We’ve all read romance novels where the man says/does exactly what the heroine wants to hear or needs to be done. Except: that is not what a real man would say or do. A otherwise realistic hero is rendered a fake thought up by a dreaming female author. When I read what a Perfect Hero says or does and it jarrs against the hard reality, I suddenly drop the suspesion of disbelief that made me think—for a minute, for an hour, or more—that this tale I’m reading could be possible. Am I an expert on the male-kind? Probably not. Am I fluent in their ways of thinking? ….possibly. Do I now understand what makes them tick and what throws a cog in their system? Yep. Or at least, I know enough.
To illustrate what I mean, and how the male/female brains work differently, I need to break it down into scenarios.
- What she wants him to say or do.
- What she is afraid he will say or do.
- What he really thinks or does.
Now, the first option is the one taken by the Female Romance Authors because it’s what a woman wants to happen. This is the road I call BS on, because it so very rarely happens, and when it does, it is because it is a culturally-accepted option that is almost deemed a requirement. Like…engagement. Though that very rarely happens at the moment the heroine is perfectly prepared for it. Men and women’s relationship clocks tick at different times, and usually someone is left anxious and wondering if the anticipated engagement will ever happen. Not always. But much, much more often than is indicated by Hollywood or romance novels.
The second option is probably the only thing that Female Romance Authors hit on the head, though I find myself far too annoyed with the heroine’s hang-ups to really sympathize with her. Maybe I’m a much more courageous woman than those heroines. I want to have a cuppa something with her, sit her down, and say, “Maybell. Let me get this straight: You can face down a mob wanting to burn you at the stake, but you can’t tell your lover that you can’t have children and are terrified he will leave you for a woman that will? Grow some boobs, Maybell. Seriously. Grow some A-cups, at least! Stuff it with tissues if you gotta! If that’s the man he is, you’re better off looking for Real Mr. Dreamy instead of piddling around with Potential Shallow Man.”
Ahem. Sorry. Little rant there about a recent book I read, guess there was a good reason it was in the ten cent bin. I guess the ten cents was worth this post? Also, no offense to any peeps who can’t literally grow ’em? I’m sure you’ve got bigger balls than the rest of us, anyway.
So, the third option is most likely neither of the other two options. Not even peripherally related. And it usually falls under two categories titled “…and why does it matter?” and “?!?!?!” Followed by “How do I fix it”, and if you don’t come about in time, it comes down to “I’m going to be frustrated now because you’re upset, I can’t fix it, and you’re still upset”. Which usually gets women all the more upset and thus deepens the frustration. That is, until one or both parties realize the cycle and either accept it for what it is, or take measures to halt it.
I’ve got a girlfriend who’s been with her guy for a couple of years now. (Men: if she’s of marriageable age, in/out of college, and desiring to be married, this is right about the time to pop the question in a woman’s mind. Women: If he’s still in college and/or doesn’t have a job, a house, money, and all the essentials a man thinks are necessary for providing for a family, he isn’t going to pop the question now.) And the parenthetical situation is the situation they are currently in. She’s ready for Step Forward, he’s ready for Current Stage, she’s feeling guilt and fear over having moved in with him, he doesn’t get what the big deal is, and they’re going along with increasing tension because of this.
And then she’s cleaning the basement, and finds a photo album. But not any photo album, but an entire album stuffed with pictures of her man with his ex-girlfriend. If that isn’t enough to get the blood going, there are letters. Love letters with things inside such as “soul mates forever” and “never stop loving you” and “together 4ever, no one will come between us” and all the usual crap two lovers write to one another.
Now, the women reading this will understand her rage and fear. The men reading this will be saying, “OK…it’s an old photo album with letters. What’s the deal?”
The deal is that the man kept it. Now, as a wife, were I to find such an album, I’d laugh my butt off and possibly rub it in my hubb’s face a little. Yes, I’d find it downright funny because I’m that “one and only” woman. Now…as a bf/gf couple on the verge of commitment, this sort of thing is bad news because it makes her fear her place in his life. Is she really “the one”, or is she “the other one”? Finding such letters and photos makes her question his commitment. Has he not proposed because he’s secretly hoping to find his way back to the ex? Is she somehow not all he wants and more? Is he keeping her around because it’s comfortable, or is he seriously waiting to propose until he’s in a better situation? (Note: if she’s already with you, she thinks you’re fine as-is and will never really accept your nesting and home-making excuses as the “real” reason you haven’t proposed yet. Just saying.)
THAT is the big deal. The big deal isn’t the photos, isn’t the letters. It’s the implied threat she sees to the relationship. And she thinks that her man will see this, too. So, she angrily confronts him, album in hand.
In the Romance Novels, the Perfect Man Who Will Soon be Uncovered As a Fraud will say, “I thought I burned all those years ago! I’m so sorry you had to find them, Love! Please forgive me and understand that I misplace things all the time. I had no clue those were down there! Come cuddle with me, we’ll make a fire and burn the living snot out of that book, then we’ll go to the expensive new restaurant and talk about our future over lobster and Death by Chocolate Cake.”
And this is the real man’s answer:
That’s right. “Eh?” as in, “Uhmm…I don’t get why you’re so mad over a book and some dribble and drool some chick wrote me years ago.”
Then ensues a fight in which the woman tries to explain to him the precarious position their relationship is in, how the ex’s letters and photos factor in against him, and what he should do about it.
His response: “…riiiight. You’re being hormonal and weird right now.”
Hormonal or not, them’s fighting words. Now, men, if you must blame the hormones, then BLAME THE HORMONES, not the woman. In the above sentence, the equation goes as such woman=hormones. This is not the way to put it.
A wiser man would say, “…I get that you’re upset, and I know this time of the month you’re fighting your hormones. Is there something I can do to make it easier?”
In this case, woman<hormones. Not saying that this is the best way to do it (the best way is to treat the H-word as though saying it would kill your puppy).
Away from the h-tangent. The way this would continue is such: Woman cries/yells/whatever she does to release tension. Calms down, they discuss more what the entire thing was about. Man either understands or claims he understands just to make it all end. Someone buys dinner. They have a quiet, kind of uneasy dinner at home, then the rest of the evening improves.
Real man, versus Fake man. Real conversation versus dream.
…this isn’t to say that a Real Man can’t have a brilliant moment and say the right thing at the right time. Just that it happens so rarely early on in relationships that it seriously kills the believability of a story. It’s only taken the hubbs and I about five or six years to get to a fairly easy discussion and make-up session. Just saying that a more believable fight might improve on the conflict and realistic tension within a story…and it doens’t have to be a photo album. It could be staying out too late with his buds, forgetting an anniversary, or any number of insignificant things that to women represent big events. Ahhh, isn’t real life fun? And, yes, to those experiencing such fights, it does get better.
With this in mind, Happy Romance Writing!
Your Dearest Nicolette.