Episode 9 is an intricate study into the reality of men and women having their unique language that the other is ill-equipped to understand. I wish more men would watch the show to appreciate how their interpretive skills (or lack thereof) limit communication when it comes to relationships.
As I watched the various ways Serkan tries to atone for his mistake, it reminds me of this scene between Sarah Norman and James Leeds in the 1986 movie Children of a Lesser God. It's a role that earned Marlee Matlin, who is hearing impaired in real life, her only Oscar at the Academy Awards. John Hurt was also nominated for his role as her enigmatic teacher at the school for the deaf and hard of hearing, who wanted to get Marlee’s Sarah to speak.
Sometimes, it is difficult to speak the same language and this is especially true when it comes to the language of love. Despite similar intensity of feelings, men and women experience and express love differently. I have often wondered why we are made so differently when men and women getting along is at the crux of perpetuating the humankind? My conclusion is that we are meant to work on the process of coming together and learning to stay together. If it is not challenging, we would not know to value it.
Eda’s desire was simple. She wanted for Serkan to apologize for his grave mistake and express the apology with earnest words. Serkan goes to unusual lengths to show his remorse from hurting Eda, but being stunted in his expression, he thinks words are inadequate to make up for what he did.
Charleton Heston, who has been associated with many macho roles in 50s – 60s Hollywood and eventually became infamous as the figurehead of the National Rifle Association, talked about his devoted relationship with his wife of 50+ years on a morning show a few years before he passed. He said that the secret to the success of his relationship was learning to say the three little words: “I was wrong”.
The social conditioning that saying “I am sorry” or “I am wrong” is the ultimate show of weakness needs to be revisited. Society teaches men to 1) never be wrong and 2) when you are wrong, conceding to the mistake is akin to laying your pride on the chopper block. This conditioning is universal and, as ludicrous as it sounds, the world still turns despite such arcane notions because of something that is fundamental to any relationship: compromise.
Today I pick the few understated moments in the show that illustrate how these two strong personalities express in every way possible how much they love without actually saying the words, how they are learning to read between the lines and how they are learning to compromise on their preconceptions.
BREAKING THE MOLD
Serkan is deeply affected by Eda and even though he feels in his heart that she is not indifferent to him, his mind keeps convincing himself that she couldn’t possibly want to be with him for just him.
Eda is within him at all times. On his desk with her dried flowers, in his bedroom with her knickknacks, in his home office with her photos, in his psyche with her memories. A man whose life revolves around his work life goes to great lengths to try and get Eda back. Who would have thought Mr. Bolat would pause to buy a floral dress because Eda loves flowers?
It’s a simple detail in the story but one that captures their progress as a couple. Serkan has often appreciated Eda’s beauty by complimenting her dress. Eda has gone from not being sure about how to respond to complimenting him back. And in this episode, this upgrades to Serkan not only picking a dress for Eda as a gift but knowing exactly what size it had to be. Chalk that one up to the spatial reasoning of an architect who has had plenty of tactile experience in understanding the curves of the subject😊
In addition to this gift, he focuses on making Eda’s dream of being a landscape designer come true by recovering the ecology project under Mr. Fikret. He wants to honor her ideas and have her lead the project, while punishing Kaan along the way. He risks the wrath of Eda’s girl squad and willingly puts himself in the line of fire to try and reach Eda.
The workaholic Serkan leaves work to chase some vague clue about a garden by a lighthouse where he can find Eda. When she’s unwilling to listen, the meticulous Serkan uses the handcuff, allows her to blow off her steam like an indulgent parent, and even admits to missing their banter. He is genuinely baffled with where he is falling short, hoping Eda will see all this as his effort to save their relationship and win her heart.
When she finally spells out that all she wanted was an apology, he is disconcerted and turns to what he knows to do – start drafting an email in way of an apology. Anecdotally, this made me laugh. My husband and I had an ‘arranged’ marriage, where we got to know each other via email and agreed to be married based on our virtual interactions. When we had our first major fight after a hasty marriage, the way we mediated and expressed ourselves was via email! Thankfully, we have progressed a little since then.
After Engin helps him understand that the email will be grossly inadequate, Serkan understands that Eda will find simpler gestures far more valuable. And Ayfer understands his earnest desire immediately, guiding him towards something Eda will love. Serkan’s willingness to make the terrarium himself, and eventually also handwrite a note was far more than Eda had expected.
Setting aside his ego, Mr. Bolat spent this entire episode doing things that he would never do otherwise and even though Eda never hears the words “I am sorry; I made a mistake”, she accepts that the apology is embedded within all the gestures Serkan has extended towards her. They are both learning the other’s language of love.
