With Tom Cruise waging a war against mood-altering medicine, attention-deficit disorder seems to be on everyone's mind. When we think of ADD, we think of hyperactive rug -rats with darting eyes-wild children that just can't pay attention in class. Whether or not these kids should be doing yoga or pumped full of Ritalin, I will leave to the experts to decide. What interests me is what happens when these boys or girls grow up, get into relationships, and try to get on with things.
A close friend of mine dated a certain guy for three years. Their relationship was fraught with anguish because he kept fucking up, over and over again, in exactly the same way. He had problems with both making time for her, and not being an idiot about it when he wasn't able to. He was a musician in a band, so the only time she could see him was when she played the part of Loyal Girlfriend (which meant sipping cheap house wine in whatever bar he was playing). This was their "quality time," according to him. He didn't understand the need for dates and romance. When she tried to communicate that intimacy was important to her-and, more importantly, to their relationship-he was all ears, nodding in earnest agreement. But even then, whenever a date was made, he found a way to bail out or otherwise disappoint her. He once cancelled their lunch plans at the last minute-to make it up to her, he thought it appropriate to offer her a ten-dollar bill. Go buy yourself something nice to eat, sweetheart.
For the Big Talker, the future is a golden Mecca where he will be able to be what she wants him to be-when, in fact, all she wants is for him not to break the promises he has made in the past.
Thankfully the relationship ended, and she met a wonderful guy who knows how to treat a lady right. She still has her theories about her ex, though: "It was like he had a learning disorder about our relationship." In a way, she has a point-he couldn't learn anything from a fight, so they had the same fight over and over. I guess that's a common phenomenon for a rocky relationship, but the twist in this case was that each time they fought, he was really contrite, apologetic and would promise not to do it again. It seemed as though he understood the gravity, it seemed like he had learned that she was hurt and pissed-off, it seemed he was willing to make certain efforts (like calling and showing up on time) in order to keep her, but it was all an illusion-the guy was a repeat offender.
In the end, she was pretty sick of the promises and the apologies-even the flowers he brought her never smelled very sweet. She just wanted her boyfriend to deliver. Her story is hardly unique. It got me to thinking that there may be a new kind of emotional learning disorder out there, of the all-talk-and-no-action variety. I would call this kind of guy a sufferer of ICD-the "I Can't Deliver" syndrome-and we've all known a few.
The symptoms are pretty similar across the board: all talk and no action. It's a funny phenomenon considering that guys are traditionally not known for being big love-talkers, promise-makers or future-speculators; but recently, many of my friends have dated guys who are all of these things. While I am all for admitting that there is a future tense and one should not be afraid to use it, there is a twist to how these guys are behaving: they project into the future because they're simply not pulling their weight in the present. For the Big Talker, the future is a golden Mecca where he will be able to be what she wants him to be-when, in fact, all she wants is for him not to break the promises he has made in the past.
Maybe ICD is something new to be wary of. Girls are used to guys being a little on the non-committal side of things, but this is a different sort of let-down: they commit, they just don't deliver.
The signs are there, even in the early stages of the relationship. Another friend of mine met a guy recently, and they immediately hit it off. They spent hours on the phone together, talking about everything, talking about all the things they would do. But when it came time to show real signs of life-like making a date and sticking to it-the guy just couldn't deliver. He made a point of saying he wanted to meet her family, but when it came time to act, he repeatedly let her down-once, he sent along a lame text-message to excuse himself. Sure, a cement truck backed into your car. What happened to the six-hour phone calls? Suddenly the guy is at a loss for words and using cowardly text-messages to duck out of obligations. His affliction was such that he once even booked a hotel room (with a "Friends & Family" discount, mind you) and then flaked out. The funny part is, she didn't ask for exuberant promises; he came up with them himself and then failed to come through. I'm embarrassed for him.
Maybe ICD is something new to be wary of. Girls are used to guys being a little on the non-committal side of things, but this is a different sort of let-down: they commit, they just don't deliver. Talking is great and all, but it doesn't replace the straight goods. So don't bring flowers after you stand a girl up-because, really, what good are roses without the romance?
Emma Appleby (Poppy Wilkinson) is a fabulous force on the Montreal scene. Read more recent columns by Emma Appleby.