Let’s run together, you and I
Like we used to when we were kids
I know we didn’t know each other, growing up
But who says we ever had to grow up?
Let’s play catch and hide-and-seek
Hold me close, hold me at arm’s length
But stay beautiful always
A home to come home to
A soft, soothing fantasy world
Be my paradise forever
And don’t ever let go.
Where were you when I needed you?
Why didn’t you understand what I didn’t say?
Comfort me, hold me close without saying it
But you are still out looking at the stars
Where did you go, beautiful one?
And where did you take my paradise with you?
I don’t know what to say, never do anything right
And I want to run away
But I don’t have you to run to anymore
Did you ever care?
Dad: So what about that last guy who was hanging around?
Electra: He wasn’t right. He wasn’t the one. He was unreliable and uncaring.
Dad: Some men are like that. You deserve better.
Mum: Will you ever find a nice girl and settle down? I thought you liked the last one.
Oedipus: She wasn’t right. She wasn’t the one. She was flighty and selfish.
Mum: Some women are like that. You deserve better.
Oedipus and Electra read the same books. Their playlists are very similar, just categorized and played differently. In fact they grew up a few miles from each other. And their parents may have met…they belong to the same circles. They’re both talkers and listeners. They are successful, friendly, well-liked by their peers and have full lives. They are also both single. And looking. Then they find each other.
Eyes meet from across a room and the words fly like sparks. They’ve both been schooled in the art of making impressions by using their minds. And they were both good students. Besides…Electra is wearing Oedipus’ favorite colour (actually it’s the one he’s grown up seeing most often on a certain other woman) while Electra finds his well-ironed shirt topped by a messy mop…most endearing. (Uh…he’d probably fit exactly into that shirt she bought last Sunday for dad).
Electra makes the first move. It’s the new millennium after all! She doesn’t of course realize that Oedipus’ momma would never have done something like that. Besides pa always taught her to go for what she wanted. What’s more…its high time she got away from the bad boys (actually she never really liked them that much….they were just a fun way to annoy mum when she was in her strict “be home by 8” phase)
Oedipus, for his part, jolted by the vision of loveliness turned strangely unclassifiable in his eyes since she doesn’t behave like a woman (like mama!)…pauses and accepts. Intrigued and hooked by the thrill of the chase….there must be some glory in capturing the brightly-coloured loud-voiced bird too after all!! (Oh and dad, you were wrong, pretty girls can be smart….you had some in your heyday didn’t you? Try topping this one…she’d be too smart to fall for your lines but she liked me!)
Electra smiles in delight and a mistaken sense of her own triumph over old-fashioned standards. After all, papa is always proud of the girl who’s as good as the boys. Uh oh….how come she doesn’t realize that’s because papa isn’t one of those boys?
So they dine. And wine. And laugh. And talk.
Oedipus is having fun but he can’t quite figure out where to place his playmate now. What to do with a woman he can’t take home to mama? And umm….there are those moments when he isn’t sure of the ground he’s standing on at all which makes him feel quite ridiculous. Pop never had that problem, after all mum and he understood each other so well. But Electra….silly woman runs away from those gestures he thought were so romantic, she doesn’t blush coyly the way mum did.
Electra wonders what’s happening too. Oedipus was so promising. Smart, unshaken by her energy, strong in his own sense of himself. She’d actually come to think she might feel safe with him. But suddenly he lapses into moody silences. He doesn’t seem to approve of her behavior but he doesn’t bother telling her why. And one day he vanishes. Or walks off with another woman. Or just explodes in a sudden tantrum that both disgusts and frightens her. A real man isn’t supposed to behave that way, she reasons. And hardens her heart and herself to the next Oedipus.
Then she asks herself the age-old question.
How come no man ever measures up to dad?
Oedipus was a Greek king whose grave misfortune it was, to kill his father and marry his own mother, thus bringing on a curse on the people of his land.
Electra had the soap-operaish family story of a father who sacrificed his eldest daughter for glory and a mother who plotted revenge for her dead daughter by taking on a lover and with his help, murdering her husband when he returned victorious from war. Would we then, sympathise with the girl and forgive her for her future actions that were brought on by trauma? Electra added her own bit to the family drama by goading her brother on to kill their mother in revenge thus condemning him to the terrible fate of being caught between the conflicting forces of Apollo (patriarchal law) and the Furies (mother above all). It is believed that Electra was in love with her father, owing perhaps to her unwavering desire to avenge his death, even at the cost of killing her mother and making her brother a murder.
These two much troubled characters in Greek mythology give their names to two of popular psychology’s pet theories – the Oedipal syndrome and the Electra complex. The reason this bit of pop psychology finds a mention here is that they deal with mating choices of human beings.
Apparently all of us exhibit the Oedipus/Electra trait in some manner. After all, our first impression of the opposite sex is our parent. We define what makes a man (or woman) by how our father (or mother) is…behaviorally, physically and their relationship with us. And we are creatures of habit….just like we tend to replay and re-create situations familiar to us, we gravitate to people who replicate the kind of characters we are familiar with. In friendship, in love…even at work….who we end up has to do with what we are used to.
Why then is it surprising that mama or daddy dearest have a great deal to do with our choices of mate? It isn’t rocket science. I’m not talking about the mama’s boy syndrome….that’s a man who has outsourced his brain and life’s decisions to mama. I’m talking about the fact that we end up with people who remind us strongly or faintly of our parents.
Ever wondered why the same problems keep repeating over and over again? Or how everyone in the world seems to have that one annoying trait? Or how all your friends turn out to be ‘one type’? Or boyfriends or girlfriends even? Yup. That’s the old Oedipus/Electra syndrome at work.
Much as I hate clubbing people under one common umbrella, I have to say everyone I’ve dated or been close to has had these things in common. It isn’t easy to discern at first but after awhile you realize the root of it…that one thing that draws you….is exactly the same.
Does it seem slightly sick to bring your parents into the dynamics of attraction and sexuality? All of us exhibit it.
I’m drawn to men (and actually women too) who are intelligent and driven. Just like dad. And eventually I hate the fact that they’re not right (where I can’t look up to them anymore…the dad figure has vanished). This all while I absolutely abhor being ‘talked down to’, patronized or treated like a kid. I’ve said more than once,
I don’ t need a father figure, thanks a lot. I have one father and that’s quite enough.
Not so true I suppose, considering I gravitate to men who are bound to treat me the way my father treats me.
The best of them was liberal-minded enough for every conversation to be (and continue being) a real pleasure, even years later. The worst of the lot was a control-freak to the point of being abrasive and abusive. Small wonder then, that the first gets along famously with dad while the second one shared a mutual loathing with the pater. We love the best in ourselves and hate the worst in us, manifold when we encounter it in other people.
And by the same token, I usually get along quite well with the fathers of men I date….after all they married a woman just like me. The boyfriend usually hates that….dad seems to have it easy always. Ah, Oedipus remains forever jealous of his father.