Friday, 13 June 2014

Does romance only exist in fiction?

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” – Mr Darcy

imageSwoon! It was already lovely in the novel but when Colin Firth’s Darcy utters the words to Jennifer Ehle’s Eliza, it’s just breathtaking.

So romantic. Until he follows it up with some insult about her mother – Jane Austen may have inadvertently inspired the modern day insult, “yer ma”, back in the 17th Century.

Jane Austen was the master of romance, in my humble opinion. Her formula is regurgitated time and time again, indeed, I hold my hands of up and admit that unintentionally, Inspired by Night also emulates the Pride and Prejudice way, right down to the sensible, no nonsense, female lead character. Although, in a way, Olivia Jones follows Darcy’s path rather than that of Elizabeth Bennett, because it is 2014 and I’m all for equality of opportunity, so why shouldn’t the roles be reversed slightly?

Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kiss you right now.” – Steven Teller


But let’s be honest for a moment. Ladies, look at your man – go on, look at him sat there on the sofa watching sport / playing Call of Duty / picking his nose. Imagine him looking over at you and saying:

you are too generous to trifle with me…”

You’re going to look at him and say

mmmm trifle!”

Or at least that’s what I would think immediately prior to laughing at him.

Because we don’t live in a romantic world. Our minds jump to comedy retorts faster than they process compliments, and there’s plenty of unromantic comedy moments in popular culture:

I love you”

“I know” – Princess Leia and Han Solo

“I love you”

“Quite right too” – Rose Tyler and The Tenth Doctor

“I love you”

“Thank you” – Leonard and Penny

We went to see an amateur dramatics group perform an original play called Jefferson’s Tale this week, a romantic comedy set against the theme of time travel, which ticked all the boxes for me, I was well prepared to love it before it even started.*

There was a proposal scene, and as the lead guy got down on one knee I felt my heart sink.
Oh no I thought, he’s going to propose.

I was expecting a really cringey speech – this was theatre after all – of love and feelings and I want to hold your hand til the end of time type stuff. And that’s exactly what we got. And I felt awkward watching it because it felt real, and unnatural. That sort of stuff is surely only acceptable in books and movies.

See, we’re not a romantic couple. We never have been, except for that one time, when he bought me a Stormtrooper helmet for Valentine’s day (to be fair it was only 4 days after we got together and we weren’t sure of the valentine day etiquette at that point) and I saw the Stormtrooper helmet and raised him a pose-able Yoda.

But is anyone romantic anymore? Has romance ever really been a thing outside of literature. Do we dust reality off our hands before turning the front cover, rather like leaving a muddy pair of shoes outside the back door? If we suspend reality to enjoy a work of fiction, then anything goes. Is romance just a notion invented by early authors?

Blinded by the romance of it all

When I hear girls complaining about their unromantic partners, I sometimes wonder what it is we expect from our partners. Chocolates and flowers? To be wined and dined?

They’re all just gestures aren’t they? I wouldn’t thank my other half for jumping out of a plane and snowboarding down a snow covered mountain to present me with a box of Milk Tray – I don’t like half the fillings and you get more chocolate to the pound in a Christmas tin of Quality Street. And it’s fine, you know, to just bring them round to my house, I don’t need a dramatic gesture.

And flowers just stink. I had a boyfriend once who bought me a red rose on valentine’s day. He left it on the floor outside my bedroom with a note, starting a treasure hunt… Which would lead me to the prize of… Him. I buried my nose amongst the petals and took a deep breath, and immediately started coughing and spluttering.

I knew exactly where he would be, so I don’t know why I bothered doing the treasure hunt, cursing him all over town because he knew my car overheated and couldn’t go very far. As I broke down just outside the town and waited an eternity for the RAC I took immense pleasure in imagining squashing the red rose in his face.

When I finally got to the pub I realised it had been a ruse to distract me so he could watch football. What an absolute insult. Not only do I not give a crap about Valentine’s Day or flowers, but I also missed the match. Apparently he didn’t know me very well at all, if he thought I would rather traipse across town on my own in a car spewing smoke from under the bonnet than sit in a pub with him and watch my own team play.

Just be nice

Sometimes I hear girls say things like “well, he knows I love tennis so he got me tickets to Wimbledon, he’s so romantic” or “we went to Venice to see Verdi’s Requiem, it was so romantic.” But see, for me, I’d rather get a KFC boneless banquet and watch The Simpsons.

imageDo we, in fact, confuse a simple case of doing something nice with romance? I don’t consider it particularly romantic on my part, if I return from the shops with Cheesecake for dessert as a treat, it’s simply a gesture because I know my other half likes cheesecake. Once in a while he’ll present me with a packet of shortbread fingers because, as I’m fond of declaring, I love shortbread. I always rip the packet open, and after the first bite I say to him “this is how I know you still love me, when you buy me shortbread for no reason.”

But if he told me he loved me, unprompted, I’d furrow my brow and give him a sideways glance of suspicion and probably just say, “well, good, I should hope so too!”

The suffragettes called and they want their bras back

I’m a sucker for a good romance novel. The pure fantasy of being swept up in strong manly arms and showered with kisses and declarations of love. But in real life I think I’d just find that a bit too full on. The male love interest in a lot of novels, is described as being strong and powerful, capable of taking care of his leading lady, protecting her, treating her like a princess. In real life that sort of behaviour would be creepy and controlling.

Take Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight. These books have had women going insane over Christian Grey and Edward Cullen, while they imagine themselves playing the damsel in distress characters of Ana and Bella. Seriously, these girls haven’t got a backbone between them. Do you know what I would do if my boyfriend started spying on me at work and forbid me from walking to the sandwich shop to buy lunch, or sulked if I even spoke to another man? That’s right, I’d dump him. Probably slap a restraining order on him too!

So what does it mean to be romantic? Have you ever been swept off your feet and treated like a literary heroine? Or is romance just a work of fiction?




* By the way, I did love Jefferson’s Tale, which is a welcome relief because a friend of ours was in it and it would have been awkward if it had been rubbish. Thankfully it wasn’t and neither was our friend, who was pretty awesome actually.

Does romance only exist in fiction?