Now I won’t settle for less

Ba Ba! Ba Baaa! This is the sound of settling!’ – Death Cab for Cutie

To paraphrase Blaine from Glee, it seems ‘there’s a moment, where you look up, and say oh, there you are!’ Whilst I tend to agree with Blaine on almost everything due to his sheer cuteness, I’ve got to question this after the ten thousandth rom-com where the girl has a nice boy best friend, but constantly wants to date the dickhead, before realising (usually after said dickhead has humiliated/cheated on/physically hurt her) that the best friend was the best bet after all.

Is it just that we can suddenly look at someone one day and realise they’re there? Realise we are suddenly attracted to them, after years of putting them in the ‘friend’ box? Or, is it more likely that we gradually lower our expectations until the person we’ve known forever who has always been nice to us suddenly seems like a better bet?

I write this while watching Postgrad, a film that I knew would be absolutely terrible, but was willing to put up with, both because I like Alexis Bledel, and because I’m a postgrad. And from the first thirty seconds it was clear that this was a ‘my best friend is in love with me, but I never really looked at him, but now something’s happened, he’s not talking to me, and I realise I love him’ movie.

What, were you blind for the past three years of knowing him? You also appear to have no other friends. So is your concept of friendship completely based on the fact that he loves you and would do anything for you? This makes me angry.

In real life, as well as movies, it appears that there are these intelligent, successful, beautiful women who have been picky about their partners, constantly criticising any possible mate for not being pretty enough, smart enough, making the most of their potential. Fast forward ten, maybe twenty, years and the men these women end up with are always very nice, very in love with them, but usually a bit chubby and balding.

Why is this? Is it that they’re tired of dating? Is it that these men try so much harder, love them so much more, cherish them? Was it the biological clock ticking away? Were these men their metaphorical best friends, waiting in the wings for the Moment a woman let her standards slip?

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. All of these women seem very happy. I’m just wondering whether it is a true Moment of Realisation, or a Moment of Lowering Your Expectations.

Let’s consider these examples:

Charlotte and Harry (Sex and the City)

Charlotte’s Moment is clearly one of realisation. She’d already married the “perfect” man, the doctor with the high society family and a full head of hair. And she had a terrible time. Enter Harry, who physically repulses her but whom she can’t get enough of in bed. Sex turns into love, love turns into marriage, and along comes an adoptive Chinese baby in a bamboo carriage. Yay. Charlotte knows what they look like together, and in a particularly painful scene, tells Harry so. I vote this was definitely a Moment. A Moment in bed. And if anyone’s seen the rabbit episode, they know Charlotte is a slave to her sexual urges.

Perhaps this is the answer as to why these gorgeous women marry average-looking men. And if it is, good for them.

Blaine and Kurt (Glee)

Here, Kurt had a crush on Blaine from the beginning. And Blaine firstly said he didn’t see Kurt that way, and then got all embarrassed about his misinterpretation of a relationship with a guy at Gap. So, they carry on as friends whilst Kurt pines, until finally, Kurt sings ‘Songbird’, and Blaine, who has seen Kurt sing a hundred times before, suddenly falls in love with him. Maybe it was because he was singing a sad song in honour of Pavarotti, the Warblers’ pet bird, who just died. Well, they say tragedy brings people together.

I don’t think this is a case of settling, because they’re both cute. It was more a case of the writers suddenly going ‘hey, let’s get this gay teenage relationship storyline on the road!’ And good for them.

AJ and Corey (Empire Records)

Corey (Liv Tyler) is obsessed with being the best, and plans on losing her virginity to apparent teen hearthrob Rex Manning. Except that he’s old and a sleaze, and her best friend AJ has been in love with her forever. And plans on telling her. At exactly 1.37. Because it’s an excellent time.

So yeah, after being humiliated by Rex, Corey finally sees her best friend as more than a best friend. And he makes big important college decisions based on her. Which is always an excellent plan when you’re eighteen. Is this settling? Or possibly offering your virginity up to a man before realising he’s disgusting and that you’re not ready can send you hurtling into the arms of a safer male who is willing to wait and shower you with affection in the meantime. (For Liv Tyler doing this in another movie, see Stealing Beauty, where the nice guy she settles for is the brother of the shitty guy she liked at the beginning. Drama!)

