Like the next person, I do love a good romance, but if, and when, I get a romance overload, I start to question the idea of the whole thing. If girls, or women, always get portrayed as suckers for love, isn’t there something to worry about? Even when the (female) protagonist is successful, it seems that fulfilled love makes the success fade away. Sometimes the promise of love is enough. Of course, it also happens that work fades away, or goes up in smoke with a big bang. Then the romantic, and mostly male, lead appears on stage.
Why is a wedding gown apparently more important than an inspiring work situation? Admittedly, there are many jobs, I would happily ditch for a full-blown knight-in-shining-armour whirlwind romance. I don’t think that there are many women who doesn’t get weak in the knees, when their dream man appears, but. . .
What if the dream job gives more excitement, fulfilment, fun, and creative challenges, than a single man could ever produce? Would the woman, or girl, never stop to think: do I want this? Do I really want to forego the sense of achievement that my job gives me? If it is possible to have both: fine, but mostly it turns out that the perfect job, the artistical ambition, the will to succeed fades away, when the proverbial string-orchestra strikes up a swelling hymnus amoris (hymn of love).
The next big question is: does this all-encompassing love last? What strikes me is that the romantic love stories mostly end when the couple declare their love. The way to this conclusion is hard work, full of misunderstandings, intrigues, sometimes danger. The result is rarely that the hopeful girl, or woman, stays alone. There’s seldom space for private reflection at the end of such stories. No hopeful love-bird rides off in the sunset, searching new challenges or, probably worse, a new love. Life ends where marriage begins, and the observer, aka the reader, must seek another story to complete the picture. That is, if she or, perhaps rarely, he wants to grapple with other realities. Finding love, and saying your ‘I do’s, transforms the setting. And even in a successful marriage, love slowly transforms from romantic infatuation to something else. The ancient Greeks made the distinction, calling erotic and romantic love Eros, naming married bliss Agape.
To me it’s clear that romance-fiction seldom looks further than the proverbial white gown. There’s nothing romantic about marriage, unless the husband is a jerk, and the wife needs another romantic lead to take over and – rescue her.
My question is: do we still buy this, and why? Women can achieve, they often perform better than men. Girls are brighter in school and education but, at a certain point, it looks like their will to succeed dims. Is it the biological clock ticking? Does it all boil down to instinct? Are our genes programmed to carry us into motherhood whether we want it or not?
These questions can’t be answered with a single kiss. Is the problem that we get confused about gender? And what is gender at the end of the day? In the current climate, it becomes increasingly clear that there aren’t just two sexes. In my opinion, the strong divide: female/male is obsolete. Maybe there is a gliding slide from the absolute female to the absolute male principle, and in between every possible variety. It is nothing new. But our focus on this has increased, especially in a time where people must develop courage to see, and accept, diversity.
© HMH, 2017