The Promised Call That Never Came and Mr. Darcy

It was a good week for Jane Austen fans. After 97 episodes of the Lizzie Bennett Diaries airing over YouTube for nearly a year, fan girls finally got their opportunity to squeal in delight as Lizzie Bennett (played wonderfully by Ashley Clements [@TheAshleyClem]) and William Darcy (played expertly by Daniel Vincent Gordh[@Danielvgordh]) finally kissed in Episode 98. On personal note, aside from this bit of escapism and an uncharacteristically good Wednesday, the week mostly sucked. It’s partially my fault; I let something consume me that a lot of other single women allow to preoccupy them as well. I’m talking about that particularly vexing part of the dating scene: the promised call from the guy you’ve seen recently that never comes. These may seem like two unrelated events aside from timing, but trust me – there is an important connection. Stay tuned.

The man in question (let’s refer to him as Mr. Cowardly, because his actions show him to be as such) and I had only gone on one date. The trouble was we had somewhat soft plans for the second date. The night before we were supposed to get together, I went to a friend’s birthday party and stayed out later than I should have. This in turn led me to oversleeping. I explained to Mr. Cowardly the essentials of what happened (I left out the part that it had been an exhausting week and this was an accumulation of exhaustion rather than merely one night of being out too late) and said that if he gave me an hour, I could meet him anywhere. He hedged on this, and said that the evening would be better. He had some commitments in the evening hours that were about an hour away, so I volunteered to find a place where we could meet near where he would be. He indicated this was a good solution, so I went on Yelp and found a reasonably priced restaurant near where he needed to be. I texted him the info, but I didn’t hear from him for nearly two hours. Thinking he might have had a problem getting my text, I then called him with the same information. Still no response. Finally I hear from him three hours before we could have gotten together. He gave me what I now suspect was a song and dance about forgetting that he had plans with friends that evening to watch a fight. I found this curious considering that during our date he had said he wasn’t that much of a sports fan, but I told myself I was being paranoid. He promised to call the next morning so that we might be able to get together for a quick lunch before he began studying for his classes for the following week. I took him at his word. I felt a sense of relief when he texted me at 1:30 in the morning explaining to me something humorous that had happened that evening and he reiterated his commitment to call me. The thing is, he never did.

I spent all day Sunday grading papers and checking my phone. I could not account for why he didn’t call me. I was upset with myself, thinking that perhaps my mishap on Saturday morning had led him to think that I was unreliable. I then thought about other possibilities. Was I too plump for his tastes? When he kissed me on the lips three times, should I have responded with a little more enthusiasm even though our height difference made it hard to do so standing up? I was wracking my brains trying to figure out why, with no attempt at civility on his part, he would simply go radio silent. It wasn’t the fact that we’d only had one date that was the problem. It was the idea that once again I had made myself vulnerable, only to have yet another man not even treat me with enough respect to simply say, “You may be a perfectly nice person, but I don’t believe that you are the right person for me.”

We expect the truth in business dealings. We expect people to tell the truth in court. We know that not telling our children or our students the truth will have terrible consequences later on, so we tell them in spite of the fact that sometimes it will hurt. Why is telling the truth so difficult for so many single men who wish to date women? Is it awkward? Certainly. But it is the decent thing to do. Men often say that don’t like women who play games, but then engage in games of their own. What do they expect if they initiate this kind of behavior, or respond to such undesirable behavior in kind?

This is where Mr. Darcy comes into play. Mr. Darcy may be the most famous single man in all of English literature besides Romeo Montague. In the first half of the book Pride and Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy is portrayed as haughty, aloof and elitist – three qualities that Elizabeth Bennett (and most single women) do not seek out in a man. As the plot unfolds, however, we learn as readers why Darcy is the way that he is. In the confrontation between Darcy and Lizzie, each gives as good as he or she gets in the insults department. This heated exchange causes both characters to step back and take inventory about their respective assumptions regarding the other. Without giving too much of the story away, suffice it to say that both characters make the mature decision to reflect upon their own behavior, determine where they each could have behaved better, and then make amends accordingly to the other. This results in a very happy ending for both parties.

