Today, B and I have been married for two months. Rather than write about our sex life (it hasn’t changed that much) or my ongoing physical issues (new pain=less action=not great physically or mentally), I want to talk about my relationship with fiction.
Growing up, I read a ton. A ton of young adult novels, and lots of romance novels too. (Though I knew even then that they were pretty ridiculous.) I watched vast amounts of romantic comedies and dramas. I swooned over Mr. Darcy and Johnny Castle. Lately, I’ve tried to pinpoint how my view of fictional representations of love and romance has shifted; let’s see if I can articulate it. Before I fell in love with my husband (so for 31 years, people), I drank romantic stories in and loved (most of) them, and longed for romance myself, wished and waited for it. All the while I was very aware that the stories were fiction, and that love wouldn’t happen exactly as I saw it or read it, if it were to happen at all. But knowing that what I read and watched wasn’t real did not help me to know how it would be when it was real. I literally could not know or understand how it would feel to be in love with someone until it happened. Fiction was all I had to go on. Well, fiction and my parents’ marriage, but all that early romance stuff happened way before I was born. Maybe their marriage is what happens when the movie ends…
I can remember my sister talking to me on the phone, having just watched the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice (again) and saying with a giddy sigh how she wished romance could be like that. And I thought–wait, you’re married! Haven’t you experienced giddy romance? Isn’t that what falling in love and getting married is like? I didn’t understand it. And I was sad that my married sister was sighing over…fiction, even after experiencing real relationships. But I understand her now.
Movies and books need conflict and plot development. Stories need sparks to keep the audience engaged. But real life simply isn’t like that. There isn’t a story arc all mapped out nicely. And unless you create your own drama, life usually isn’t very dramatic. And thank goodness really.
Before B, I used to feel all aflutter over romantic story lines and really settle myself in to enjoy a romantic book or movie. I have quite a collection of both. And now I see, the stories are just so artificial. I know they’ve been created to entertain and titillate. The characters–are characters. Even if they’re three-dimensional, they’re still constructs speaking dialogue in a scripted story. And let’s not even get into the sex scenes. Of course, the perfect montages bugged me even before I had sex, but now. Sigh. No one would lie in their own bed completely wrapped in the top sheet. But here in the US, we can’t show breasts. Let’s see a real, comfortable relationship: I don’t put on a robe to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water, and I don’t wear pajamas unless I’m on my cycle (then bottoms only). But if we were to portray that on film, well then it would be a huge deal–nudity! So yes, the sex perfect scenes are ridiculous. But we, as an audience, want them to be. The purpose of fiction is to help the audience escape reality for a while.
But my point is, I just don’t enjoy romantic fiction the same way anymore. I’m not sure that this is a good or bad thing. I’m glad I’m not longing for fictional love and wishing my life away anymore. And I don’t think I can say that I don’t love fiction anymore because real life is so much better. It’s not better–it’s realer. Real life, real love, real sex, real marriage. Now I know what they are, and I’m more acutely aware of how unrealistic our fictional representations are. They’ve lost their appeal. Perhaps they’ve lost their place in my life because I don’t need them. Will I still feel the urge to escape reality and indulge in romantic fictions sometimes? I think so. But I think I’ll continue to be disappointed by it. Too kitschy? Too scripted? It just doesn’t ring true.
I wasn’t swept off my feet. I didn’t engage in verbal sparring matches with someone I thought I despised, only to fall for him later. I met a man. I liked him. And then I loved him. It was as simple as that–an easy, gentle falling. It doesn’t make for a very interesting plot line.
And now when I read or watch these fictional love stories, not only do I know for sure that they are not real, I know for sure what is real.
I will say that being married has changed me emotionally and psychologically. I have a husband–I am a wife. We’re committed to a life together. That’s amazing. Like, I’m still a little awestruck that we did such a big thing. I can stop searching and wondering. He’s here; he’s mine; we’re together. This is real. This is it.