In 2x12, Damon says that he “misses [being human] more than anything in the world. And in 4x06, Elena tells Stefan that “the girl that I was when I died on the bridge..I’d like nothing more than to get her back”. While some might interpret this as Damon and Elena wanting to both become human again, I see it as more them wanting the idea of humanity more than actually being human. I’m going to look at Damon’s speech from 2x12 and various things that Elena has said about being a vampire in season 2 and 4. I think that their views on humanity and how while they like the idea of humanity, they don’t actually want to change back are a distinct parallel between them.
"i miss it more than anything in the world"
At the end of 2x12, Damon is going through a pretty severe existential crisis. He’s just lost Rose, someone who was his friend, and he feels responsible for her death. Then, Elena comes and loads him with expectations (“Be the better man, Damon”) and he just can’t handle the pressure, can’t handle the weight of being what she wants him to be. So, he goes out and he finds Jessica, a random human stranger on the road. And he compels her and spills his soul out to her and says that he misses being human more than anything in the world. And one could interpret this as being that Damon wants to be human again. But, I think it’s a slightly more complicated thing.
The reason why Damon longs for his humanity in this scene? Because he’s feeling buried under expectations of being good and feeling guilty for Rose’s death and possibly for many of the other people he’s killed over the years. Damon doesn’t want to live up to people’s expectations and for years, he’s been pretending that he doesn’t care, that he doesn’t feel so he doesn’t have to live up to them. But throughout the series, Damon makes friendships and all of a sudden, he cares. And there are expectations. And all of a sudden, he can’t handle them. So, he longs for a time when everything was simpler, when he was more innocent and a human. And even then, it’s the idea of humanity he wants as opposed to the reality. Because Damon as a human was not innocent: he was a soldier in the Civil War and most likely killed people. But humanity represents something Damon thinks he’s lost and desperately wants back in a time of crisis, which is why he misses it more than anything in the world.
But literally becoming human, the actual reality of it? Damon wouldn’t want. Because Damon’s all about owning who he is as a vampire, and as much as he’s struggled with it, he’s been able to make the best of it. And he also values what comes with it. The strength, the immortality, the power. But most of all? Damon says in 2x22. If he had never became a vampire, he never would have met Elena. And I think that’s reason enough why he wouldn’t actually want to be human.
"i don’t want to be a vampire, I never wanted to be one"
Since faced with her seemingly imminent turn into being a vampire in 2x20, Elena expresses that she doesn’t want to be a vampire. In 2x20, she says she never wanted to be a vampire because she loses the chance to grow up, grow old, and decide if she wants to have children or get married. And on the surface, this seems like it makes sense, like she never ever wants to be a vampire because she wants to have a normal human life. But, what people may sometimes forget is that Elena will never have a normal, human life because she’s the doppelgänger. She mourns her human life in 2x20 because becoming a vampire just seals the deal of her never having a natural human life. It’s the last straw divorcing her from a normal life.
And in season 4, when she actually does turn, it seems like she’s facing this same issue. That she doesn’t want to be a vampire because she never wanted to be because she wants to be human again. And while I think that’s part of it, I think her longing for humanity is more about the choices she loses than actually wanting to be human again. Elena wanted to stay human because 1) she wanted the choices that have been stripped away from her since she learned she was the doppelgänger (and born to die or be a human blood bag for the rest of her life) and 2) because she was expected to.
Why is Elena expected to want to be human? Because of what she represents to people as her “good girl” construct and because Stefan builds himself entirely around her “humanity”. The second that Stefan finds out about the cure, he assumes that Elena wants it because he needs her to be human. Her friends (mainly Caroline) want her to be cured because that’s what they think she wants. People keep assuming that Elena wants the cure, but no one ever asks her what she thinks about becoming human. And the one time Elena implies she may want to take it in 4x06? I think it’s important to look at her wording:
Elena: You’ve been so strong for me. Helping me, fighting for that girl that chose you, the girl that I was when I died on the bridge, and I love you so much for wanting to find this cure. Because I’d like nothing more than to get her back, because the – the girl that she’s become, that – that I’ve become is different, somehow. Darker. Who I am, what I want…
Because, here, Elena does not say that she wants to be human again. She says she wants to be that girl who died on the bridge, be that person she was as a human. And that it’s in the context of her talking to and breaking up with Stefan is important. Because it’s not being human she misses, it’s the idea of the girl she was. She longs for the idea of humanity. The idea of being the girl she was, the girl who was able to live up to people’s expectations, when it was so much simpler and she wasn’t accepting the darker parts of herself. And she’s talking to Stefan, the source of all of these expectations of who she should be and the person who wants her to be human the most.
But, after this scene, Elena goes after what she wants for the first time since her parents died. She pursues a relationship with Damon and you can see her become more secure in her vampirism and the person she’s grown into. Even faced with the idea that she’s sired to Damon, she’s sure of her feelings and still rejects the idea of the cure (“I don’t care about the cure”). Because Elena has seen the positive sides to being a vampire and is becoming more secure with it. She’s stronger, she’s freer, her blood is no longer the cause of a supernatural war or used to create hybrids and she’s finally been able to let go of the girl she was. Because becoming human again means that Klaus would go back to using her as a human blood bag for the rest of her life, and I don’t think she wants that. She’s happy and in love and feels free as a vampire, and I don’t think she wants to regress to being an object that Klaus uses to create hybrids or a tool for many spells.
Damon and Elena are both people forced to turn against their will (by being forced to drink blood/turned by accident) and have expressed a desire to go back to being human. But, they are further paralleled by not actually wanting to be human again, but more valuing the idea of humanity. Of the innocence and choices and normality that it represents. I think that if you gave Damon and Elena the choice to become human, without any consequences, I think they would both ultimately reject it. Because they’re two people who move forward and accept who they are, not regress backward. Because I think they know that if they turned human, they wouldn’t get back who they lost. Damon wouldn’t be the idealistic young man with grand ideas of love from storybooks. Elena wouldn’t be the girl who died on Wickery bridge who wanted to be the good girl everyone expected. Because, since they’ve turned, they’ve grown and changed and become who they are today. They value what humanity represents, but I think at the end of they day, they wouldn’t want to go back. They can only move forward.