So, I love pipsqueaky's Willow/Xander vid Ordinary with a strong and fiery passion. Ok, a somewhat soggy passion because I cannot watch it without crying. Ever. For Willow, for all of the Scoobies in their long-lost innocence, and for high-school me, who -- aside from the skinniness and the evil-fighting -- was Willow.
That stated up front, I tend to feel like an alien when I listen to comments on this vid, and on that relationship in general. The comment was made during the vid review panel (discussion of premiering vids) at vividcon that we've all been Willow (right with you there) and we all think (no matter how much we may love him in general) that Xander needs to be smacked. Er? Not so much. I thought of raising my hand and saying so, but at that point most of the commentary on the vid had played its course and I thought I'd be digressing too much to say "Really no. Xander needs to be smacked for many things, but his high school relationship with Willow (pre-clothes-fluking) is not one of them."
Vague disclaimer being nobody's friend, I'm a major Xanderista, so this can be taken with as large a grain of salt as anyone cares to -- but I had a Xander in high school. All through high school, in fact. Four years, same guy. He wasn't my best friend, we didn't grow up together -- it was more a situation of worship-from-anear. Join particular school activities largely because he was in them; feel sad when I didn't end up sharing the same class with him for any given subject. Make sure I had his favorite kind of candy at the props table when he stopped by so I could help him with his costume. If there's an equivalent of 'fag hag' for straight men (presumably; I haven't seen him in ten-plus years), I was his.
He knew; I know he knew. Maybe not all along but certainly by the time we graduated. In retrospect it's almost impossible to dream up a situation in which he could have been so stupid as to miss it. My subtlety was pretty laughable.
But -- what was he supposed to say? Anything besides "Miss Groggins, you've taken off your glasses and good lord, what have I been missing all this time? You're amazing!" would have left me in a pathetic, and more important, humiliated heap. Letting down easy? Being honest about feeling or not feeling a thing? Unless someone asks directly for the answer, it's highly overrated as a 'kindness.'
So Willow and Xander: did she ever ask directly? Did she ever come out and say directly, inviting an answer? I think the closest she came in the pre-Cordy days was turning Xander down for the Spring Fling in Prophecy Girl - and that was -- I think deliberately -- couched in such terms that it could be taken as "I love you; I can't go to the dance and watch you wishing you were with her" or "I'm your best friend and it's shitty to ask me to go to the dance with you as a second fiddle, while you watch some other girl." Which shittiness, in either interpretation, Xander understood when she pointed it out to him, and apologized for, I think to his credit.
I've never understood, when the argument was made that he treated her shabbily, what it was that he was supposed to have done. If the boy I was infatuated with came out and told me that there wasn't a chance in hell (no matter how nicely), without me having opened the floor to such an... intimate? communication, I would've curled into a ball and died of shame. The disappointment I'd have got over, and probably relatively quickly, though Willow had more years of buildup to deal with -- but the part where I'd have to look at him again, knowing he'd known all along, knowing he'd just been "kind" to me... gah. Now, it's amusing to admit that god, was I a dork, among many dorks. Then? In high school? I would've hated my Xander, and myself, with a passion at least as strong as that with which I now love this vid.
Because I was a teenage girl. And he was a teenage boy. Just like Willow and Xander. He would have to have been much more mature than I was, to somehow know that getting the truth out in the open was the "right" thing to do, if it even was -- because I'd also have felt like he was being condescending, to assume he knew what my feelings were -- no matter that he was right. It would've been such an invasion of emotional privacy, to me.
Likewise, Xander would have to have been more mature, or at least more of an emotional risk-taker, than Willow, to be the one to actually say the thing out loud, and I can't fathom why people expect that of him -- why he's smackable for not being more emotionally articulate than Willow, at the same age. I don't understand why that's a "boyz r stoopid" thing, and not a "teenagerz r stoopid; they were both incoherent twits back then" thing. Did Xander occasionally take advantage of her feelings for him to give him comfort when things like Ampata happened? Yup. Did Willow know that's what was going on and grab any chance to be close to him that she could? Yup. (Obviously with the disclaimer of "In my reading of the text.")
Are teenagers capable of doing the mature, brave thing, on occasion? Sure. Cited in evidence, Xander coming out and asking Buffy to the dance, saying straight out that he liked her as more than a friend. (Granted his reaction to disappointment and his ongoing Buffy-jealousy was less mature and not remotely brave, though it sometimes incited him to brave acts, like dragging Angel with him to rescue Buffy later in the same episode.) Also cited in evidence, Buffy being honest and not cruel in her answer that no, she just didn't think of him that way, no matter how much she cared about him.
The thing there though was that Xander was the one to open the dialogue. He laid his cards out and asked for a reading; he might not have liked the answer, but he made it okay for Buffy to be honest in reply. There was no way for it not to be awkward, but he made it not presumptuous on her part, to tell him how she felt and didn't feel. There was no such open table for Willow and Xander. They were both more comfortable (No, no, no, no. No speaking up. That way leads to madness and sweaty palms.) not being completely honest -- and it bewilders and frustrates me to see Xander frequently take the whole rap for that in fannish analyses of the situation.