Once upon a time, I was a young man in his prime who spent his time constantly on the look-out for beautiful, interesting people to befriend, date, and generally have as part of my life. Not much has changed from then, really: I am still a young man (though arguable passing the point where youth is one of my primary features), I still argue that I am in my prime despite my limpiness, and I am still always exploring the world in the hope that more wonderful people will appear.
What has changed a lot is the sort of person I consider to be worth expending my time and energy getting to know.
Reading Penny Red’s recent article “I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl” made me realise that I was once one of those young men guilty of searching for a curiosity to support me as the hero of my own story. I was searching for people who were interesting, but I had no concept of what made up “interesting” except for what I had grown up with, watching things like Garden State and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wanted the Manic Pixie Dream Girls and Boys (or whatever the equivalent trope might be called).
Now, just a few short years on, I find myself entirely uninterested by supporting actors. When a pretty girl walks in with dyed hair, quirky dress sense, and a sketchpad, I am not driven to draw them into conversation and integrate them into the web of lunatics that is my life. When that brooding young man with the sarcastic t-shirt and novelty rucksack slinks in, I might go over and say hi if something about them really catches my eye – but my intention is different now.
You see, after coming to terms with my bipolar, getting a job I enjoy (and pays reasonably well), being suitably successful with my own art projects & self-employment, and having more than my fair share of truly amazing, long-term partners; I am already the hero of my own story. I don’t need any supporting characters to build me up. I want to meet other people who are their own heroes too.
I see a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and I want to know what’s underneath. I want to meet the person who’s wearing that skin, and see if they can live beyond the trope they have found themselves wrapped up in. That goes for everyone, really: the moody young man, the wild party girl, the grumpy misanthropist. Whatever persona you project, intentionally or not, I want to draw back the curtain and see what makes you into a real hero.
If I get chatting to a gorgeous, quirky individual, and I find that they don’t actually have anything I consider meaningful to say – you won’t find me chasing them for their number, or inviting them to come over for dinner. I’m not going to be mean or chastise them, but I simply don’t see much value in having them in my life.
Part of this apathy for anyone without the self-awareness to develop themselves past a caricature is a frustration at the person I used to be. Many who knew me those few short years ago will have been very familiar with the man who dressed like a pirate to go out to the club every weekend; the man who used an unnervingly accurate Jack Sparrow impersonation to render himself interesting. I cultivated all the quirkiness I could in place of developing myself.
It is easy to hide behind a cardboard cut-out of a character that vaguely resembles yourself. Taking on the form that people expect of you is simple. It lets you drop into the world with a pre-set array of skills and behaviours; but the easy way is oh so rarely the best way. It leaves you without rationale, without reason – without anything but a supporting role in your own life. You end up being there just to support this bizarre, alien character that people think is you.
Breaking through that character takes time, it takes introspection, and it takes the support of the people who do know you. I would not be where I am now where it not for people like my girlfriend of nearly 4 years telling me that I am better than I think I am. It turns out she was right (I am never surprised by her being right any more).
I have a long way to go, and a lot still to work on. As a result, I don’t have time for Manic Pixie Dream Girls and their ilk any more. I don’t have the time for any supporting characters. I want to meet more heroes, and share our adventures together.
Ultimately – it’s better to be part of The Avengers than to be Batman, trailing Robin behind you.
(image stolen under fair use from http://www.venusbuzz.com/archives/39630/the-manic-pixie-dream-girl-how-i-failed-why-its-ok/)