Not long ago, Ms. magazine published an article telling its readers to stop looking for Mr. Darcy. On the surface, this might seem like good advice. If one is to merely sum up Fitzwilliam Darcy as a moneyed single man who can wipe away scandal and ruin with the deft stroke of a pen in a checkbook, then it seems advisable to stop seeking out a real-life equivalent of this beloved fictional character. I, however, am going to break ranks and say that that’s not the real reason why women love Mr. Darcy. Our love affair with this initially misunderstood male character is much deeper than that. Darcy does two things that seem to be lacking in a lot of modern single men: communicate explicitly when confronted about his perceptions of the situation, then make changes to repair the damage that he has done.

Single women do not expect any man to be perfect. What they want, nay need, is a man who is willing to talk and listen – to communicate effectively. They want to hear what he has to say, but by the same token, they want to be heard as well. The most vexing thing about the promised call that never comes is that the woman does not get an opportunity to tell her side of the story. She doesn’t get that chance that Darcy and Lizzie have to air grievances and try to fix the situation. Now it may seem like I’m taking this situation with a guy that I only went out with one time to an extreme, but I’m using it as an exemplar to show that this is a pattern that occurs in modern dating. If the world needs more love, and one of the quickest ways to ruin the chances for love is to not discuss what is wrong, then we as humans are selling ourselves and each other short. We all need to be adult enough to accept that not everyone we spent an evening with is going to be a good fit for us over the long term. We just need to be able to say that in as kind of a manner as possible. Those of us hearing such uncomfortable words also need to be able to be mature enough to hear them, take them as the final word, and move onto the next prospective candidate.

I, like many of my fellow single females, have heard males make the argument that the reason why they do not wish to have the breakup conversation is because they don’t want her to turn into a “psycho bitch.” What these men fail to understand is that it’s not that women are inherently psycho bitches. What makes women react in a heated manner is the wall of silence that they often run up against when they try to solve the problem that has become the relationship. Frustration builds to the boiling point and we need a release. We also have a keen sense of justice (possibly stemming from all of those disagreements we need to settle among arguing children) that is heightened to spidey-sense level when we are not given our due. Women want a chance to try to fix whatever is wrong. While this may not always be possible, doesn’t a woman who has been respectful and honest deserve the same treatment in kind, even if the relationship – no matter how brief it was – is not salvageable? Most women I know do not like loose ends. We like to know what happened so we can determine that if we were at fault, we can avoid repeating that same mistake. If the man who never calls denies the woman the opportunity to present her side, it results in a lot of hurt feelings that she may very well take into her next relationship to use as a shield to prevent more heartbreak. It is not healthy to take baggage from old relationships into new ones, though we probably all are guilty of doing it. That does not mean, however, that we can’t break the cycle. There is an exception to this: the man is not mature enough to say he has lost interest.

I was talking with a friend of mine – an ex, actually – who quoted a popular mantra in sales: Some will, some won’t, who cares? This is his way of saying you’ve just got to let it go. This is easier said than done. The nice thing about novels is that there is a resolution. In the real world, our real-life storylines are far messier: unanswered questions, unsolved problems, and disappearing characters who vaporize without explanation. In Darcy and Lizzie’s world, it takes awhile for the characters to work out their differences and discover they really are right for each other, but because they are honest with one another, they get there. How many people who dated each other miss their chance because one of the pair denied the other the opportunity to explain why he or she acted a certain way or said something? It seems shortsighted to simply drop someone like a bad habit without providing either a chance to provide his or her narrative, or to end it in a mature, calm, and compassionate manner.

Ladies, if you want Fitzwilliam Darcy because you think he will woo you relentlessly and solve all your problems with his money, you are living in the wrong century. If you are attracted to Darcy’s character because he finally gets the courage to admit his actions, explain them to the best of his ability, then rectifies the damage he inflicted through his mistakes, then I say hold out. Just be sure that if you find you’re guilty of the same kinds of mistakes that Lizzie commits that you are ready to do the same. In the meantime, if that guy does not call you when he promised he would, either send him something along these lines or don’t call him at all. If he can’t pay you the courtesy of giving you a chance to have your say, then not only is he cowardly, but he is also guilty of making a snap judgment about you. You deserve better. Despite his flaws, you deserve your own version of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Accept no substitutes.

P.S. – It’s not too late to get on the Lizzie Bennet Diaries train. It’s a really fun (albeit occasionally harrowing) ride!

Tags: #LizzieBennetDiaries, #PrideandPrejudice, #hankgreen, #BernieSu, #TheAshleyClem, #Danielvgordh, #whyhedidnotcall


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