HEAR THE TONE, NOT THE WORDS
One of the most poignant moments of the show for me is when Serkan calls Eda to ask her if he can come pick her up the next morning. When you love someone, you begin to hear the emotions in their tone and he was obviously upset. He doesn’t say much else, and even though she couches her response within the parameters of their contract, she willingly agrees.
They both obviously derive pleasure out of each other’s company and their hearts desire to be with the other however they can, until self-preservation sets in and both play out their fears. Eda needs him to say “don’t leave” and Serkan needs for Eda to stop saying “I’m leaving”.
Eda is yet to reach the enlightened state of seeing Serkan’s elaborate efforts with her promotion, getting the project back, having her lead the project as his way of saying “you are important to me; don’t leave”. And Serkan is also yet to understand that by coming back to him at every opportunity, Eda is trying to reign in her heart because she cannot leave. This journey of learning to trust the other’s intent is something they still need to work on. Both are fearful that what they feel for the other is not strong enough for the other to stay. In ensuing episodes, we will see how they start understanding each other’s tones and gazes. Serkan needs to trust that Eda does not look at any other the way she looks at him.
MOTIVATED BY FEAR
Thematically, I felt this episode shows how the trajectory of a relationship can change when faced with the fear of losing a loved one. Pyril has been unusually attentive towards Engin because he has been more inaccessible in recent times. Selin starts to pay more attention to Ferit when he stops being a doormat. Aydan wakes up from her revere when Alptekin is about to hire a new secretary and she doesn’t want to lose her husband, and all of Serkan’s elaborate efforts are rooted in his desire to not lose Eda.
This is habitual perverseness in human nature. We take what we have for granted until we have either lost it or about to lose it. This is a well-researched phenomenon – people are more motivated by fear than by hope, and our willingness to change can also stem from this fear. One hopes that over time the desire to change comes from nurturing our love and making our loved ones happy.
MOTHER & CHILD
The exchange between Aydan and Serkan is so beautifully done. It shows an underappreciated aspect of Serkan’s character, who left his individualistic lifestyle to come and live with his parents because his mother needed it. Serkan’s emotions, when he learns what his mother achieved with Eda’s help, feels raw and real. Working up the courage to face their real issues, wanting to treat the cause and not just the symptoms, and Serkan’s willingness to be there for her as she needs it are powerful messages in a parent-child relationship. While we are not looking, the power dynamics change where the parent goes from nurturer to the one who needs to be nurtured. To have raised a child who is willing to empathize with the parent’s needs is a wonderful thing. To have a life partner who will know to honor that is also a beautiful thing.
Even though we have gotten far deeper insights into Serkan’s family dynamics than Eda’s, we see Eda’s light through her gestures. Her initiative with Aydan and helping her step out is driven by nothing other than a desire to help a parent figure. We are not shown this as much as we should but Eda has a big hole in her heart as an orphan. Which is why she volunteers at an orphanage and gives the children hope for a better future. Perhaps also why, despite her annoyance with Aydan, she cannot help but help her.
An orphan understands the value of a mother and Eda has all this love for a mother with no place for that love to go. Ayfer is a wonderful mother figure and a friend, but that does not take away from Eda’s subconscious desire to bond with and help a mother.
This episode is full of sweet moments and interactions. Eda talking about hope and life lessons within flowers, Serkan marveling at the simplicity with which she approaches life and taking that as a sign for hope for them, them falling asleep together and choosing not to move away when they became aware, and towards the end when Eda comes back and they have the following exchange are all very sweet.
But my favorite is this one. Serkan’s look of joy when they re-enact their daily ritual of saying each other's name is pure gold.
These little details are signature Ayse magic in a love story. In long-term relationships, it really aren’t the ostentatious gestures that express deep love, but the small ones. Gestures that communicate “I understand you; I feel you; I love you”. It could be in something innocuous as him preparing coffee for her so she can awaken; her straightening out his bed because he likes order; in the kindness in being able to take turns with eating your food while you are still angry and your hands are in cuffs. None of these require the couple to fundamentally change who they are as people but expand their habits to include things that please their partner. Being able to find joy and love in the simple things is a gift worth cherishing; focusing on making each other smile is worth pursuing; understanding and honoring each other as people is worth everything. This is the strain that emerges for me as I immerse myself in this production.
It will be interesting to see what will propel Serkan and Eda to have the courage to start thinking beyond the shackles of the contract, especially when both feel wistful about its premature termination or the fact that it will expire in 44 days. What will make them overcome their fears and be willing to embrace the light they symbolize for each other? With each episode, we get closer to this possibility and I eagerly look forward to the next chapter in the story.
Till we meet again.
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