Picture this: A normal person has a normal job and a normal relationship with another normal person. The normal person enjoys a media that creates a fantasy around a perfect person. This perfect person touches the normal person in the right way, whispers the perfect thing the perfect distance from the ear and can perfect engage all of the normal person’s senses. The normal person doesn’t see any of this in the normal relationship, nor in the other normal person. But that doesn’t stop the normal person from snatching up every new encounter with the perfect person fantasy, complete with the cover of the perfect person in a new pose wearing or not wearing any amount of clothing.
How many of you thought of a man and his collection of magazines hiding under the bed?
How about a woman and her collection of romance novels?
Now, I love romance. Romance was the funny, weird, emotional thing that started when I was dating Megan and has persisted through to finding a new house in a new city so I can start a new job. It’s been that nudge that says to cook for her, find that one treasure she’s been wanting, do something to make her day easier.
Unless it’s in a book, then it’s juvenile.
In a book, romance is that thing that encourages a woman to chase after another man, regardless of who is or isn’t already married. In a book, romance is the pursuit of an ideal who seems to never have a shirt on. Washboard abs must require a lot of ventilation. And that same lust interest who has time for a job and the time at the gym to maintain those abs also has time to ravish the woman with all manner of gifts, from time to cooking to that one thing that no other man has been able to provide. Plus, somehow, he can read her mind and do exactly only those things she wants as she wants them. There’s no way there could be another man like him, except for every other man in every other romance novel.
And then the woman is forced to close the book and return to a life with a husband who has probably already started losing his hair, has rock hard abs that are insulated, and probably has some weird hobby like Heroclix or collecting zippos.
Some (mostly women) would argue that it’s just a little fantasy, there’s no harm in this. Heck, I got told that in a Brit Lit class, and my stance on equality on the subject was trumped by sheer numbers. I was one of 2 guys in a class of 17. Every other person in the class praised the female fantasy for its innocence, and in the same semester went on a tirade on the male pigs who wouldn’t know how to court a woman if their life depended on it.
Yet how many ‘just a little’ fantasies from the opposite end has caused problems? That Sports Illustrated calendar is just a little fantasy. Certainly smaller than Fifty Shades of Gray.
The real tragedy here isn’t that women are becoming more like men. It isn’t even that there are marriages that fail because one or both partners prefer a fiction over a truth. Romance, in the true sense of the word, has become prostituted in prose and picture while being neglected for the wonderful reality it could be. It puts on a pretty and often photoshopped face only to descend into lust and the satisfaction of only one person.
Real romance, unadulterated and unspoiled, is awkward, I’ll admit. There will be times, sometimes even weeks, where there isn’t the enthralling infatuation with the other person. That’s okay. That’s not a justification to find a fantasy. To use a food metaphor, that white bread fresh out of the bag may satisfy now, but kneading bread dough yourself, letting it rise, and adding this and that to deviate from that perfect recipe creates something wonderful. It creates something that fills us and feeds all of our senses.
Just be patient.