My Fictional Romance

I had a fling with a guy this summer. My best friend introduced me to him. We were hot and heavy for about three months. I spent every spare moment with him, even putting up with his family and all their drama just so I could have some alone time with him later. It didn’t bother me that he had taken a vow of chastity or that he, you know, isn’t real. His name is Jon Snow, bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark (or is he?), and he was everything I had ever wanted in a man. Then he did what all my fictional boyfriends (and fictional best friends, mentors, so on) do—he left me.

I have a slight problem with becoming too emotionally invested in stories, whether it be a book series or a television show. This is sort ironic, because I tend to be cold and distant in real life relationships. I could not tell you the last time I cried over a guy, but I was a blubbering mess when Dumbledore met his end. I have read thousands of books and watched thousands of television shows and movies in my lifetime, and there are a handful of characters that I fell completely, stupidly, childishly in love with. I already mentioned Jon Snow and Albus Dumbledore. Some others who stole my heart are:  Harry Dresden, Frodo Baggins, Sam and Dean Winchester, Rick Grimes, Hermione Granger, Eric Northman, Finny from A Separate Peace, Lyra Belacqua, Odd Thomas, Andy Botwin, and Percy Jackson.*

The relationships I have with these characters are unhealthy. Sure, it’s great while it lasts, but it always ends. My love always goes unrequited. Because unrequited love makes for great writing inspiration, even that fact isn’t the main reason these relationships are toxic. The problem with all these relationships is that they are severely out of balance. You can love a fictional character, but he can’t love you back. These relationships are completely void of reciprocity, and they ultimately cannot fulfill any of your needs other than your need to love someone.

Wait a second. Shouldn’t the problem be that none of these people are real?

These characters are, in fact, real. They exist within the fictional world, and, let’s face it; most writers at least have a summer home there, and some of us make the daily commute. The natives of this land I’ve aptly named “The Imagined-Nation” are all the people we wish we could meet in real life. We know these people better than we know our friends because we can see inside their heads. We really know them—what kind of people they are, what they fear, what motivates them, what they will do when their backs are against the wall. They are what is absent in the real world. They are honor and nobility, courage and integrity, kindness and loyalty, strength and humility. They have never let us down, unlike so many people in real life. It doesn’t hurt that they also tend to be at least somewhat attractive, but usually have some sort of endearing flaw, like a scar, that reminds us that nobody is perfect. The real world contains so few good-looking people who also have values that it is not surprising that fictional characters can be so appealing.

These relationships are not completely negative, though. We can learn things from these characters. They teach us how to be brave, how to overcome adversity, and how to do the right thing even when it is the hardest thing. They set an example of selflessness, protecting the weak and fighting for the oppressed. Their lives are full of adventure, danger, and romance–all the things we wish we had more of in our lives. Could it be possible what I feel for these characters is not love, but, in fact, envy?

It is both. I love these characters, but I must be careful not to step over into obsession. As long as I keep fiction separate from real life, why not enjoy a tryst with one of my favorite made-up people every once in a while? The Imagined-Nation is a place nice to visit, but you can’t live there forever. I will always love you, Jon Snow, but it is time to break up. I hope we can still be friends. I will keep on watching Game of Thrones and reading A Song of Ice and Fire, but this time I will keep the heartbreak at bay by not letting myself develop feelings that you can never return. But, if you ever break your vows again, I swear I will…oops. This might be harder than I thought.

*When I say I fell in love with these characters, I do not necessarily mean romantic love. I am not a lesbian, not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Lloyd Christmas Syndrome or No, I will not go out with you

Why can’t men take hints? I know some women are flattered when a man hits on them or asks them out, even if they are not interested. Not me. I hate it. It makes me uncomfortable 99% of the time. The other 1% of the time, the guy is actually someone I might consider dating. The other 99% is full of creeps and weirdos, men old enough to be my dad, and boys young enough to need me to buy them beer. I am constantly baffled by the fact that they think they have a shot with me. (Not that I think I am hot shit or anything, but, really, Mr. Members Only Jacket?) I have come up with a theory for this. These men suffer from a condition I have coined “Lloyd Christmas Syndrome.”

