I do not hate love stories. On the contrary, my idealistic feminine side sometimes craves Jane Eyre. There is satiating pleasure when Jane finally realizes that she cannot live without Mr. Rochester and rushes back to him, conveniently discovering that there is no longer a barrier between them. “And they lived happily ever after” (I do not apologize for spoiling the ending; shame on you for not reading it). The story warms my heart, but I find myself battling the belief that love is not love unless there is heart-rending turmoil. Not to exonerate all the oblivious males in the world, but men, you do not stand a chance with a woman whose ideal male is the product of an early nineteenth-century female imagination.
While I enjoy the stories where the girl gets the unattainable guy, I still find my eyes rolling in their sockets. Why? Because apart from the warm-fuzzies emanated, they are myopic. Statistically, I wager more marriages are like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s than Mr. and Mrs. Snaith’s (or is it Redfern now?). I mean, hello, the world is not full of beat-all-the-odds Mr. and Mrs. Darcies, nor are women all of a sudden discovering that their mysterious husbands are actually heirs to millions and their favorite authors to boot. I am sure it has happened, but seeing how there are two people in a relationship, it is rare that chemical attraction is enough to sustain a lifetime of seeing the same person every day. If it were, there would be fewer divorces. Furthermore, it grates on my sensibilities that in love stories only young nuptial couples seem to love. Look at the long-married couples in the novels and tell me how many are portrayed in a contented light. I can wait.
Trouble finding them? Me too, yet every time I read a love story, I find myself cheering for the couple whose relationship will end in all probability like those of the unhappy long-marrieds’. Man, I am cynical. Case-in-point: after feel-good novels like The Blue Castle, I find a need for the unrequited love in Edith Wharton’s or Emily Bronte’s novels. Perhaps my biggest complaint about love stories is the feeling of unrealistic expectancy: either I will meet with my own Mr. Knightly and live happily ever after, or be plagued by my love for Heathcliffe, make a loveless match, die, and eternally wander the moors (I get choked-up just thinking of that book). My eyes roll because the portrayal of love as the all-consuming, most important emotional pastime of life is frankly annoying. I feel dismissed as an independent single woman. Just once, will someone please write a story about an independent woman where love is not even a subplot?
Maybe I will write a modern version of The Blue Castle where Valancy tells her family to go overdose on Redfern’s Purple Pills and takes off to hike the Himalayas with her pet llama named Seymour. This time, the blue castle will be a real fortress set in the forest of the highest mountain and is infested with blue-butted monkeys (that is where the castle gets its nickname; from a distance, it looks blue because of all the lazy monkeys sitting on its crenellations), which she will have the honor of naming after herself: Monkious valancia. Then, Seymour will spit in the eyes of all the monkeys, thus causing them to become extinct gargoyles. Having saved the world, even though the world never knows it, Valancy will rename the castle Seymourtopia and be free from the annoyance of her family and the lazy, blue-butted monkeys. The end.
Then again, maybe I will just go read The Count of Monte Cristo.