I’m really kind of seriously embarrassed to say that I definitely based almost all my expectations for relationships, boyfriends, and my own behavior as a girlfriend on what I’ve seen in movies and television shows.
And for this, I apologize to a lot of people, and thank my current partner for putting up with me while I traverse this realization and unlearn many things I internalized growing up.
I’ve always been keenly aware of the fact that media provided a very unrealistic and unreliable source. For the college essay I wrote to Stanford (different from all my other college essays because Stanford *gasp**swoon**faint*) I tried, and failed, to traverse this by analyzing The Breakfast Club. I’m sure the Stanford admissions board was confused both because I completely lacked the language and insight to talk about this at the time, but also because I was applying to study engineering and this is on the total other side of the educational spectrum.
Not the point.
The point is, in the last ten years (sheesh, I cannot believe I was applying to college a decade ago), I’ve learned a lot more. And yet, I never revisited trying to write about this topic.
You have to understand, I mostly write, even on this blog, to work through thoughts faster. Writing forces me to explore things that I would otherwise allow to lay dormant for who knows how long.
This week I came upon a trope called manic pixie dream girl describing a very specific kind of character most recognizable (to me) as Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State. I’m going to throw in here that this trope is controversial and in fact the person who coined the term has since then retracted it because it total spun out of control (coining, retraction).
That being said, learning more about this trope made me realize why I’ve struggled with relationships forever. You see, to some disgusting* and somewhat embarrassing extent, instead of being myself, letting people (mainly guys, I didn’t have this problem with female peers) know me, and attracting men with my awesomeness, for a large part of my adulthood, I played the character I thought men wanted to date. And I was taught this character largely by movies and somewhat by TV as well.
I played these characters and then got frustrated when men didn’t like me for me, cause eventually I’d get out of character (what? I’m not a professional actress).
I played these characters and then got frustrated that real men didn’t respond the way the men in the movies had.
I played these characters and expected a happy ending that doesn’t exist the way it does in movies.
This is problematic not only for me but also for the men I’ve dated. Because in the same way I thought they wanted a specific female character, I expect(ed) them to fulfill the corresponding male role. A lot of my struggles came when I felt that they didn’t live up to their part. I didn’t realize until very recently that there wasn’t a part for them to fill. And there isn’t a part for me to fill either.
The thing with relationships is they really are just two people choosing to be themselves together. And loving each other for who the other is, both their amazing strengths and their equally amazing flaws. When people enter a relationship they don’t suddenly change to fit in the girlfriend or boyfriend role.
Relationships are complicated. Traversing through life alone is hard enough. Trying to traverse it with someone else, provides its own sets of difficulties. These are heavily outweighed, for me at least, by the positives that come with sharing the journey. But relationships are made even more complicated by the oversimplified versions we often see on screens. People often criticize movies for ending at the “happily ever after” point, but I’m starting to realize that really very few movies get any part right.
*I really just want to add a note here saying that none of my acting was a conscious thought or decision on my part. I wasn’t out to lie to men or something. That didn’t cross my mind at all. I guess to some extent I just thought it was expected of me. Unavoidable. A part of life. Don’t hate me. Judge me. Hell, I’m judging myself. But realize it just happened, I saw something and emulated it. And now that I’m aware of it, I’m trying to undo it.