’t seem to be a very confident girl and, what could be her insecurities, cause her to vacillate between the good-natured, Popeye, and the somewhat overbearing Bluto.
Although she is an admirer of Bluto’s gym rat body, she is also somewhat enamored with Popeye’s good-natured personality and underdog status against Bluto.
Hey, there’s another hero for another day. Underdog!
Now, where was I?
It seems that Olive Oyl was in somewhat of a love triangle with Bluto and Popeye, who were both constantly vying for her attention and affection.
Even though Popeye always seemed to be on the receiving end of Bluto’s physical attacks, Popeye always managed to get his hands on some cans of spinach and consume them, even though he reported many times that he really didn’t like spinach.
It seems that when Popeye ate spinach, he immediately gained some sort of super human strength and was always able to overtake the bigger, stronger Bluto and win over the affections of Olive Oyl.
At the end of every episode after Popeye had soundly defeated Bluto, he was always found singing his famous trademark song, Popeye the Sailor Man, composed by Sammy Lerner in 1933.
The chorus went like this…
Oh, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.
I’m strong to the finich
Cause I eats me spinach.
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.
Sorry about that…you probably will now have that song on auto play in your head for the rest of the day.
Through all of the continual drama, Olive Oyl eventually becomes Popeye’s girlfriend.
This, even though she insults and berates Popeye on a regular basis, is unfaithful by paying lots of attention to Bluto continuously and in general, treating Popeye like crap.
It’s interesting to note that in quite a few episodes, Olive actually beats the heck out of Popeye.
Despite all of this poor treatment (and her total lack of any sex appeal), Popeye’s undying love for Olive Oyl persists through episode after episode.
Where does Bluto fit into this scenario?
He inevitably double-crosses Popeye, who considers him somewhat of a friend, on almost every episode.
It really causes me to wonder why Popeye doesn’t drop kick Bluto out of his life!
As I was thinking back on all of this drama in Popeye’s life, I had to wonder if we could actually learn some relationship lessons from good old Popeye.
So here goes…
With a mantra like “I am what I am”, Popeye seemed pretty secure and comfortable in his own skin.
He certainly seemed confident enough, but you have to wonder what would make a guy tolerate being in a dating relationship with someone that always seemed to keep her options open for other people.
The signs were plain as day.
But, for whatever reason, Popeye seemed to have a case of tunnel vision where Olive Oyl was concerned.
There didn’t seem to be anything that she could do that would dampen his spirit to woo and win her affections.
Maybe it wasn’t the healthiest thing for Popeye to do, but somehow he remained faithful to his quest of her and in the end won her over.
Eventually, Popeye and Olive got married and adopted a baby named Sweet Pea.
So reading between all of these stressful relationship lines, I wondered about the rest of the Popeye and Olive Oyl story.
I wondered what may have happened to them as time went on.
In my version, we might find that Popeye should have paid more attention to the warning signs early on.
It seems that a few years after Popeye and Olive Oyl got married, Olive had an affair with Bluto and revealed to Popeye that she had hidden feelings for Bluto for years.
Popeye and Olive later divorced with he and Olive sharing custody of Sweet Pea.
Popeye blamed himself for the whole thing and struggled to reconcile within himself how he could have been so stupid and naïve for so long.
He took the verbal, physical and emotional abuse but thought he could change her, to no avail.
Olive really loved Popeye, but just couldn’t see herself staying married to someone that was always trying to prove themselves to everyone else. She got so tired of his public persona of “I am what I am”, when in reality, she knew how really insecure he was and in constant need of approval.
A year later, Bluto and Olive got married and every time they dropped Sweet Pea off for every other weekend visitation with Popeye, Bluto tried to start a verbal conflict with Popeye.
But this time, Popeye knew better than to pick up a can of spinach and kick Bluto’s behind, because he knew that Bluto and Olive would call the cops and have him arrested for battery.
If any of this sounds at all familiar to you, there may be some lessons in this story.
- It’s great that Popeye was comfortable enough in his own skin to say, “I am what I am”, but he should have learned from his own philosophy. While they were dating, Olive showed Popeye who she really was, and there wasn’t ever much chance that he was going to change her.
I’m convinced of one thing. You can’t convince anyone of anything.
- Popeye never really admitted his own insecurities to himself and instead, year after year, stayed stuck in his own self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.
Being willing to focus on our own personal growth is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and others.
- If you have a “friend” who is constantly stabbing you in the back, even subtly, when it comes to just about anything, it may be time to review the relationship status.
What you allow will continue.
- Our successes and failures in life can all be traced back directly to the relationships in our lives at the time. Choose those relationships carefully.
Relationship choices steer our lives in the direction of success, failure or even destruction.
Maybe Popeye and Olive Oyl really did live happily ever after, but if you want to have and maintain high-quality relationships in your life, it’s going to take more than a can of spinach.