Monday, March 17, 2014

Romance in Literature

Last week, I decided to watch a movie from my childhood, The Swan Princess.  This movie brings back fond memories of growing up, singing the songs and spending time with my family.  In fact, while watching the movie, I spent the first ten to fifteen minutes quoting the entire thing.  And I definitely sang all of the songs without difficulty. 

However, as I was watching, I started thinking about the kind of ideas that this movie gives children.  And when I say ideas, I mean specifically describing romance and creating expectations. 

I loved romance as a kid.  Movies, books, etc.  That was my favorite genre.  And The Swan Princess was one of my favorites.  Derek goes to extraordinary lengths to prove his love to Odette, and even when he knows he’s lost, he keeps fighting.  It’s a story of true love, or what I assumed was true love.  But as I started watching, I was a little surprised by how forced the romance felt. 

Derek and Odette spend their entire lives forced together, but hating each other.  While watching, my husband tried to guess their ages as they grew up, and said something along the fact that Derek probably noticed that he had feelings for Odette when she was flirting ‘with the castle guards.’  But he didn’t really realize what he was feeling until that moment when she was pushed in the room, all grown up and stunning.  That’s actually quite common in romantic shows, that a man doesn’t realize that he’s in love until the woman appears dressed up and beautiful.

Over the years, I’ve adjusted my idea of what true love is.  When I was in high school, I worked at a retirement home where I became friends with quite a few of the residents there.  There was one couple that became my hallmark for ‘true love.’  He lost a leg in war and had to ride around in a wheelchair.  She had more health problems and was on continuous oxygen.  But together, they were able to function as one.  She pushed his wheelchair while he held her purse, and her oxygen hung on the back of his chair.  Every night, they split a fruit plate for dessert. 

Then, I fell in love myself.  It did take me quite a while to realize that I was in love, especially since it started as friendship.  But what surprised me the most was that my husband never made a grand gesture to prove his love.  He didn’t fight a ‘great animal,’ he never raced across an airport to profess his love, and he never offered himself a sacrifice to save my life.  What he did do was become a constant in my life, someone who I could talk to about anything, someone who never judged me for who I was. 

He didn’t fall in love with me because of the way that I dress, or because I wore a lot of makeup, but because of who I was.  He was impressed with my piano playing, my attempt to learn Spanish, my aptitude for learning.  And I fell in love with his easygoing nature, his dependability and his adaptability.

Love isn’t always a grand gesture like shown in the movies.  Sometimes it’s something as small as supporting one another’s weaknesses, whether it be physical or emotional.  And that’s something I look for now when I read romances.  Difficulties due to lack of communication and lies tend to leave me cold.  I want to read more natural romances, where it builds slow and strong, not to be broken by a simple arguments and clashes in personalities.

How about you?  What kind of romance do you look for in literature?