Feeling a little blasphemous today, and thought I’d ask the question that feels almost like a rebuke to the romance genre. I mean, I love the idea of true love. I mean, who doesn’t love that scene in the Princess Bride when Miracle Max asks Westley what’s so important for him to live for and he says, True Love.
I mean, Wow. Heart strings appropriately tugged.
And of course all the fairy tales of note are solved by true love’s kiss.
But in the real world, is it really out there?
That’s a tough one. The romantic in me likes to think that there are lots of couples out there experiencing true love. Folks who accept each other for who they are–warts and all–and love and laugh through life.
But, I must admit, I’ve seen a lot of relationships fall apart recently and it’s dampening my confidence.
So, have you found true love, or have you seen it in the lives of people you know? Share in the comments.
One of the interesting things that we sometimes see in the beginning of some romance novels is the bad romantic partner. He’s the guy who doesn’t appreciate the heroine. He doesn’t get her, often treats her bad, and she, at some point, realizes that he’s not the one.
Sometimes she has to meet our hero to see that the bad guy is, in fact, a bad guy. Sometimes she realizes it on her own, after she’s had enough of his poor treatment. There is some last straw event where she just says: I’m out.
These feel cliche, and maybe they are a little bit, but the truth is, the bad guy is sometimes needed. Sometimes, it takes having someone treat you in a way that you don’t want to be treated, to realize just how much that doesn’t work. While I don’t advocate hooking up with a bad dude to get that experience, I do think it can sometimes provide the clarity that’s needed to realize what you want.
It’s sort of like when you take a job, think it might be a good fit, and it goes OK. And you do it for a while and think it’s fine, but then you see the cracks–the crazy hours, the toxic boss–and realize you have to get out. That you never want to work at a place like this again. And while the experience isn’t great, you learn from it what you don’t want. You learn to see warning signs–things you missed when you signed on for this job. And when you moved forward, you find a job that is a better fit. Something that is more in the sweetspot of what you want and are a good fit with.
Certainly, I wouldn’t wish a bad relationship on anyone. If you find a good one from the getgo, or continually get good ones, kudos. But, for those who got a bad apple, don’t worry. It’s typically a good learning experience. [And bad apple is different from psycho or abusive stalker type. No one should have to go through that.]
I think some of the best heroines are those who’ve come through the fire of bad guys, and know they’re worth more. And then they find it. A lot of the heroines of my fairy tales are more relationship novices. But, I have to say that one thing I like about Nikki (from the short Nikki and Mike) –as well as Tina, from Winner Takes All–is that they’ve seen the bad guys and know they don’t want them. They start with that notion that they’re worth more than half-assed, and their confidence grows. And then they start to visualize what they want and grab it. And that’s a good thing. That’s something I want for all the folks out there.
In my regular life, I happen to work in a field where I come across a lot of random press releases and news stories. I saw one the other day that made me think about the ways that romances seem to differ from real life.
The study found that in real life, women use ex girlfriends as a shortcut to judge the fitness of a potential mate. If his exes seem normal, attractive, and still get along with him, it’s a sign he’s a good mate candidate. If those stars don’t align, it’s time to head for the hills. Or so says the researcher. (You can read about it here: https://www.miragenews.com/track-record-predicts-future-romance-554422/)
This made me think of some of romances in general, and how heroines almost never follow this rule. They find men they can change, or they don’t ask questions about past romances, or they discount all those other women because they’re the one who he was meant to be with and the past doesn’t matter.
It’s inane for real life. I mean, really, looking at a guy who has left a string of broken hearts–or worse, a guy who can never seem to get close to anyone–is probably asking for trouble.
But that’s the thing that’s so great about romance. Even though our rational brain is telling us, this has no reason to work out, the story is so compelling and so immersive that it all makes sense. The brooding and deep seated trauma of childhood make our hero better–not totally f***d up and in need of years of therapy, as would be in real life.
And of course, I’m not saying that all romances of fiction lack reality. Many are normal characters who make normal mistakes and have serendipitous love. But, there’s also a whole bunch that would be doomed to failure were there not a deft author pulling strings from above.
When you read romance, what do you prefer–romance that veers toward real life, or romance that’s more fantasy land?
For those of you who’ve read my books, you know I adore fairy tales.
Of course, much of the world adores fairy tales. These timeless stories have been passed down from generation to generation and filled them with delight. Disney has made billions of dollars from reimagining classic tales with large-eyed heroines and heroes.
But, what is it about these classics that make us love them so?
For me, it’s the happily ever after. I love a good story where, at the end, the main characters ride off into the sunset and have a happy life. It’s a fantasy–that life can be perfect after all the trials and tribulations. A fantasy that makes you feel good, that all the drama has been worth it.
I love that so often two people find in each other true love. While the fairy tales are sparse on details, they give you the sense of possibility. That there are people out there who are meant for you, people who you can find in the least expected places, and it can all work out. That hint of possibility–for Cinderella to be one out of a thousands of girls at a ball to capture the heart of a prince. To be sleeping beauty and happen upon your true love just before you are cursed to a hundred years of sleep. To be Rapunzel and find a guy who happens to let down your hair.
In re-imaginings, you get to flesh out the details, the whys of how these two fell in love, of what attracted them to each other. But even in the originals, they were wonderful in that they let you fill in the gaps and create your own understanding–one that was perfect for you–of what made that relationship tick.