Saturday, February 17, 2018

You Think This Happens Everyday? // Romance and Keeping it Real




"This is true love," Westley tells Buttercup, his beloved, at the beginning of the classic film The Princess Bride. "You think this happens every day?"

This is enough to convince Buttercup that she can follow Westley to the ends of the earth. If you've seen the movie, you know that while Buttercup can be rather damsel-in-distress-y and Westley can be overly perfect, they are one of the most shippable ships of all time, and everyone (even the other characters) know it.

That last line, however, is one that people seem to have forgotten. And by "people", I mean YA authors.

"You think this happens every day?"

In The Princess Bride *minor spoilers ahead*, Westley and Buttercup fight their way through dozens of obstacles, including but not limited to quicksand, murderers, the unwanted third member of a love triangle (sort of?), giant rats, and even death itself. They share some wonderful and passionate kisses. Westley promises at one point, "I promise, I will always come for you."

"Not one couple in a century has that chance," one of the other characters tells Westley at one point in the film, referring to the romance that Westley and Buttercup have. So why is it that it seems every high school fling in fiction is "true love," something that doesn't happen every day?

In almost every contemporary I've read, the characters are in high school and are about 16. The girl (usually) has a hopeless crush on the boy, who is either way out of her league or isn't single. Then something happens that throws them together. And from there, the relationship is portrayed as absolutely perfect.

Until it randomly isn't and they get in a huge fight that will make or break them for the rest of their lives. Because apparently that's how high school dating works.

I'll be quite honest with y'all and admit: I've never dated. I'm in high school, and I see no reason to waste my time on shallow relationships that won't last. I can't wait to get married someday. But I don't really mind if it takes a while to get there, or if I haven't had a ton of flings between now and then.

Even with my inexperience, I'm willing to bet that high school relationships don't tend to end in marriage for the rest of your life. I've seen high school relationships, and I've seen that it's very, very uncommon to have one last for long. In college, long-term relationships might not be so rare. My own parents met, dated, and married in college, and are approaching their 21st anniversary.

I do have friends who have dated in high school, however, and on average, their relationships last a few months. I had one friend who was with the same girl his entire senior year, but last I checked, they're both single again.

This is reality. The "true love" of high school is not reality. Only 2% of couples will marry their high school sweetheart--and that's usually once they're already adults (18 and up.) True love doesn't come along in high school, and if it does, it usually takes a while to recognize it. What if the teen dating scene was portrayed realistically in fiction? I understand that that makes it less interesting, but at the same time, couldn't it be more interesting?

And another thing--the physical aspect of intimacy? There really isn't anything wrong with waiting. Someday, I'd love to see a mainstream novel where not ONLY is there no steamy making out or sex or anything like that, but the characters who aren't doing it aren't portrayed as goody two-shoes who just don't want to have any fun! (Looking at you, Caraval.)

Believe me, I'm not at all bashing romance here. I'm all for ALLLL the romantic subplots, especially when the characters are mature and maybe a little bit older. But the idea that YA books seem to be propagating is that you WILL meet your true love when you're sixteen. And this leads to unfulfilled expectations, unhealthy dating habits, and broken hearts when it doesn't work out the way the books tell us.

What if there were more books where this unreasonable standard wasn't so prevalent? That's my challenge to you today: If you're a writer, write a book about teens who don't have any romantic relationships and are still 100% fulfilled and doing something awesome with their lives. If you're a reader, try to find such a book on the shelves of your library. One that I'd recommend right now that has very little romance (and what there is is between mature adults) is All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (which does pretty well by RW standards; only a couple of cuss words and no physical lusty attraction.) If you've found a really good book where there's minimal or mature romance, let me know about it in the comments! I'm always looking for that sort of book. <3

Let's raise the standards. Let's allow our books to show life as it really is--real and messy and not always perfect. Let's help teens focus on the things that are valuable for them now.

Let's write and read rebellious.

~Faith


27 comments:

  1. I agree with some points you make: Waiting for marriage, not rushing into things, ridding books of all that lust. I also agree that it is more unlikely for high school sweet-hearts to marry, but I do think it happens a bit more than most people think. I also think if romance is portrayed as broken, with no one being perfect, then it works better. Okay, lust is bad, but some people stuggle with it. I wonder why there can't be a book showing someone stuggling with it, but overcoming it.

    You made excellent points! Keep up the awesome work.