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The women are the real victims here. The men who suffer from LCS are incapable of holding up their part of social contracts with the opposite gender.  What does this mean? Most social interactions are governed by a code of conduct, which includes etiquette, body language, and verbal clues. Men with LCS cannot comprehend these subtleties. They bombard innocent women with pick up lines, unwanted drinks, and sometimes unwelcome touching. LCS is categorized as a psychological disorder, because the actions of these men–doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results–mirrors types of insanity.

Although most of the time women do not welcome LCS attacks, they are not without blame when it comes to prevention.Women have been trying for centuries to reject men without hurting their feelings. Someone, somewhere, came up with the phrase “hard to get,” men everywhere heard about women playing hard to get, and LCS spread like wildfire. She won’t look me in the eye? She’s playing hard to get. She has her arms crossed, one eyebrow raised, and the look on her face screams, “You’ve got to be kidding?” She is playing hard to get. She isn’t listening to a word I’m saying, and is that her hand down that other guy’s pants? She must be playing hard to get. I know! I should try harder! I’ll just keep trying  and keep trying and keep on trying, and maybe one day I will wear down her resolve! She will be too weak to say no! I’ll make her want me, I will, I will, I will!

See what I mean about insanity?

LCS is a terrible affliction. It is rampant in settings where women provide customer service. A man with LCS cannot distinguish between when a woman is being nice because it is her job and when she is nice because she wants to bone him. Here’s an easy way to tell. Have you boned her yet? No? Ok, have you talked to her anywhere else besides her work? No? Well, do you know her last name? And it doesn’t count if it’s on her nametag or business card. No? Sorry to break it to you, guys, but she’s just not that into you. The sad thing is, this statement will not faze a man with fully blown Lloyd Christmas Syndrome. He hears this statement, but in his head there is one word added at the end:  She just not that into me yet.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to LCS. Even if women stop playing hard to get or start being blatantly honest in their rejections instead of trying to let men down easily, there are still going to be men who just don’t get it. Ladies, the next time one of these men asks you out, remember that you aren’t doing them any favors by being nice. Stand your ground, and say no as many times as you have to. If that doesn’t work, involve the authorities. Even men with LCS understand a restraining order.

Real Women

In my last post, I spoke of a meme I saw on facebook that bugged me. The time has come to reveal said meme:

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I will admit that it is sort of funny.  I am not the least bit offended by the implication that women should stick to making sandwiches instead of doing all that silly learning. What bugs me about this meme is the first two words: Real Women.

I see quotes and ecards abound that begin with “Real women” or “Real men” all the time. However, I am not a man. Since they seem perfectly capable of defending themselves, let’s just stick with real women for now.

Among the things that I’ve seen that are supposed to make a real woman, besides sandwich artistry (are there any single Subway workers? Could you put down your husband as a reference on their application?), are tattoos, watching football, drinking beer, and of course curves.

So what about those who hate tattoos, sports, and beer, and the girls who possess anthills instead of mountaintops? Are they not real? Do they simply not exist, or have they just not properly met the conditions for official membership in the gender?  Here is what Dwight Schrute has to say on the matter:

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Why don’t we see any quotes that actually qualify all women as women? Like, “Real women have ovaries,” or, not to leave out those who’ve had a hysterectomy, “Real women have two X chromosomes.” Now, that’s nearly all-inclusive, but it still leaves out those women who were unfortunate enough to be born as men. The phrase “real women” implies that there are women who do not deserve the title.

The gender lines have definitely blurred in the last few decades, but do we really live in a society where a claim to one’s gender is not an innate, inalienable right? Is it a title that can be taken away from us, something we have to prove? Why is it, that when a woman fails at a gender-specific part of her life, like being a mother or wife, she is automatically labelled as “not a good woman?” A man’s masculinity isn’t contingent upon his ability (or willingness) to be a father, so why should women feel pressure to succeed as “real women?”

A woman’s worth should not be defined by how she measures up to anyone else’s standards. I may not be able to make a decent sandwich, but I am still a Real Woman, whether Dwight can see me or not.