I’ve been reading some of the works that my friends have bounced off me. Most of them are stories about passion, romance and more importantly about finding love. While at some level I understand that love is indeed a very important emotion, it seems to me that the romantic aspects of it are more highly exaggerated than other forms. Since I have experienced a relationship before, and several unrequited crushes, I understand that there is some appeal in the depiction of soul and yearning. Yes, I can relate to that once in a while. I know what it’s like to be “lovestruck”. Granted, it’s a beautiful feeling that’s very versatile in terms of writing, creativity and general art content. But forgive me, I need a break from this genre.
I see people walking around holding hands, talking about/doing very romantic things to each other. All of my friends are in very strong relationships too, so you will excuse me if I say that occasionally I do feel an inexplicable pang at not being in the same state as them. However, my opinion on that has changed. Earlier, I was so eager to fill this supposed void, that I went and committed a series of bad mistakes. Then, I recognized that I didn’t need a boyfriend to function optimally. Now, I simply make a mental note in my head that if someday in the future I do land up with a boyfriend, he’ll be a kind, special good human being. It’s okay if I don’t have one now, because somewhere the person I want is evolving into this beautiful state and evolution takes time. This entire anecdote was to prove that whenever I read sappy literature, I am not endowed with a feeling of being “inferior” or “incomplete” because I don’t have some immature, emotion-driven, rationale-deprived soul sharing the responsibility of my existence.
I’m going to detail some other reasons why my impression of such a powerful genre has been ruined (hopefully momentarily):
- I am an engineering student, most of my reading is technical, prosaic text. My favorite recreation genre is science fiction (no surprise there). When I’m feeling experimental, I would probably forage a bit into a romance story and allowed my emotions to be reduced to jelly. But the keywords here are “Once In A While”. Maybe it’s just my luck but I’ve been swamped with reading these sort of works for the past few days and frankly, beyond a point, it is annoying and pathetic. Some of the best love stories I’ve enjoyed always had the romance as a sub-plot. Which implies that the characters have something else to do with their lives besides weeping incessantly/moping. Love is this chance beautiful thing that’s come their way. But they wouldn’t be completely debilitated or comatose without it.
- As a reader, and maybe as a human being, I have a certain emotional capacity. This means that the depth of each individual emotion is inversely proportional to its frequency. I will be moved to tears once, twice, maybe even a third time. But I find it impossibly difficult to empathize with your character if he/she starts to condemn the world just because the object of their affections refused to smile their way for a few minutes. No, my heart is not going to break because you were kind to another girl instead of me (especially since I would prefer someone who is uniformly kind to everyone). I get that people in love overreact, and there’s also the whole Art imitates Nature belief from the Renaissance. But after a while, I can’t refrain from earnestly wanting to douse the protagonist in cold water and force them awake to the reality of life. There is no humanly possible way your heart strings are torn every single time. No way.
- As a self-proclaimed (rather pretentious, I apologize) authority on unreciprocated crushes, I know what it’s like to suffer very painful self-esteem issues and deal with the monsters in your head. I know how helpless and pathetic and terrible it feels to realize that your emotional well-being is so heavily dependent on some other authority who probably doesn’t even register that you exist. I don’t judge people for being insecure. We all have our own problems to deal with. But what really annoys me about romance writing and is how sometimes the literature seems to feed into the low-self-esteem obsession negatively. Again, this is also based on frequency and even the mood of the reader. When you’re feeling nostalgic or depressed and you want to empathize with a statement like, “It’s so hard to stop hating yourself because he/she didn’t love you back” [or some such equivalent], I completely understand. You’re allowed to have brief lapses into grief. But too many of those lapses and we have a wallowing specimen. When you’re in that sinkhole (as I’ve been), it takes a lot of effort to to start loving and respecting yourself. Literature or ideas that convey that you should continue missing the creature that hurt you simply disrespects the effort it takes to recover from such a harsh self-lesson.
- Absolutely outrageous comparisons annoy me. It takes the skill of very few talented writers to pull off a romance story filled with poignant silences and the like. As a logic-driven person by nature, I fail to comprehend how there is supposed to be a deeper meaning in a non-answer. Other such “deep” examples happen to include a couple that has a sparse conversation over breakfast and then you’re supposed to realize that the breakfast is actually an extended metaphor for their relationship and how the butter can be compared to diplomatic conversations smoothing out their life and so on. These authors are striving to evoke emotion by deriving meaning from literally nothing. Much as I appreciate quiet, reflective pieces, I do not like metaphors or comparisons that are “so far out” from my mental capacity that I need to strain myself to understand them. It’s bad enough that its packed with mush. It’s worse if you expect me to infer it from trivial examples and no psychological precedent. Breakfast is breakfast. Domestic squabble is domestic squabble. They are not interchangeable.
To be fair, this was also biased by my innate distaste for the genre. This genre has been popularized by so many high school girls and unbelievably large number of authors that without a truly fabulous setting or incredible talent, its all too easy to fall into a category of stale. Perhaps I should go finish a problem set or two and then return to this genre, in order to redeem its value. Maybe it is a reflection of my own emotional short-comings that I can’t empathize with their love stories as well as I’d like to. Until then, to all my story writing friends, please explore other genres. Seriously. Or send me the non-romance ones. Right now, I’d much rather read a botany essay than another one of those drama-oriented works.