Throughout our childhood we’ve grown up on a steady diet of fairy tales and Walt Disney love stories; where every partner is a Prince or a Princess, every courtship is syrupy-sweet and romantic, and every relationship ends with “and they lived happily ever after”. We’ve always known that this was just fiction – a harmless fantasy, and that real life was different. But all the same, knowing it subconsciously, and actually facing this reality, are two totally different nuts to crack.
For me, it was a culture shock. The guys I was dating were not Prince Charming; they were more interested in groping under my t-shirt than in gazing soulfully into my eyes, and no, most relationships don’t have a happy ending. In fact, most of them end in heartache and tears.
Not an easy pill to swallow, especially when you’ve been told again and again that certain things such as love’s first kiss is all-powerful (it breaks curses and resuscitates dying souls, after all) and that the person you like will fall in love with you as soon as they lay eyes on you, no questions asked… Yeah, right. Let’s get rid of some obvious lies shall we?
The First Date
Expectation: He arrives at your house promptly at the designated time with a bouquet of beautiful red roses in one hand and a box of your favourite chocolate-coated nuts in the other. You don’t know where he’s taking you; it’s a surprise – which is why you’re so thrilled when you realise he’s actually rented a huge old-style yacht just for the two of you for the day. Dinner is served by a team of professionals while you watch the sunset together from aboard deck and talk about your dreams, your life and your hopes for the future.
Reality: He’s half an hour late, then he messages you telling you he can’t pick you up and to meet him at the coffee shop. You grab a bus and manage to get there within the hour. He still hasn’t arrived. Finally he gets there. You order burgers and fries, and you munch the greasy food as you hear him relate various stories about his ex.
The First Kiss
Expectation: After a perfect evening out together, he drives you home. He gets out of the car before you to open the car door for you and regretfully takes you gently by the hand up your driveway. There, he looks at you tenderly, tells you how much he enjoyed your company and leans forward slowly. You both close your eyes, and as his lips touches yours, you suddenly feel as though something which was meant to be has finally happened.
Reality: Half-way through your date, he gets drunk on whiskey-based cocktails. His foul breath smothers your face in a cloud of vapour when suddenly you realise he’s trying to find your tonsils while slobbering both your faces with your now-smudged lipstick.
Becoming a ‘Couple’
Expectation: He invites you to a family gathering. You’re very excited and feel jittery about meeting them. When you arrive at the BBQ, he immediately takes your hand and introduces you proudly as his girlfriend. Everyone beams at you and pats him on the back.
Reality: After four months, you still don’t know where the relationship is going. You’ve hardly ever met his friends and when you meet someone he knows, he doesn’t introduce you to them, waiting for you to introduce yourself. You feel uncomfortable about defining him as a boyfriend or partner yourself, since it’s not clear whether he wants an actual relationship and you don’t feel like facing him about it because you don’t want to appear pushy or needy, so you leave things as they are, even though this makes you confused.
The Sexual Connection
Expectations: Your longing for each other sizzles the air between you each time you gaze at each other. Every time he touches you, the whole world fades away until nothing else matters. Your heart beats so loudly when he caresses you that you feel as if you’re swooning. You can hardly think about anything else and neither can he.
Reality: You mostly fondle each other in the car, where the handbrake is always poking you in the back so hard that you have a perennial bruise. He finds hair-pulling kinky and you don’t. You suspect he likes someone else and that while he’s with you he’s thinking about her instead, basically because he’s muttered her name a couple of times. He also has no idea what foreplay’s all about and isn’t even remotely interested.