A guest writer stops by Capsule to tell us a story we’ve all lived before. What happens when a real-life romantic comedy turns the corner into a drama?
Drama. A) a play for theatre, radio, or television. b) an exciting, emotional, or unexpected event or circumstance.
Those are some dictionary explanations of the word drama, and if I was being reasonable, I’d concede that in everyday speech, we rarely abide by precise definitions. We flail around and, if we’re lucky, we’ll ping the exact bit of lexicon we’re looking for, and no one will be more surprised than ourselves as we say ‘elucidate’ or ‘disingenuous’ when we actually mean it.
However, I am not feeling reasonable, and let me tell you why.
I just had a man inform me that he can do without my ‘drama’ in his life. And no, dear god, I am not a man hater, but this particular misuse of vocabulary does seem to be gender-based.
Please refer back to the definition. He was not talking about an amateur production of The Mousetrap that he’d just seen me in. Nor had I recently appeared in any prime-time thrillers, either on air or screen. He was labelling my behaviour. Which is where definition b) comes in. Because my behaviour most certainly fit that definition. It was emotional, it was unexpected (mostly to me), and although not exactly exciting, it could hardly be called boring either. But it was still not what he meant.
First, a bit of background. We met online. Before we even laid eyes on each other he told me ‘he had a gut feeling’ about us, he loved my voice, he loved my intellect, my humour. He stalked my Facebook, my Instagram. Once lockdown ended, he could barely wait to zip down to Auckland to meet me. I imagined him standing by his car, its engine idling as he nervously paced around, watching for the green light from Jacinda. Three minutes into our meeting he told me I was gorgeous (come on…), within an hour he was planning our future, and referring again to his gut. If your eyes haven’t rolled out of your head by now, then you’re either a therapist or were recently canonised. I mean, who falls for this stuff?
I spent the next weekend with him. It was super-romantic. We went for a walk on the Sunday and he was sketching our lives so far into the future that they appeared as mere feathery pencil strokes in the distance. An outline of a shared life, hazy as hell, but there nonetheless.
Fast-forward two weeks. He’s come to my place, met my family. Yes, yes… but it was all so convincing. You know, like a drama. He’s charming – with everyone. He holds my hand everywhere. He’s nice to my kids. One even likes him. He joins in things. He plays board games. He tells me he loves me. Actually he’s been doing that for the past two weeks. I know, I know…
And then suddenly I sense a change. I won’t go into details; it’s complicated and, besides, I’m not trying to get you to take sides. I’m just relaying how I felt. My gut speaks to me, too. And I’m sure as hell he’s not telling the truth about all of this, so all I can do is tell mine.
It was the fourth day of the long weekend. We got up and there was no hand holding or kissing or anything remotely warm. The day before he was auditioning for the role of ‘my rock’, and now he was a stone. A boulder, with pants on. Did I imagine it? Maybe. But that’s not the point. I felt it. And I got triggered. I panicked. I’ve had men use affection as reward so many times, and it’s painful. ‘Now I love you, now I don’t’. My mind skittered all over the place, into the past, into the pencil sketch future, and I could see myself dangling like a mouse, while this man lazily batted me around. And so I said ‘I don’t want to come with you on that trip next week’. I could have said ‘Erm, are we still going on that trip next week?” But something in me finally rebelled. I didn’t want to be that child anymore, asking for treats, wanting to know if I’d done something wrong. Especially not two weeks into a relationship with a man allegedly ‘besotted’ with me.
“Something has changed,” I blurted out. “I can sense it.” “Okay” he replied. “Do you want me to go now?” And then he got up and left.
I’m not proud of the next bit, so I’ll say it in a very small voice. I texted him. Messengered him. Tried to call. I demanded an explanation. The more I demanded, the more stone-like he became.
When he finally answered, by email, he said many things. Mostly that I was imagining the coldness. And that, now, I’d engineered a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of my behaviour, he no longer felt the same way about me. And then… drumroll. There it was. That classic line. “I can do without your drama in my life.”
So, back to words. You see what he really meant was ‘Your emotions were too much for me. I don’t want to have to handle them. I see you were triggered; I see you were hurt. I could have sat down with you and explored that, but I didn’t want to. I’m sorry you were in so much turmoil, but I don’t care about you enough for that.” Turns out that his was a kind of 3rd party fire and theft ‘I love you’. It didn’t cover pain.
I called a friend last night (much recommended by the way, in this scenario). I told her maybe I did overreact, that maybe I shouldn’t have drawn such an aggressive line in the sand. Maybe it was drama?
“It wasn’t drama,” she said. “It was progress”.