This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

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jsharrison19
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This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by jsharrison19 » October 4th, 2010, 6:26 pm

I just had a student complain to me about a failed relationship, disappointed because according to her, "it had been nothing like Pride and Prejudice."

Now don't get me wrong in what I'm getting ready to say. I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, but the thing is, this young lady had done what so many of us do, we think that love should play out in real life the way it is written, (or portrayed in movies). I love Elizabeth. And Jane. And Mr. Bennet. And Mr. Bingly. And of course, Mr. Darcy. I would have married Mr. Darcy, what girl in their right mind wouldn't have? But, and to borrow a term from Mr. Shakespeare- "aye here's the rub"-it's FICTION. Fiction, ladies, means FALSE. Sure it's awesome to read and get all swept up in a wonderful love story, but at the end of the day, it's just another lie books tell us.

Now I love my husband so I don't want anyone calling me unromantic or pessimistic about love. I love him, I love our life together, and I thank God for him everyday, but let's be real. I'm Elizabeth maybe five percent of the time if he's lucky, and I get Mr. Darcy about 5 percent of the time if I'm lucky. What's the other 95 percent? How about kids, jobs, bills, family, car repairs, activities...the list goes on and on. Notice Jane Austen never included in Pride and Prejudice the part where one of the kids has just barfed on the couch, one of the dogs just crapped in the floor, the car is broken again, the oil tank needs refilled and the other kid just flushed a rubber ducky down the toilet and water is flowing everywhere, but there's no towels because they're all in the dirty laundry. Elizabeth never had to escape to Starbucks or Barnes and Noble because Darcy was driving her insane. What's my point? Life can't be Pride and Prejudice all the time because life isn't fiction. Life is real. Then us girls get all upset when it doesn't play out that way.

So what do I think the most dangerous lies books tell women are? Here are some:

1.)Love at First Sight
So many famous books have this scene playing out (think Romeo and Juliet and countless others) Girl meets boy, they see each other, bam they're in love--an all intense consuming love they would both die for.
Does it happen? I think more often than not, no. Sure what usually attracts people first is looks and I'll buy that, but what's the next step? Lust I'd say over love, or at least a period of time where you just might not be sure. I've never bought that Romeo loved Juliet; he loved the idea of being in love.

2.) Guys Will Change for Love
Oh no. Guys don't change, I mean really, people don't really change that much. Here I'm going to use a book to prove my point: think Wuthering Heights. Did Heathcliff change for Catherine? Nope. He would have rather been a raving lunatic screaming at her dead body to come back and haunt him than change to be what she needed from him. Did Catherine change for Heathcliff? Nope again. She would have rather married Edgar because he was what she was supposed to marry. Nevermind she loved the other guy. (More on this later.) Why do I think the divorce rate is over fifty percent? Because people get married thinking those little things they tolerate from the other person during dating will change and they never do, as a matter of fact, they usually get worse. Then little things become big things and we have divorces over the correct way to load a dishwasher.

3.)The Knight in Shining Armor Effect
Somewhere out there my guy (or a guy) will rush in and save the day. Sorry ladies, but sometimes you just gotta stand on your own two feet. Does Lancelot really ride in save Guinevere when they're burning her at the stake because she committed adultery with him? Not in real life. In real life he's probably at the club looking for the next woman to commit adultery with. A side note here: If a guy will cheat on his significant other to be with you, then he'll probably cheat on you too. Think about it.

4.) Our Hearts Always Lead Us to the Right Guy
No. No. No. As a matter of fact, our hearts probably lead us to the guys who are the absolutely worst for us. I mean, I'm totally team Edward by way of Dracula, but let's be real. You don't give up your soul for a skulking vampire who stalks you and won't let you hang out with your friends. Maybe your heart says you do because he's hot, and rich, and mysterious, and totally kicks butt, but your head should be saying, "woah, this guy is sexy, but way unstable. Go for the werewolf, he's the normal one."
By the way, it's a sad day for literature when the werewolf is the normal one.
I'm going to use Wuthering Heights here to prove my point again. Catherine loved Heathcliff, the bad boy, the poor boy, the one none of society approved of. Did she marry him? Nope. She chose Edgar who was a sniveling dork of a man who couldn't stand up to a stable boy and allowed Catherine and Heathcliff to destroy him and his entire family. Would any woman really be drawn to Edgar? Their hearts wouldn't, but their heads would, because he was the one society approved of.
How many ladies do you know who left the bad boy, the one they really loved for the normal choice? The one everyone approved of? How many girls think, oh I wonder what would have happened if I would've married x guy. I know lots. Because we choose with our heads and not our hearts, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. What happens when we choose with our hearts and not our heads? See number two.
5.) We All Live Happily Ever After
Okay do I even need to run a commentary on this one? Sometimes happily ever after is more like mostly happy, or happy sometimes, or sometimes I want to smack you. That's okay. Know why? Cuz life isn't fiction. It never will be, no matter how many Disney princesses we loved as kids. My favorite Disney princess was always Belle from Beauty and the Beast. You know who Belle chooses in real life? Gustan. Nobody chooses the beast. (See number four.)
Anyway, back to the point of the "we all live happily ever after lie". I think this is the most dangerous lie of all because the truth is, marriage can be hard and marriage takes work. Marriage is holding the other person's head when they're throwing up in the toilet, and pitching in with housework, and understanding your spouse even when they really aren't understandable. Even when they tell you something that makes you think they might be crazy and you still have to kick in the support. (Not kick them.) Marriage is love when it doesn't come easily and trusting when it's hard. Marriage is believing that through it all, Love Never Fails.

