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Why Romance Novels are the Bane of My Existence...But Also the Love of My Life

Written by Rachel Snyder

February 1, 2022

Reading is a funny thing if you really think about it. You’re sitting utterly still while your mind is exploding with vivid smells, sights, and sounds. Although you haven’t moved, you can be transported into faraway places filled with adventure, love, and drama. It’s like you can live a thousand lives in one, so, take that one cats. Nine lives seem pretty crappy now huh?

What I personally love about reading is the fact that through it, it is socially acceptable for you to concoct stories in your head, drifting off into places like it is your own personal movie theater. Not to mention, reading makes you look impressive as hell. You obviously look intelligent, but there is this quality about you that is mysterious and alluring when you’re reading a book. I can go on for days about how reading has changed my life, most notably how it feeds my god complex, but I’m here to explain one of its downfalls: devastatingly unrealistic expectations.

I love to read many genres, but romance will forever hold a special place in my heart. I am a romance reader through and through, mainly because I know there will be a satisfying ending. No matter how tumultuous the story, I can always count on the characters professing their undying love for each other. Yes, it is incredibly cheesy, but I can’t help but love the little beat my heart skips when two fictional people have found happiness.

Books and stories are wonderful, but they have made me blindly unaware of what reality is. It’s not like I’m out here expecting some extravagant gesture like a horse and carriage adorned with my favorite flowers or a knight in shining armor. But I am holding out for that all-consuming love that only things like songs, movies, photographs, and books can capture. What I want is a love that puts all of these works of art to shame…is that too much to ask for?

Reading love stories with every bit of free time I have has sent me down a rabbit hole of perfect men who are all so conveniently handsome, smart, and sophisticated. The term, “men written by women” is an all too real phenomenon I have experienced since picking up my first romance novel. It explains why fictional characters, especially men, are detailed in a way only a woman can articulate. A man that understands your innermost thoughts, feelings, and wishes to the point where you can’t help but recognize that they are your destined other half. I’m sure other romance readers can totally relate, but it is a continual letdown when your real love interests never measure up to your books ones.

College is supposed to be the time where you figure yourself out. You’re basically character building through the weird and chaotic experiences you have in your twenties. You’re supposed to go on horrible dates, make mistakes, fall in love, and even get your heart broken. College relationships, especially now in the age of social media and dating apps, are swift and fleeting. They are nothing close to that “insta-love” you see romanticized in works of art. “Insta-love” is this concept where sheer eye contact would make a man weak in the knees, a superpower we all wish we had. Safe to say, whirlwind romances are not the norm in college. Instead, college romance is essentially just realistic. At this point, a “u up” text is basically a marriage proposal and being left on read is really just a break up. Talking stages can last for three months and all you get out of it is a headache and maybe an invitation to a frat house. How sweet.

However, I've noticed in my personal life that I’m not having any of these embarrassing moments that are supposed to characterize your twenties. I feel like I'm not experiencing what I should be because I’m waiting patiently to be swept off my feet. Not only is this completely unrealistic, but also it is preventing me from actually having these meaningful experiences that are supposed to shape who I am. Reading has given me a blueprint for what I want in a person, but it is only these experiences that can show me what I actually need in a relationship. So yes, I do have an overly optimistic view of love thanks to reading. However, instead of using it to hinder my own “coming of age story”, I want to start to use reading to advance it.

I’m basically a walking oxymoron. I am a romantic and a cynic. I want a great love story, but PDA makes me want to vomit. I believe in an all-consuming love, but I think it is entirely unattainable. It’s safe to say I need to do some soul searching, maybe even a deep psychological evaluation of my love life. I do want to make it clear though, just because I harness these unrealistic expectations does not mean I have to give them up. I am allowed to want relationships that make me feel like I am the main character in my own story. I’m not ashamed to have standards, and neither should you. Take it from me, your favorite romantic and skeptic, that you deserve a love so great that no number of epic poems, rom coms, or Taylor Swift songs can amount to. Now that, I can promise you.

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