Friday, April 18, 2008

romantic manifesto

The short version:



The long version:

Last night I was out with an old friend who asked me if I would consider myself romantic.

I thought about it for a minute and said that yes, I do (it was kind of a similar thought process and answer to the time I was being interviewed by the journalist for The Nation, and told her I considered myself a feminist -- something like Inigo Montoya, "I do not think it means what you think it means").

Then I had to define what I thought was romantic.

[WARNING!!! I am going to give away the endings of things!]

My romantic heroine is Agnes Wickfield from David Copperfield. Agnes was good, and virtuous, and sweet, and self-sacrificing, and the best daughter and friend anyone could wish for. She loved David even when he was a creep and married the most ignorant girl on the face of the planet. And she was still willing to forgive him when he came back from the Alps, a depressed middle-aged widower having found his senses.

My favorite Jane Austen story is Persuasion, because Anne and now-I-forget-his-name loved each other for years and years without even talking to each other. And even though they were sad over it, she kept on keeping her family out of trouble, and he went out and won wars and stuff. And in the end it all worked out.

My favorite Austen heroine is Elinor, because even when she thinks she can't marry Edward, Elinor is comforted by the fact that she has loved a good man and that his choosing to give her up is a sign of his good character. Then it's just icing on the cake that he actually ends up being able to marry her in the end.

I like superhero love stories, where the guy can never even tell the girl he loves her, because he is too busy saving the world.

I have always been more interested in the Beatrices and Benedicks than in the Romeos and Juliets.

And I get warm fuzzies reading about couples like the Newtons and the Edwards (Edwardses?).

I have an automatic suspicion of beautiful, lovey-dovey, starry-eyed, touchy-feely Hollywood-esque matches, maybe because my experience in literature has warned me about the Pierres and Helenes and Mariannes and Willoughbys and whoever-that-handsome doctor and his shallow wife were in Middlemarch. Ew, or the sick couple that didn't even know each other in A Room with a View. And I learned from Chekhov that, even if you have a beautiful wife, you may still find yourself suicidal and subsisting on vodka.

My ultimate romantic picture is more like an old couple I saw one time at the dentist's office.

This is love. And this.

Does that count?


Daniel Jackson said...

Your ideas intrigue me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

HyperElbow said...

I don't think superheroes keep their love a secret because they are busy. They do it because if their evil nemesis were to find out about their love interest it would put the object of their affection in danger. I generally find it frustrating that they can never be together for one reason or another, whatever the reason may be.

I doubt there really is such a thing as a female who isn't romantic. I don't find superhero love stories to be particularly romantic, but I agree about most of the other love stories you mentioned.

When I read what you wrote about Agnes you could have just as well have been describing yourself. I admittedly don't know you as well as I'd like to, but I would guess you are those things. I pray you will find a less creepy man that will appreciate all those things about you, sooner than later.