My Issues With Popular Romance

I know my friends will read the title of this and say, “Why haven’t you contacted that therapist I sent you?” But the thing is,

I will text her tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have a bone to pick with romance writers. See, as a dog walker, I spend an inordinate about of time picking up poop and listening to audiobooks. It’s a great way to pass the time and learn new things, like how champagne houses were part of The French Resistance in WWII, and how the restaurant Long John Silver’s named itself after a pirate who cooked his own leg and fed it to his crew. (Allegedly.)

However, I’ve been devouring audiobooks at a rapid rate and, in doing so, have found I can almost always predict what’s going to happen ten minutes in:

If a single woman’s mother dies, she will inherit a curious pack of letters and/or a crumbling mansion in Europe, wherein she will discover a tangled web of family secrets guarded by a hot, complicated gardener.

If a woman is successful and lives in a city, her fiancé will cheat on her and she will seek refuge in a sleepy little ghost town, where she will inevitably fall for the neighborhood widower.

If a woman notices a man’s hair “curling over his ears,” she will sleep with him.

If a woman moves in with her grandmother, they’re both witches.

If a woman touches a rock in a foreign country, she will travel back hundreds of years in time and fall in love with a man who, against all odds, has a full set of teeth.

I am willing to accept one can travel through time, but I refuse to believe an 18th-century man would be hot and healthy without ever having laid brush to tooth.

But I digress.

These predictable plots got me thinking about the problematic relationships we’re sold over and over again in pop culture. I should caveat this post with the fact that I am single, cynical, and probably a little confused about what I want, so my opinions are not for everyone.

Mr. & Mrs. ReyLo Smith:

Girl and Boy are sworn enemies: terrible to and for each other. Girl and Boy spend years trying to kill each other. There’s a brief moment in which we wonder if Girl and Boy are related? Girl and Boy have an explosive fight on a collapsing space boat, after which Girl and Boy realize they actually love each other, or, at the very least, would have fantastic sex.

Message: Take a chance on that psycho you hate! He might be your soul mate. Or cousin, who knows! Also, violence = passion, and sex inside collapsing buildings is THE BEST.

My issue with this archetype is that I’ve never wanted to sleep with someone I’ve spent years trying to assassinate.

But, then again, maybe I just haven’t met the right guy.

Why does Hollywood always push women to fall in love with the men trying to kill them? This happens frequently throughout one of my favorite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whether it’s Buffy and Spike or Buffy and Angel. I will say, though, I very much appreciated the decision to have Buffy kill Angel to save the world. You go girl.

True Vampire Saga:

Virgin Girl Next Door meets Immortal Bad Boy. Boy tells girl to stay away from him, if she knows what’s good for her. Girl takes this as a light suggestion and brings him a bundt cake anyways. Boy says, “I kill people.” Girl says, “Lol it’s okay I’m weird too.” Hot, much more stable werewolf friend enters the picture. No one cares. Someone tries to kill Girl, so Boy makes Girl move into his mansion. Boy and Girl live happily ever after even though they have absolutely nothing in common and their conversations are painful to listen to.

Message: You’ll be the one to change him. Also, controlling is hot!

My issue with this is why are werewolves/shapeshifters always friend-zoned? I’d choose a werewolf over a vampire every time. For one–and I cannot stress how important this is to me–they are not dead. Second, they can do stuff during the day. Third, they eat. Fourth, they (probably) won’t eat me. And fifth, I could ride one like a horse in a pinch.

The Curmudgeon Next Door:

City Girl moves next door to Small Town Boy. Girl is chatty and addicted to work. Boy is rude and thinks Wifi is the Devil’s work. Girl complains about Boy to locals. Locals tell Girl that Boy is mean because he is sad and he is sad because he is widowed. Girl gives Boy a second chance. Girl and Boy make headway until Girl asks Boy about his dead wife, Sara. Boy blows up. Girl storms out. Boy storms after Girl and somehow they end up making out because they’re both scared of love.

Message: He’s an asshole now, but if you wear him down, he’ll come around.

This one is particularly hard for me because I have a pattern of falling for unattainable men, and never once have they caved and opened a B&B with me.

For more, see The Spirit of Christmas or Luke from Gilmore Girls.

Reluctant Childhood Sweethearts:
(Most commonly found in novels)

Girl and Boy are childhood best friends. Puberty strikes and Girl and Boy become more than best friends on Their Dock. Shit hits the fan with Girl’s family (her mom is a piece of work!) and Girl moves in with her Grandma. Girl convinces herself she’s unlovable so she says something mean to Boy. Heartbroken, Boy moves to New York.

Girl never speaks to Boy again, but she thinks about him every time she smells the sea.

Boy never speaks to Girl again, but he becomes an emotionally unavailable bachelor who sleeps with lots of models.

Years pass.

Boy inherits his father’s hotel empire, even though he swore he’d never be a Suit.

Girl takes over Grandma’s Wicca store, even though she dreams of becoming a writer.

Grandma dies.

Boy comes back for Grandma’s funeral; Girl avoids him at all costs.

Boy spends days, weeks, MONTHS convincing Girl to let him love her.

Boy yells, “I won’t let you go! Not again!”

Girl yells, “I’m scared!”

Boy kisses her anyways.

Boy and Girl are happy until something weird happens. (Girl’s mom comes back in the picture? Girl’s editor shows up unannounced when Girl isn’t home, so Boy invites her in for coffee and she tells him all about the exposé Girl agreed to write about Boy’s family before they reconnected?)

But whatever they get over it and fall deeply in love. Again.

Message: Maybe take another look at your fourth grade boyfriend. Also, you don’t really know how you feel about someone until they tell you how you should feel about them.

I don’t want a dude to tell me how I should feel about him. I also don’t want a dude to tell me he’s going to the bathroom to play with his nipples, which is why I stopped online dating.

In conclusion, I should probably start reading better stuff. But I doubt I will.

4 thoughts on “My Issues With Popular Romance

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