Boy meets girl. The girl has a crush on the boy. But the boy isn't so sure he's ready.
After many back and forth, the boy realizes that he has always been in love with a girl.
It's a tale as old as time and is the plot for Netflix's TV adaptation of One Day, based on the novel of the same name by David Nicholls and the 2011 film starring Anne Hathaway.
It is hailed by many as a beautiful love story, but it still relies on the infuriating romantic trope that the elusive man will eventually realize that true love was right under his nose the whole time.
It's a turning point I'll never be able to overcome.
I remember wasting many years of my single life waiting for a man who blew hot and cold to suddenly realize how amazing I was.
In my teens, I shed many tears for a guy who acted as if the tightness of his skinny jeans was reason enough to find a new girl to help him take them off every night.
The problem with romanticizing the emotionally unavailable man on screen is that we can often make excuses for the emotionally unavailable man off-screen.
I believed this man's insistence on having sex with other people and failure to make a commitment to me might simply be part of our complicated romantic journey.
Spoiler alert. It was not.
But I grew up learning that the course of true love never runs smoothly. It wasn't a simple boy-meets-girl story without a series of obstacles to get to happily ever after.
I believed that, like the men I saw portrayed on screen, a love interest could be afraid of their feelings, not sure if they were ready for commitment or to deal with past issues.
It took me years to realize that this man only exists in fiction. In reality, if a man acts like he's not interested, it's because he usually isn't.
For anyone who hasn't yet seen One Day, Emma (Ambika Mod) and Dexter (Leo Woodall) meet at Edinburgh University on their graduation day in 1988. They're from different worlds – he's a rich boy from the south and she's a working girl from the south. northern class.
After a night that never happened, they agree to be friends. However, it is clear from the start that Emma has feelings, while Dexter claims to adore her but continues to have sex with a series of forgotten lovers.
Over the course of 20 years, they keep in touch as snapshots of their lives are revealed on the same day – July 15 – each year.
One scene cuts between the pair having sexual encounters with other people and while Emma is clearly fantasizing about Dexter, he is playing a mystery woman in a room in Rome – with Emma seemingly the furthest thought from his mind.
The friends later ventured to Greece in 1991 and after Emma confessed that she once had a crush on him, Dexter admits that he had feelings too. Though he quickly downplays them, insisting he “likes everyone” and says he's not looking for anything serious.
This is the moment Emma realizes she's let Dex string her along this whole time – but she doesn't sever the friendship entirely.
Many women will identify with the crushing blow dealt to Emma in that moment. When the man you so desperately want to like you back offers you the slightest glimmer of hope, only to quickly snatch it away. The kind of men who pull the rug out from under you so often that you feel constantly unstable in their presence.
Without giving away spoilers, Dexter has a chance to redeem himself with Emma, but for me the damage was done.
Once again, we celebrate a man who treats a woman he claims to be friends with – and also sees romantically – very badly, all because he ends up recovering.
One Day isn't the only one guilty of relying on this sloppy romantic trope.
Watch John James Preston (better known as 'Big') in Sex and the City. He is cold and evasive towards Carrie – both while they are dating (revealing that he was once married and doesn't want to do it again) and after they break up and try to remain friends.
Then, in season three, he drops the bombshell that he's engaged to Natasha and Carrie realizes in a devastating way that he's he did wants to get married, but not her.
But then they get back together and we're supposed to be happy about that? Forgive him because they really were a perfect match all along?
In the real world, a man like Big would have stayed married to the prim and perfect Natashas of this world and thrown Carrie a casual 'hi there' text every few months when he was nervous about losing control over her.
Then there's the 2009 film, He's Just Not That Into You, which seemed to draw attention to the problematic themes that existed in on-screen romances, but hit the final hurdle when they made Neil (Ben Affleck) ask Beth (Jennier Aniston ) in marriage after years of refusing to do so. Then Alex (Justin Long) realized he was madly in love with Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), despite rudely pushing her away.
Across the pond, we had the 2007 show Skins deciding that Tony would suddenly realize how much he loved Michelle after spending the entire first season screwing everything that moved and playing emotional mind games with her and her best friend Sid.
But we millennials have romanticized this relationship and were foolish to do so. Anyone who was a victim of Tony's as a teenager knows that he never changes his ways.
In the real world, Tony would now be in his thirties, still banging classy girls for fun and probably liking Michelle's Instagram photos from 2019 just to mess with his head.
As for me, I've been happily settled for almost a decade. When I met my partner in my late twenties, I realized I didn't need to endure a chaotic second act to achieve my happy ending in the third act.
After spending my youth trying to convince certain men to realize how amazing I was, it was fantastic to find someone who did it on their own.
So while One Day can be moving, insightful, and beautifully acted, I truly believe that a better love story is when the female lead isn't perceived as this complex, chaotic creature that the male lead slowly comes to love.
And for the Emmas of this world, I firmly believe that their knight in shining armor should have been a man who realized his worth from the beginning.
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