What Has Romance Become?

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 twilight momsis 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.

 

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One thought on “What Has Romance Become?

  1. Bit of a lie, that title is-no suppositions about why romance has evolved to be termed thus? :p Still, yeah.

    Of course, the big question is just how far does this twisting of romance go. How many people read the soft-sell porn(Look, I’ve read some too, you can’t tell me they aren’t) in the countries it’s got a presence in? Just how much airbursh perfection and photoshop perfection is in the words? And of course, how much are people really invested in it?

    That last one is the one that bothers me. We all know it’s just a fantasy, with all the mixed pros and cons that the term carries, and on similar scales to the showboat successes of ‘romance’ for men(Yes, he can save the world, but he probably sucks as a long term mate, but does he still get the girl? Oh yeah), but if both sides of the conversation are indulging little fantasies and being infected by them(because that’s what stories do, they infect), then how many people are seeing the world through thin layers of lovesick eye pus? How many little disappointments do people see? How do those stack up? It’s enough I’d rather call them little illusions(my favorite dirty word).

    In the grand scale, I don’t think it’s at a terrible rate, but it’s still alarming. And while I loved the hell out of Fault In Our Stars, a little hair trigger went off in the space between my eyes and brain recognizing that the protagonist and deuteroganist fell into the an interesting evolution of the old romance trap-girl’s only flaw is she’s clumsy, guy’s only flaw is what, being goofy(?), becomes, in this case, both of them have terminal diseases. And since Disease Romance is growing enough people are thinking of giving it it’s own genre, my nose is getting all crinkly with distrust.

    Romance-real romance, the kind we need to read more about-makes terrible fantasy though(hence why I called it illusion). Real romance is messy, often kind of screwed up, a little ugly, a lot of work, and, underneath all of that, quietly pleasant, as opposed to ongoing ecstasy.

    It’s hard to sell that just right, both in the writing and the marketing. The best love stories are either completely false or buried in the fringe.
    -Sean

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