Mia and Michael (The Princess Diaries)

Urgh. This is getting irritating now. Michael likes Mia. Michael has grungy hair, is in a band (no, in real life, he’s in a band. They’re called Rooney. Featured in The O.C. They’re good!) and has M&M’s on his pizza or something kooky. Oh and he fixes her car. Because he luuurves her. Mia becomes popular because she’s a princess and starts lusting after the typical popular jock type who’s so boring I don’t even remember his name, can’t be bothered to look it up. He embarrasses her and sells her out to the papers. She runs back to Michael. Another situation in which, luckily, a nice guy who liked her was waiting in the wings while she got humiliated by someone really dumb.

There’s countless other examples, Ten Things I Hate About You, John Tucker Must Die, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton, even Clueless. So what we’re essentially saying is not perhaps, that women are likely to settle for the average nice guy, but that they spend a lot of time throwing themselves at worthless males who are clearly no good for them. In story terms, the women needed to go through this in order to appreciate their male admirers.

And how is it that the male is always sure? Always willing to wait?

So, I’m not going to say ‘here’s to settling’ because although it worked for Charlotte and Harry, I don’t think settling is the way to happiness. Neither is waiting for ‘the one’ or throwing yourself at worthless men in the meantime.

So really what I’m saying is that I have no answers. Depressing, huh?

Maybe the advice should be that if you’ve been through a bit of an emotional overhaul and relationships have been really shitty, you should look at your best guy friend and consider whether he is actually waiting in the wings for you and pining.

And then you should slap yourself in the face, remind yourself that this is real life, and that there are millions of people in the world. You don’t have to just sleep with the ones you know. Or fall in love with them for that matter.

So, yeah. Don’t settle, don’t hold on forever. But if you do experience a real Moment, let me know.

I’d like to know if they happen in real life.

One thought on “Now I won’t settle for less

  1. I agree with you that this is an annoying and boring cliche, and it plays into the whole men and women can’t be friends bullshit. And I think it’s an unfortunantely gendered trope too- like you said it’s generally the nice guy waiting patiently for the woman to notice him.

    I’m sure there are examples of it working the other way around (early Dawson’s Creek Joey pining for Dawson and Willow waiting for Xander…but then again Dawson was Jen’s “nice guy” in turn, and Xander was at least orginally conceived as Buffy’s nice guy) but I’m struggling to think of any films like that off the top of my head. (Apart from Some Kind of Wonderful, but that’s basically just Pretty in Pink with the genders reversed.) Men tend to be portrayed as nicer than women in rom coms…perhaps because there’s the stock characters of Nice Guy, Evil Guy and Girl.

    Howeverrrr, there are some examples of things NOT sticking to this trope that piss me off. Pretty In Pink for one, although I think that’s because the ending DOESN’T MAKE SENSE, and her not liking Ducky because he’s not rich and handsome seems shallow and horrible. And in Something Borrowed (quite possibly the worst film ever made, it genuinely has NO redeeming features) the only vaguely pleasant character is the main (female) character’s nice male best friend, he tells her he’s in love with her and she basically doesn’t respond AND CARRIES ON AN AFFAIR WITH HER SUPPOSED BEST FRIEND’S FIANCE. BLEUGH. The film would have been so much better (though probably not good) if she’d just gone “you’re nice! Ok, I’ll settle for you” instead of continuing to revolve around a series of selfish, unplesant, irredeemable characters I didn’t like or care about. Bleuuuuugh.

    I don’t think it’s supposed to come off as settling in most cases though, and I think sloppy writing is at least partly to blame. I love Kurt and Blaine together, but I do agree that the actual logic of them getting together didn’t make all that much sense. TV series do have more of an opportunity for foreshadowing than films do in general, so I think this kind of storyline probably works better when there’s, say, a season’s worth of buildup, as opposed to a scene’s worth.

    Also I now have this song stuck in my head, so I’m finding it hard to be angry anymore

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