Reader, I Dumped Him
Most romantic movies actually end where the relationship begins. The boy gets the girl, or vice versa and that’s it. A couple of kisses in the rain, a well-timed speech in a book-shop, and they sally off into the rosy near distance.
Most of the best parts of a relationship occur in the actual relationship. I find the chase as exciting as the next gal, but it’s weird to teach people that the goal is to get someone. Not to know them, or support them, but just to get them. Romantic partners are turned in status symbols, signifiers of success.
What does it teach women if we say that once we’ve got our Mr Darcy (Bridget Jones and Austen alike), we’ve reached the pinnacle of the narrative of our lives? It’s not just Hollywood romances that are guilty of this, the idea is prevalent in classical literature, music and Disney movies.
I don’t honestly believe that Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett had a marriage that was plain sailing, but I’ll never know, because we never get to see it. Same goes for Jane Eyre, who married a man who locked his old wife in an attic and then systematically lied about it. I bet he was a joy to live with.
And this isn’t just me being 22 and bitter, waving my fist at the sky and screaming ‘Love isn’t real, you idiots!’. Love is, in my opinion, kind of the whole point of everything. That can be love of yourself, your friends and of course, your partner. But these stories don’t show the good stuff, the human stuff. These stories just tell us that romantic partners are objects to be attained and that Hugh Grant will finally get the balls to tell that American woman that he loves her.
Not only do these stories teach us that our lives both begin and end with romance, they also imply that your nobody unless somebody’s in love with you. Being in love is amazing, of course. But it’s not all roses and meals on little candle lit tables. In my experience it’s also crying so much you think you might pass out and getting weird, dramatic bobs to regain some kind of sense of independent selfhood. Some of the happiest times of my life have been when I’ve been alone. Women are taught to feel like failures if we aren’t in relationships. Women are spinsters, men are bachelors.
My expectations of men and romance were predicated on stories like this and oh boy, was I disappointed. But, after I was disappointed, I learned what actual love is like. And (spoiler alert) it’s actually better than it’s marketed as. Because all the messy parts that these narratives skip are the parts of human life that make it so exciting.
Women should be allowed to strive for things other than romance, as well as being taught how difficult romantic partnership is. There are a million things to achieve in your life; being in love should be just one of them. Life doesn’t end when you meet someone, and it doesn’t begin either. The narrative just rolls on, full of possibility.