    ~Ivie

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    1. Now THAT sounds like an excellent book, Ivie. :)

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  2. Love this post! I agree--I would LOVE to read a contemporary book where there is no romance. That's my goal as a writer. :))

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    1. I would love more of those too! I've found a few really good ones, but I can never remember which ones they are when I try to come up with recommendations. :P

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  3. Great post!

    I really wish more writers would realize that relationships, while great, aren't the only thing teens deal with.

    I can't wait to read All the Crooked Saints! XD

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    1. Thanks!

      I agree. :P

      YOU WILL LOVE IT. <333333

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  4. Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer. It's a contemporary novel and it does have one small romance subplot between teenagers and one kiss, but it honestly isn't about the romance. In fact, the romance is a very minuscule plot line that is never really expanded on past the (extremely NOT graphic) kiss. It was a good read and it also talks about food, like, LOTS AND LOTS of food. So that's a plus.

    Martin Hospitality by Abigayle Claire is another contemporary that I would whole-heartedly recommend. Again, there is a small romance subplot, but it's handled so well and so accurate to how life is sometimes that I think Abigayle deserves a prize or something.

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    1. I keep seeing Joan Bauer's books, and I'd really like to pick one up sometime! It may take a while, but I certainly mean to grab 'em at some point.

      I loved Martin Hospitality! <3

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  5. So, many good points. People don't really understand what it means to be in a relationship. It's taken too lightly, as if it's just no big deal. But age doesn't make much of a difference. I've had friends start dating at 16, and marry when they are 17/ 18. But they understood their relationship was going to take work... and so they work to stay in love. To write romances like this, to inspire the world to be less selfish, that's what I'd like to do. Great post!

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    1. Yes. If the people are mature, then sure--write mature relationships. I just hate how flippantly it's portrayed. Thank you! :D

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  6. Loved this post. You are wise high school young woman!! Will share on FB.

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  7. I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING HERE. It's definitely a lie that 16 is the age you fall in love (I'm sure there are some high school couples who stick together until adulthood and then get married, but STILL), and yet YA books seem to make finding true love at 16 a thing. Like, wuuuuut??

    Amazing post, Faith!

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    1. Not to explicitly say you can't fall in love at 16, but that 16 is not THE age for falling in love, which is what you said. Just to clarify. :)

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    2. Yes. I definitely agree--I'll be sixteen in a few months, and by YA standards I'll be meeting my true love at that point! O_O (I mean, I really, really hope that doesn't happen...I'd really like to go to college...)

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  8. I proofread this post before Ash Wednesday, in lieu of the fact that I'm supposed to be giving up romance-y stuff for Lent :)

    That being said, I think this is your best post yet, Faith! I really love how you used a classic romance such as The Princess Bride to make such a connection :). I can't wait for more chaste and slower relationships to start appearing in books :).

    Catherine

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    1. Aww, thank you, Catherine! You're so sweet. I love the Princess Bride so much, and it was fun to draw that comparison. <3

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  9. Thank you for this post!! It’s so true and I too look forward to more meaningful and realistic relationships in novels. This is partly why I’m writing my contemporary novel. Even though it’s about a group of college students, I don’t want it to center on mushy romances that are “perfect”. Instead, I want to illustrate true and lasting friendships between all the characters.

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  10. Such good thoughts- love these, and love your Princess Bride comparison.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    elissa // letters-to-jayna.blogspot.com

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  11. *jaw drop* this was GORGEOUS! *sobs*
    THANK YOU FLORID SWORD FOR THIS PIECE OF AMAZINGNESS!

    Why haven't I subscribed to this blog yet!? I mean I was supposed to be subscribed but I guess it never went through or something. I am now!!!

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    1. Oh my goodness, Libby, thank you so much! <3

      Ooh, yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  12. You make some good points, Faith! :) While I don't mind romance in my stories, I do think it's unhealthy to tell teenagers that you find your perfect soulmate at such a young age -- while some might fall in love, people are broken, and that always leads to struggles in every relationship. There's no such thing as a perfect relationship or person!

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    1. I don't mind romance in my stories either, I just think there's an unhealthy standard. :D I'm still ALL FOR a good romantic (sub)plot, just as long as there's a little variety here and there.

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  13. THE PRINCESS BRIDE!!! I love how you did that. :)

    Great post Faith!! :) I agree with you completely.

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