If you haven’t seen Normal People yet, (with the exception of essential workers) what have you been doing during the lockdown? Stop reading this article immediately and go binge watch the BBC masterpiece.
You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Normal People. The BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s best selling book hit our screens over lockdown, and it has proven to be exactly what we all needed.
Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones give the performances of a lifetime, Marianne’s wardrobe is an Instagrammer’s dream and the refreshing take on nudity and consent may have forever changed the way sex is portrayed on TV. In a word, it’s perfect.
For me however, the Sally Rooney adaptation had a deeper effect, hitting extremely close to home.
I have never been to County Sligo and (other than fashion taste) Marianne and I have very little in common. Connell Waldron on the other hand, I know all too well.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that every man I have ever dated is Connell Waldron, in some form or another.
Quiet, gentle, emotional, socially awkward and (swoon!) an avid reader, he is my type to a T – right down to being impossible to read, extremely indecisive and absolutely shit when it comes to expressing emotions.
It’s hardly surprising therefore that watching Normal People made me think long and hard about every relationship I’ve ever been in – and whether I gave it enough of a chance.
Marianne spends the entire plot trying and failing to play mindreader, something that bonded me to her, especially reliving my own exasperation when she finally tells Connell that she finds it impossible to know how he feels.
Like Daisy Edgar-Jones portrays so beautifully, being in a relationship with someone who struggles to communicate and show emotion can be heartbreakingly lonely and it’s an effort not to feel like a burden, embarrassment or that you’re forcing the other person to be with you.
Yes, Connell Waldrons are mysterious and interesting, but they are also hard work and often (unintentionally) negligent boyfriends through their poor communication skills, something that has forced me to eventually walk away from every Connell I’ve dated.
Watching a relationship so like my own unfold from Connell’s perspective however has opened my eyes and made me re-evaluate my past partners.
Connell, much like all normal people (see what I did there?) has his flaws, but he is an extremely good person – he’s kind, reliable and has a gigantic heart – he just gets it wrong a lot.
Marianne was often confronted with what I saw in my relationships – a vacant face, a few mumbled words, contradicting messages – a very confused person. She, like me, often saw this as disinterest. But again, she, like me, never quite saw how much he was struggling behind closed doors while they were together. She never saw him crying alone, struggling with his emotions and his frustration at being unable to communicate no matter how hard he was trying.
In fact, despite seemingly pulling away, it is clear to all third party viewers that Connell’s love for Marianne is the only thing he has always been sure about – something he is only able to properly communicate to her at the end.
He may have taken his time but he did get there eventually.
On reflection, maybe I should have given my previous partners a break and thought more about how hard they were trying or how much they were struggling rather than how much they were fucking up.
I was patient in my relationships, but unlike Marianne, I didn’t stay around quite long enough to see them change because I didn’t think it was possible.
Before you inundate me with messages reminding me that Connell and Marianne are fictional characters, I am aware. I just think their relationship reminds us of a reassuring fact – that we’re all just growing and some people need a bit more time than others.
Connell may have started as a boy but by the end of the story, he is a man – he just needed time to grow and for someone to be patient enough to let him.
With that in mind, I’m not going to stop dating Connells. I’m just going to take a leaf out of Marianne’s book in future and practice a heroic level of patience.
Thanks Sally Rooney and BBC – I’m excited to see where it takes me.