As it was Valentines Day recently I have decided to write about relationships and my own experience with the crazy roller coaster world of love. This is a romantic story straight out of (certain) types of movies, TV shows and books, but trust me when I say it is not a fairy tale.
When I was 18, I became involved with a man. This man seemed like he was straight out of a story. He was eight years my senior, which made him just the right age in my mind, and he reminded me of many of the characters I had learned to love over the years.
But this was no fairy tale story. Not a romcom either.
No. This man reflected the kind of relationships I was fascinated with at the time. When I was younger, I wasn’t interested in ‘normal’ on screen romances and soppy rom coms. I didn’t want a knight in shining armor, un-complicated, sweet, and ‘normal’ guy. When I was younger, I was obsessed with phantom of the Opera. With the angst page of certain fan fiction websites. A story that contained complicated, volatile and yet strangely romantic characters who appeared to have ‘hidden depth’. Characters who were difficult, demanding, and yet all the more rewarding. The anti-hero. The emotional roller coaster. The complex, volatile, passionate, and often ultimately doomed side of love.
Those were the characters I became attached to. That was the kind of romance I wanted. I could never understand why the heroines tended to pick the normal, nice, and boring guy in the end of a story. I wanted the drama. I wanted the intensity. I wanted the beast from Beauty and the Beast, the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera, even the Yuki Eiri from Gravitation.
I wanted brooding. I wanted passion. I wanted something that seemed unique, something special. Something that wasn’t easy, but something that was worth the work. Something that not everyone else had, and something not everyone else could understand. I wanted the challenge. I even wanted the confusion. I wanted someone who was exhilarating. Someone slightly possessive. Someone prone to bouts of emotion, who at other times wouldn’t be able to express themselves. Someone who would keep me on my toes and make me feel special at the same time. Someone I had to work to understand, someone who shared the very things that I thought made me unique and yet someone who would keep me guessing. Someone who wasn’t annoyingly happy or overly nice. Someone who would understand me as the complex and angst ridden young adult I believed myself to be. Someone memorable.Someone who reminded me of a character from a story and was yet more real than anyone else I knew. And, for a time, I had just that.
I was not alone. People wonder why stories like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray are so popular, but I think I know why, or at least one of the reasons why. It’s not because a lot of women like bastards, or badly written fiction, or because we are all horrifically oppressed and jump at anything vaguely erotic masquerading as ‘fiction’. It’s not because women secretly want abusive, nasty, and manipulative men. It’s not because women are all naturally submissive and need a strong-rich man to mess them around in the name of romance.
It is because a lot of people, both male and female, are interested in challenging people. They’re interested in ‘difficult’ people. In people who are perhaps a little emotionally challenged, a little different. If you do get one of those people and if you are able to establish a real, personal relationship with someone who doesn’t have that easily with everyone, it makes it seem more special, more real, more unique. When someone who is normally cold or distant isn’t like that with you, if you and you alone see a different side of them, that can be more interesting and more rewarding than the affections of someone who, however nice they may be, could have that with anyone.
Perhaps some of us have been conditioned to believe that young romance should be passionate, complicated, and seemingly unattainable. That love should be challenging, angsty, and epic rather than sweet, calm, and simple. Maybe these characters from our favorite movies and books made us this way. Or maybe the reason we liked the characters in the first place is precisely because this is already what we were attracted to.
A lot of people are complicated, or at least want to think they are complicated, and finding someone who is as or more complicated than you can be comforting. It can make you feel like there are other people who understand you on the most personal level. Maybe it was the thrill of the challenge, maybe it was the excitement of feeling like I was living one of the stories I used to love so much. Maybe, most of all, it was because this guy was perfect for me at the time. He understood everything I thought no one else could ever properly understand, and could articulate it in ways I have never thought of.
We were both a bit hopeless at the whole thing. He could be emotionally distant and distressingly volatile, and I was clingy, over the top and slightly hysterical. I think the part in’Rebecca‘ by Daphne du Maurier is right where it says,
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundations, and one is so easily bruised, so sift wounded, one falls to the first barbed word.”
I take that to mean that after a certain point (21 in this case) a lot of the over zealous, hyper emotional and crazy in love can’t go on. That doesn’t mean you suddenly become dead inside or you can’t get really, really into someone anymore, but you find better ways of dealing with it. People stop being the be all and end all of life. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter, in fact they may matter considerably more, but it stops affecting us in quite the same way. We grow to understand why sometimes fighting for something without thinking doesn’t work. We grow more mature. We are able to deal with things easier and move one easier. We know that we can ultimately survive on our own so we don’t have the need to make things work no matter what; to be hurt by every little concern because we know that in the end it will be alright.
But no matter how many years pass, or how many other people I meet, or how much older I get, I don’t think I will ever regret those years. No matter how messy it got or how sad it sometimes was, at that time of my life this was exactly what I wanted. It will remain the most exhilaration, life changing and memorable time in my life. I will never forget it. And trust me when I say I will never regret it.