I’m participating in Write ALM’s Prompt-a-Day for the month of February. Feel free to join us!
Today’s prompt is
Once upon a time…
I’m not entirely sure that I’ve ever much believed in fairy tales. There was that whole period of my late teens and most of my 20s that I was devouring romance novels as fast as I could get my hands on them – literally one an evening, it seems. After awhile, though, the formula began to wear thin, and I realized that barring a few changed details, the stories were all the same: woman can’t handle whatever crisis is in her life; woman meets some man that she clashes with but whom she is powerfully attracted to; man is no good and will do nothing but ruin woman, but he can get her out of the jam she is in; woman and man can’t fight their attraction to each other; man hurts woman terribly; man comes to realize he loves woman; woman makes man earn his way back in (usually only takes a day or so before they can’t deny the powerful attraction); woman redeems man, man redeems woman; everyone lives happily ever after.
The formula bothered me. A lot. And I quit reading romance novels. For the most part. I don’t count Diana Gabaldon novels as romance novels.
The formula bothered me because I didn’t understand why the woman couldn’t handle whatever crisis on her own, and I didn’t understand why the man had to be so hateful during the whole process. That doesn’t sound like any kind of fun to me. Does it sound like fun to you?
I never dreamed of love affair that would make me feel less empowered and dependent. In fact, a long time ago, I decided that if I wasn’t going to be with someone who could handle all of me and who made me better than I was to begin with, then I wasn’t going to be with anyone. For a really long time, I was essentially alone and then for a long time, I couldn’t commit to a relationship. I’m not sure what I dreamed about, but what I have now is never what I would have imagined way back when.
One of the things that I love about this relationship with Sweet Husband is that it is so calm and drama-free. There’s not all the nonsense of those romance novels. We respect each other; we talk to each other; we do what needs to be done. Every so often when I read what is going on in other people’s relationships, I think (and often say!), “I’m so glad we aren’t idiots.” Which isn’t to say that we aren’t occasionally stupid, but we aren’t idiots. When we have our moments, they last a moment and then we are fixing the problem.
I get why romance novelists follow the formula – it’s what make them money, but I’ll take this version of “Once upon a time…” over their version any day. Happily ever after is much closer than it ever seemed so long ago.