I absolutely should have posted something like this around Valentine’s Day, but hey ho. Let’s string out the red hearts and flowers a little longer.
So I recently read Ellie Lit Nerd’s list of Classics to Read This Valentine’s Day, which is a great list that includes some of my favourite novels and you should absolutely go read. In this post, however, she also linked back to a previous post, On Growing Up With Unrealistic Expectations About the Opposite Sex.
I know, right? We’re all totally familiar with this concept and I’ve nodded my head along with anybody who has sighed that it’s so hard to find a Mr Darcy in 2015. Real men just can’t compare to Colin Firth; we accept this.
Then I started to think about my favourite fictional relationships – Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Rochester, Celaena and Chaol… they’re nice and cute and they make me feel all fuzzy. But I absolutely do not want my real-life relationships to be even vaguely similar.
In the real world, relationships are messy, convoluted, complicated, full of doubt and questions… and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. The romances in books are so damn perfect. Sure, they may have a few chapters of withholding their feelings, but they eventually confess and they’re Together and everything’s rosy and perfect. Married within a chapter.
Even the modern YA relationships, where a wedding isn’t necessarily the end goal, are guilty of this. Boy and Girl get together in an over-the-top, dramatic display of love… and it’s just rubbish.
Who wants that? I want the awkwardness and the baby steps please. I want to be mildly nervous everytime I know I’m going to see the object of my affections and I’d like to be pestered with constant questions from my friends about how we’re getting on.
Also, let’s make a list of things men in the real world are unlikely to do:
1) Hide a crazy ex-wife in the attic.
2) Propose by stating how socially inferior you are.
3) Smoke a cigarette ironically.
4) Get all stressy because you brought him a nice meal.
5) Get all stressy because you kissed another bloke to save your life.
6) Spy on your personal emails for more than a year.
7) Sneak through your window every night to watch you sleep.
8) Sell your baby to the Devil.
9) Disown you for being raped, after he spent a weekend with a prostitute.
10) … be your brother.
There’s a mix there of classics, YA, modern fiction, sci-fi… and I didn’t have to try very hard to come up with those.
This post isn’t just for the women either – fictional men get a raw deal as well. It’s especially prevalent in YA fiction, but authors are now so intent on providing strong female role models that they go too far in the opposite direction and turn their lady characters into absolute cowbags.
You’ll rarely see a young female character who likes to have a door opened for her or who can accept a snide comment from her boyfriend when she knows he’s having a tough day. That’s not real either. Instead they’re actually just kind of psycho. I’d draw up a list like the one above, but they all have the same failing – screaming/crying/having temper tantrums to the poor bloke about imagined slights. The Selection, Teardrop,… you can almost pick a YA at random and see how badly these women treat their men.
My point is that a) both fictional men and women are hardly to be idolised, but more importantly, b) real men have given me unrealistic expectations of fictional men, not the other way round.