Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An interesting article here about how romantic comedies affect our perceptions of our real, everyday relationships. As I read through the article, I was reminded of the wife of a friend of mine who complained that her husband, "didn't sweep her off her feet" anymore after ten years of marriage. When I tried to explain to her that marriage didn't work that way, that the "being swept off one's feet" emotion existed only in the early stages of a relationship, she got mad at me and yelled into the phone, "He just needs to read a good romance and he'll understand!"

That conversation has stayed with me for years. The woman ended up leaving her husband for someone new -- someone who ignited that longing to be "swept" along and I spent a great deal of time wondering if the books I wrote were somehow to blame for her poor understanding of the ups and downs of a long-term relationship.

But then I remembered that most romance books end at the altar. Those heady moments of first love, the joyous discovery of each other's foibles, each one overlooking the other's small imperfections and seeing only the greater good -- that's the part of the relationship we find exciting. That's what we want to read about. Over and over and over.

Are we, however, doing a disservice to couples everywhere? The article and study are being done in Britain (although anyone can participate in the study. I think I'm in -- I answered all 14 screens of questions only to have my Internet hang up when I tried to enter my email addy. Not sure it went through or not), but no matter where you are, the romance genre will find you. And once it does, the question remains -- when you pine after Mr. Darcy or Phillip Townsend, are you ruined for all the real men and the real work of real relationships?

Play safe,

1 comment:

Secundo Dharma said...

Hi Diana :)

I don't know that the problem is in pining about Mr Darcy or any particular fantasy. I think 'the problem' such as it is, is in swallowing the collective fantasy rather than picking and choosing between fantasies until you find the one that is right for you.

Somewhere in middle school there is a strong tendency to conform and fit in, but part of the natural maturation process lies in learning the rules to 'fit in' and then proceeding on to create your own rules for living.

The romance novels heroes have a dual appeal. In one, they present the lovely archetypes that populate the world mythology - this seems healthy. In the other they repeat the same formula over and over to establish the 'normal' fantasy. This second fantasy is a reinforcement of he social collective view of normal and good - a sort of socially acceptable persona - that is neither good nor bad, but not a good fit for most people. It is the way WE SHOULD be rather than the way I ACTUALLY am.

A good romantic fantasy is a good romantic fantasy. I think the problem lies within pursuing the collective romantic fantasy than one's own PERSONAL romantic fantasy.

Most people don't know who they are and don't know what there fantasy is, so they accept the house in the suburbs, or the vacations in the Caribbean or the Society philanthropist or whatever other stereotype they can use. This is sad but it only means their personal life is emptier than if they worked towards finding out what makes them happy and pursuing it.

The marriage ending because the collective fantasy that they married turns out to be no fun is a problem but it can be either a turning point to discover what you love, or a more of the same where someone goes off in search of another version of the same fantasy.

I don't blame the romance novel, I blame the laziness of the individual in not exploring their own personal romance.

BTW - this is one of the reasons I like Phillip and Sarah. Both of them struggle with the issue of how to relate their internally satisfying kinkiness with the externally programmed collective romantic fantasy. And both of them say - screw the prepacked fantasy, lets make up one of our own.

Secundo --- who rarely reads or comments on blogs but --- what the heck :)