We all love a good old heartwarming romantic comedy, right?
I’ve noticed that one of the most popular Rom-com characters nowadays is the shy, closed-off protagonist. There’s the teenage girl filled with angst and daddy issues who is ambiguously unable to reciprocate love, the brooding young male who everyone fears due to his mysteriously long (but dangerously soft) hair and leather jacket, and the misunderstood high school reject who pushes away anybody trying to get close.
At the end of the film, these heroes of the story who have somehow rendered themselves incapable of feeling, always find the one person who “understands” them, the one person that breaks down all of their walls, ignores all of their emotional baggage, and makes them realize that even they can find true love! This is total bullshit.
Of course everybody loves the romanticized Hollywood version of a tragic, yet common state of being, but it isn’t reality. As convenient as that would be, it is simply not that easy to turn your emotions on and off. And it definitely is not that easy to find someone willing to turn them on for you. Life doesn’t work that way, and neither does love.
Love should be a road that two people take together, a story in its own right, with twists, turns, conflicts, climaxes (literally), and conclusions. Love shouldn’t be something that you have to drag out of a person. Love is there if it’s there, and it’s not if it’s not.
But as much as I like to think I know what love should be, let me just say that I am one of those movie characters. I absolutely am. I am the brooding, closed-off girl. I taught myself this skill a long time ago, and I have no plans to change it anytime soon. I am not open to love. I am not open to trust. I am not open to forming close relationships with people, because I am under the impression that that kind of innate dependency leaves a person with only disappointment.
Don’t bother telling me that I’m wrong. I have been told countless times that I’m wrong, that I’m missing out, etc. and maybe that’s true. But that doesn’t change my opinion. In romantic relationships, I have successfully taught myself to push away anyone who has the potential to truly care about me, and instead I choose those who I know will let me down. The teenage version of this pattern could be called “going for the bad boy,” but I don’t think of it that way. If I expect to be let down by the men I choose to be with, there’s no room for disappointment when it happens.
There’s no fall. With them, I don’t have to open up. With them, I don’t have to share my emotions or my feelings or my life, because they don’t care. And that’s the easiest kind of relationship there is: one where I can’t get hurt. One where we are both islands, surrounded by so many things that take up parts of us that we don’t have the energy to care for one another.
And that’s where the movies get it wrong.
The creation of this emotionless character, in my opinion, is brilliant. Real, raw, and tragically accurate. But the idea that this person can suddenly change their entire way of life just because one person who “loves” them told them to? It’s fiction. It gives people like me and so many others (there’s a reason the character becomes a cliché, after all), a small semblance of hope that maybe this will happen for us, when in fact, it won’t. Not until we’re ready for it.
Not until we’re ready to get hurt.