A friend recently said to me that she thought she had unrealistic expectations about what love and romance should be, thanks to all the books she’s read. Men in books are so much sweeter, kinder, smarter, and better looking than in real life (heck, so are women!). Dating is easier, faster, and far less awkward. Romance is steamier, sexier, and always, always more… successful.
Ugh. Real life stinks. Why can’t all relationships be like they are in romance novels? Why does Harlequin have to offer us such beautiful specimens for the imagination, when in real life we get characters like Tiger Woods and Jian Ghomeshi? I know you’ve all thought this before!
My friend’s comment has got me to thinking… there are so, so many ways that the romance we read about in novels does not translate to real life. Take a look at this list and tell me you don’t agree!
1. Books: The neighboring farm boy grows up to be insanely handsome; you fall in love and run away together.
Life: You’re rounding a corner on a city sidewalk and literally run smack into the boy next door, who has a hot wife with him and they laugh as your purse spills everywhere and papers go flying.
I’m thinking of The Princess Bride. Beautiful Buttercup falls in love with handsome Westley, he becomes a dashing and dastardly pirate, they have a few adventures, and then they live happily ever after. Same with just about any fairy tale, right?
But who are we kidding? 90% of the time the cute kid next door is a total jerk to you all through high school, yet you still have an insane crush on him. Then you run into him as you’re leaving work, your stuff goes everywhere, and neither he nor his eye candy bother to help. You go home to drink an entire bottle of wine and eat ice cream for dinner. Fairy tale over.
2. Books: Your date pulls out your chair and fills your glass with expensive wine.
Life: Your date accidentally grazes your boob as he pushes past you to get to the dessert tray first.
When do men ever pull out your chair anymore? I CAN do it myself, sure, but I have no objection to a guy being chivalrous as long as it isn’t demeaning in any way. And it’s the usually the server’s job to fill your wine glass, right? In the spirit of equality, I could pour his for him instead, I suppose.
Honestly, on most of my dates, I was lucky if the guy paid for my drink at all, let alone poured it for me. There was a guy I dated for a while in college who gave me the bill for BOTH of us, pretty much every time we went out. Even though I was a student living on campus and he lived at home with his parents. Fitzwilliam Darcy would NEVER have allowed that!
3. Books: You both fall madly in love and get married after knowing each other for three weeks.
Life: He’s a commitmentphobe and you’re a perfectionist, engaged to each other for 8 years before you even move in together.
Remember Neil from He’s Just Not That Into You (who was played by a flawless Ben Affleck in the movie, btw)? Technically not a commitment-phobe, since he did live with and love Beth. But he wasn’t on the same page as her regarding marriage. Then there’s Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. That girl had a lot of issues, obviously, and wasn’t going to commit to anyone any time soon. For that matter, neither was Mikael Blomkvist (dating a married woman for how many years?).
These more modern novels are MUCH truer to life than Romeo and Juliet where they see each other across the room (or through the giant fish tank, whatever) and immediately are ready to disown their closest friends and relatives. Come on now. I love my mom! Nobody can make me disown my mama!
4. Books: The sex is incredible and you’ve never been more flexible.
Life: Your cellphone rings during your first time sleeping together and its your ex.
I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, but I have read a few of Nicholas Sparks’ novels, and let me tell you, sex is never like that. It’s never easy and simple. I’m not just talking about your first time, I’m talking about every time! Sure, it’s wonderful and magical and sparks fly, etc., etc. But it’s never perfect.
Noses get bumped, clothes get stuck, the phone rings, it doesn’t last long because you’re late for work… whatever. Judy Blume got it spot on (as usual) in Forever when Katherine and Michael get it on, but there’s a lot of nervousness, questions, uncertainty and… tissues. It was written before the age of omnipresent smartphones, but I bet if there was a rewrite, each character would have three phones and they’d all be buzzing at the most inconvenient times.
5. Books: The hero shows up on a noble steed or in an expensive luxury vehicle.
Life: He shows up in a rusty Hyundai or a cigarette-scented yellow cab.
One of my favorite scenes from Sense and Sensibility is when Willoughby suddenly appears through the mist and rain to rescue Marianne after she’s fallen and sprained her ankle. A tall stranger with a flapping black cloak, appearing out of nowhere on a magnificent horse? *Swoon* I turn into a puddle when I think about it!
Reality check number one: my prom date in high school picked me up in his parents’ ten year old Buick and the door handle on the passenger side didn’t work. He had to get in the car first and open my door from the inside (I suppose that means he did open the door for me, like a gentleman?).
Reality check number two: I’m not a damsel in distress, and I don’t ever want to be. If you find me in the woods, having fallen and twisted my ankle, call an ambulance for me. That’s it. I’ve obviously watched too many Law and Order episodes where the helpless woman gets taken advantage of.
Now that you’ve read my diatribe, you’ll see what I mean. A much as we love reading these fictional stories of love and lust, there’s nothing about them that is realistic! We may all be looking for the Darcy to our Elizabeth, but let’s face it, there are more Wickhams out there than we’d like to admit. And they’re all using online dating sites.
If you have a dating story that mirrors your favorite romance novel, I’d be happy to be proven wrong!
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