Romantic comedies. Ah, the genre we all have a soft spot for. We will proudly watch the classic When Harry Met Sally or Notting Hill, shamelessly imitating the famous orgasm scene in the diner or silently miming to ourselves ‘I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy…asking him to love me’, before bursting into tears. Or perhaps it’s the slightly cringe 10 Things I Hate About You or The Last Song, viewed in the privacy of our bedrooms with a tub of ice cream, with the pretence that we’re actually watching a classic Tarantino or something because we do not want to have to justify our cravings for the cheese.
I daydreamed about when my life would turn out somewhat like the movies
I loved romantic comedies. And I still do, don’t get me wrong – but not like I used to. Before I had a boyfriend, I loved them. I’d imagine meeting a stranger somewhere, maybe in a cafe or a bookshop. Or perhaps there would be a new guy in my class and we would hate each other at first (When Harry Met Sally), but we would get into a huge argument and it would get really heated and then he’d suddenly kiss me and I’d be taken aback, but the electricity would be undeniable. I daydreamed about when my life would turn out somewhat like the movies. And then I got a boyfriend – not in the way the movies said I would, but I did – and it was magical, sure. Fairy-tale like, infatuated with each other, and all that jazz that happens the first time you fall in love. And then it ended. And I hated rom coms.
Now this was partly to do with me being bitter towards anyone who looked remotely happy at the time, but it dug deeper than that, and still stays with me today when I sit down to watch a romantic comedy. When you fall in love for the first time and you’re happy and everything is great, it is so easy to buy into the lies that you are told on screen. That this will probably last forever. That even if you do break up you’ll end up together again eventually because some people are ‘meant to be’ (The Notebook – and obviously that’s you and your beau, you’re so much more compatible than any other couples you know). That you will always be deeply in love with your first love, no matter what you do, no matter what other amazing guys you meet – if you bump into them ten years later, all of the same feelings will come rushing back (Mamma Mia). Let me just tell you now, that as a girl who was going through a break-up, wanting something to reassure her that everything was going to be okay, this is not what I needed to see.
And not only that, but it wasn’t true. The way you meet a guy is never like the movies. Your eyes do not meet across the room (Romeo and Juliet). You do not get those mythical butterflies in your stomach when you first talk to them (Serendipity). You probably didn’t even notice them properly the first time you met them. Oh, and if you happen to be saved by a handsome stranger in a moment of distress (The Wedding Planner) or spill orange juice on them in the street, and you have a moment, you most likely will not see them ever again in your whole entire life – especially if they’re famous. Yes, I’m talking about you, Notting Hill.
Where is my Mr Darcy and why has he not swept me off of my feet yet?
This is not to say crazy, coincidental, ‘fate’ like moments don’t happen – they 100% do. Just not to most of us. And first loves are magical. They are everything that you thought they would be and more. But when they end, they end. Yeah, it takes a while to get over them, but you do get over them. And the films that tell you otherwise are hugely detrimental to that process of trying to come to terms with the fact that your perfectly planned out life with ‘the only person you’ll ever truly love’ (whether it be your first love, or second, or third…) is not going to happen after all.
This is not just me venting out my frustration at the rom coms that personally made me feel a bit shit. It’s to all those girls out there who I know have had the same feeling at some point or another. Whether it was during a break-up, a time of low self-esteem, of loneliness, or just of never having fallen in love and wondering why? Where is my Mr Darcy and why has he not swept me off of my feet yet? The media puts unrealistic expectations on men and women about how they should behave if they want their happily ever after.
Following on from the Bridget Jones reference, let’s expand on this example. Bridget Jones is an example of a modern day woman, not super skinny or super ‘together’ – a loveable character, someone we can all relate to at some point or the other, whether it be because of her incessant swearing, drowning her sorrows in alcohol, her embarrassing mother or saying the worst things at the worst possible times. And yeah, she meets an arsehole in the form of Hugh Grant. Gets screwed over. But then the ever so gracious Mr Darcy comes along to save her. And after not really spending much time with each other, they decide they want to be together! How lovely.
But then there is the sequel, and they break up! Ah well, it happens. Sometimes no matter how much people love each other, their lives just aren’t compatible. There is a lot more that goes into a relationship than just love after all. What a shame. Oh…oh no, sorry, they’re together again! They realised it was all just a big misunderstanding. True love prevailed.
What irritated me was his constant re-appearance, giving the impression that there is one person out there for you
But then the third movie comes along…lo and behold, they’ve broken up…again. When you break up twice it is probably a sign you aren’t good for each other and should just move on with your life. Find someone else. Possibly someone you’ll think twice about before breaking up? Maybe go for someone more on your wavelength? Wait…what was that? She’s pregnant? With his child? And they still love each other! Wow, well what do you know. True love really does conquer all. He was even willing to stand by her side if the child was someone else’s! What a stand up guy.
So, they’ve given us a character to relate to. Someone who does not have ‘everything’ that the media promotes us women to aspire to have, but who is still confident, witty and generally pretty damn fabulous. They give us a bit of a dick, who charms her, who she can’t help falling under the spell of. Then they give us the hero, the slightly more unrealistic guy. Not to say that there are not amazing men out there who do live up to expectations and perhaps even exceed them sometimes (I’d like to think that I have one of those). It’s fine that the story ends happily ever after because it’s been done in a not so conventional way with a female protagonist that is more like the average, real woman. But when I heard that they had broken up in the third movie, it felt bittersweet. Of course everyone was rooting for them, but I liked that she wasn’t with her knight in shining armour and she was still okay. She could still find someone else and be just as happy if not more. What irritated me was his constant re-appearance, giving the impression that there is one person out there for you and no matter who else you meet, that is the one you should be with.
You do not require another half, but it is lovely to have one to add to your whole anyway
This may just be my opinion, but I’m going to put it out there as fact so forgive me. If you’re reading this, and think that there is one person out there for you, and if you don’t have them then you won’t ever be truly happy – it is not true. It is so easy to think that way, because relationships are so special and unique and cannot ever be replicated. And it is true that you might not ever feel the same way about someone as you felt about your first love. Or your second. Or your third. But you might also feel more. More is something that may seem unreachable because you have already reached your peak, but there is no peak. There’s just difference. Every relationship is different. Every person is different. Every love is different. By no means lower your standards, but if that ‘perfect’ person in your head resembles anything like the characters you watch in the movies, be more realistic. Know that real life and real love is harder than that. It’s not all drama and passion – sometimes it’s boring old compromise and practicality. And if things don’t work out, don’t hang around waiting for them. Mourn, and then move on – and know that you can truly move on, even if it takes you some time. Most importantly, make your life happy and complete because it’s yours, not because someone else is in it. Think of them as an added bonus. Someone who you really want there and who makes everything better, but not someone you need. You do not require another half, but it is lovely to have one to add to your whole anyway.
This is an introduction to a set of anonymous articles we are going to have lined up for you every Tuesday, on various topics such as first loves and break ups. If any of you wish to share your experiences, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can say first hand that reading about other people’s realities can really help people with their own. Look out for our first anonymous piece next Tuesday, in our feature Relationships: the love and the hate.
Image: Universal Pictures