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Re: This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by grmarlow » October 5th, 2010, 10:46 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Nothing's wrong with romantic fantasies, until we expect life to really be a romantic fantasy. I always hope teen girls have the good sense not to expect real-life to be Twilight with their own Edward. Life is more likely to be like what happens to the main character in Ann Turnbull's novel Alice in Love and War (she gets dumped by her exciting lover and eventually finds love with a much more ordinary, more noble man).

And thank you, thank you for this quote: "Marriage is love when it doesn't come easily and trusting when it's hard." I'm working on my first novel (for young adults), and that's the theme I want to write about, but I hadn't been able to articulate it as well as you have!

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Re: This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by sierramcconnell » October 22nd, 2010, 1:51 pm

In Twilight, I think I would have rather gone for Alice. She's just too cute. (Of course, she has Jasper, but...you never know... XD)

[cough]

I always hated love. I think that's why my totally unstable character who falls "in love" at the age of six, decides that the best way to keep his love safe is to bash her head in with a rock and bury her in the forest. That way the other boys won't touch her again.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is real world love. He's a psychopath, yes, but those things do happen. It's called being crazy.

Of course, it doesn't speak well for me. But my version of love is that I would rather obsess over a person and dress them up in frilly clothing and accessories when I want to, and ignore them when I don't feel like being around anyone.

That might be why I have so many dolls. XD

I never really bought into the "prince charming\white horse" thing. I always had a feeling, ever since I was little, that I've been waiting for someone. That when the time was right, that person would appear. I've been waiting and looking, and when I do date (rarely and not within the last fifteen years) I feel as if I'm cheating. Once, when I went to a psychologist, I told her I wanted to be the one doing the protecting and the saving and she outright told me it wasn't true, that I wanted someone to take care of me.

I looked at her and said, "No. I would rather they be weaker than I am, so I can take care of them and make sure they can't hurt me."
"Don't you want a big strong man to take care of you?"

What, am I some wimpy female damsel in distress? Is this what we're teaching people these days?
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Re: This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by Sommer Leigh » October 22nd, 2010, 11:06 pm

In defense of fictional love, I rather prefer reading the love stories that don't even try to be like real life. I don't mind books telling me lies because I'm already pretty comfortable with reality. It's nice when boys can change and girls can change and I think the whole knight in shining armor thing has a lot more to do with wanting a story where we aren't alone in everything we do, that someone's got our back. That can be a very comforting thought, especially when it's not really true all too often in real life.

And here's why I don't always like my fictional romances to be realistic: When a book tries to go the realistic romance route, you often end up with a plot that wraps itself up in lies and mystery and the heroine goes all crazy with one or more of the following: It's not safe to be with you, or I can't be with you for some irrational reason, or You obviously don't love me because this one random thing happened while we were all intimate, or I think you are probably the villain despite all our history together that says otherwise, or This random girl popped into your life and you obviously want her more than me despite all evidence, or I'm listening to someone's advice who I don't really like or trust or know instead of you and they are clearly leading me astray but I won't figure it out until the very end.

And all of these are working against a hero love interest remaining all dark and mysterious and I can't tell you for your own safety even though you will probably do something stupid and make some insane conclusions based on faulty knowledge and crazy girl-spider-sense anyway.

And the whole convoluted love story could have avoided all the crazy-making if everyone would have just fallen in love at first sight, changed a little, stopped being so stubborn, and told each other the truth.

But in real life we never do that. We question and over analyze and allow our girlfriends to convince us of things that we know can't possibly be true but drama is easier and more natural somehow. We like the intensity and passion of our complicated, faulty hearts. We are messy and unchanging and lonely and we make things so unnecessarily complicated and we are jealous creatures even when we swear we aren't. And whenever an author tries to make a love story more natural by dragging in all our human neurotic faults, I end up beating my head against the hard spine of the book moaning about how stupid the characters are acting. The fictional love stories are clearly not realistic, but they tend to give me good butterfly feelings instead of the powerful desire to strangle main characters.

The sweet spot seems to be somewhere in the middle - a little realism tempered by a little fairy tale so we have just enough crazy-making and then a lot of crazy making up. It's a perfect world. At least for me.

Disclaimer: I have, of course, read wonderful books that take the realistic neurotic love affair route and it works perfectly well, but it often doesn't when there are 400 pages without any sort of satisfaction, just frustration. I never say never and there are plenty of fairy tale romantic stories that I think could use a healthy dose of realism before I go into a diabetic, eye-rolling coma. I'm in favor of girls being saved by someone who loves them. I am ALSO in favor of girls saving themselves. Maybe this is me living in a fairy tale world, but when it comes to books I believe it is possible for me to have it all.
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Re: This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by Down the well » October 23rd, 2010, 10:09 am

Sommer Leigh wrote:In defense of fictional love, I rather prefer reading the love stories that don't even try to be like real life. I don't mind books telling me lies because I'm already pretty comfortable with reality. It's nice when boys can change and girls can change and I think the whole knight in shining armor thing has a lot more to do with wanting a story where we aren't alone in everything we do, that someone's got our back. That can be a very comforting thought, especially when it's not really true all too often in real life.
I enjoyed your post, Sommer. I know the books are lying, but sometimes a girl just wants to believe.

I've written a novel with a heavy romantic story line, and no it isn't very realistic. The characters are larger than life, the situations are ridiculous, and they fall in love quickly and deeply, but it's a romp. It's adventurous and fun. It's entertainment. Sometimes all I ask of a novel is a little escape.

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Re: This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by J. T. SHEA » October 23rd, 2010, 7:03 pm

Girls, you could end up having to polish all that shining armor...

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Re: This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by Down the well » October 23rd, 2010, 9:35 pm

J. T. SHEA wrote:Girls, you could end up having to polish all that shining armor...
Well, since it's only make-believe armor, I'll have the make-believe servants do it.

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Re: This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by Beethovenfan » November 10th, 2010, 12:47 pm

Now I love my husband so I don't want anyone calling me unromantic or pessimistic about love. I love him, I love our life together, and I thank God for him everyday, but let's be real. I'm Elizabeth maybe five percent of the time if he's lucky, and I get Mr. Darcy about 5 percent of the time if I'm lucky. What's the other 95 percent? How about kids, jobs, bills, family, car repairs, activities...the list goes on and on. Notice Jane Austen never included in Pride and Prejudice the part where one of the kids has just barfed on the couch, one of the dogs just crapped in the floor, the car is broken again, the oil tank needs refilled and the other kid just flushed a rubber ducky down the toilet and water is flowing everywhere, but there's no towels because they're all in the dirty laundry. Elizabeth never had to escape to Starbucks or Barnes and Noble because Darcy was driving her insane. What's my point? Life can't be Pride and Prejudice all the time because life isn't fiction. Life is real. Then us girls get all upset when it doesn't play out that way.

Fantastic! You are right on. I believe that most young girls have a very limited idea of what real life is like. And the sad truth is that they grow up not learning it as well. How do teenage girls (I guess I should include boys too, they are just as clueless) come to realize that books and movies ARE just fantasies? For me it always comes down to parenting. It's a parent's job to make sure they get the "reality" check they need, to know that life is rarely like that awesome book they just read. But unfortunately, it's a perpetual cycle because the parents never got it when they were still kids, so they themselves don't even know and therefore cannot pass on good judgement to their kids.

However, I do NOT believe it is the responsibility of writers to make up for this. How can we? But we should write as responibly as we can, know who our audience is, and write for them. That's why I love JK Rowling so much. She knew she was writing for kids and stuck to that genre. I think Stephanie Meyer captured the teen angst very well in her novels, and was trying to be responsible with the issue of sex (as in wait until you are older and hopefully wiser). But these authors also had the responsibility to give us a good story, which I whole-heartedly believe they accomplished. I think we can even write stories that teach valuable lessons, but ulitimately we buy a book to go on a great ride. People have to learn to delineate fantasy from reality from "real" people in their lives - parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc., not from characters in a book.
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Re: This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by Jessica Peter » November 26th, 2010, 11:03 pm

Your student wanted her love life to be like Pride and Prejudice? I mean, Mr. Darcy is a dreamboat by the end, but for the first part (and dare I say, large majority) of the book, he's kind of a dick. I think part of the reason that fictional love stories never match up to real life is that it's easier to ignore the bad bits if we're not living them. It's like when I read romances, and I think "oh, if only my fella could be a bit more like that" - at the end. And then I remember what that poor girl went through!

Then again, I read a study once that proved women that read a lot of romances were less likely to be satisfied in their real world love lives. Maybe it's the expectation of a happy-ever-after that's hurting us.
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Re: This One's For the Girls: Lies Books Tell Us About Love

Post by charlotte49ers » November 26th, 2010, 11:49 pm

I've never understood people who can't separate fact from fiction, including teenagers. I think when people get too invested in stories and the lines begin to blur, they have bigger issues they need to address.

There's a reason why it's called fiction. :D It's fun to pretend that relationships can be all sunshine and roses, but gosh, wouldn't that be boring?

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