True Fantasy: 5 Life-Changing Lessons From Romance Novels
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This is for everyone who said that romance novels are full of crap. You were wrong.
Romance novels are such mood-lifters. They have a way of portraying real life complexities, embellished with some ‘fairy dust’. The dramatic language is familiar to us more than we know; because we speak to ourselves in the same fashion. Not all romance novels revolve around unrealistic storylines; some actually reinforce what we believe, but don't have the confidence to act upon.
- Have the courage to bare your vulnerabilities – This can be demeaning, because the wrong man/woman can use your vulnerabilities against you, causing potentially irreversible damage. My favourite line from Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd is: “Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self-reliance.” Troy paid Bathsheba back by completely destroying her life. But, she got up each time she fell, carrying herself with her signature tenacity and dignity. The right man (Gabriel Oak) saw purity where most saw pride, and typical happy endings are so much happier when the path that led one there is human.
- Don’t make decisions to spite people – This is what Heathcliff did, when he married Isabella Linton, sister-in-law to the love of his life, Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights). When you're spiteful, you hurt the one(s) you truly care for; and invite the resentment of the one(s) you drag into the equation, to execute your spite – by neglecting them. Naturally, you also hurt yourself, because your festering regret causes everyone around you to distance themselves from you.
- Trust your feistiness – Feistiness is a reflection of sharp intellect, keen observation, and a sense of humour. It’s an acquired taste, so be prepared to not be everyone’s cup of tea. People will feel threatened and intimidated, and your no-nonsense behaviour will make them fidget. Their defence mechanism will be to break you down, by magnifying what they imagine to be your insecurities. Lady Catherine tells Elizabeth Bennett how unsuitable she is for Darcy, in Pride and Prejudice; playing the lineage and social status card. Lizzie gives it right back, telling Lady Catherine why and how she plans to do exactly as she pleases, and her politeness can be faulted nowhere. She also answers the Lady without really answering her, keeping her poise and grace; whilst the apparently better-bred Lady makes her fury and insecurity obvious with every question she asks.
- Patience makes you non-judgemental, and vice-versa – In The Time Traveler’s Wife, Clare says, “It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays.” We may not have partners with genetic disorders that cause them to time-travel, but maybe they have jobs that take them away for us for long periods of time. Depending on where they are, we may not be able to stay in touch with them, so we don’t know what they’re doing. The lesson here is to trust the person and the process. It may seem like an endorsement of naïveté. In reality, there’s wisdom in not jumping to conclusions, causing and spreading anxiety/pain/negativity.
- If someone/something means the world to you, don't rush – Captain Antonio and Pelagia’s gradual love, surviving the chaos and danger of military occupation (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin), shows us that the sensitive, fragile nature of something valuable is best preserved by measured and persevering efforts. You don't pursue something that won't be worth the time/effort/resources spent; but it's equally necessary to not succumb to failures/disappointment/delays and the resulting disillusionment, when something that means a lot to you is taking time or effort to reach its fulfillment. Pelagia’s father says, “Love is what is left when the passion is gone.” Challenges may snuff out/diminish your passion, but the only thing that will keep you going is the realisation that true passion stems from respect and admiration for the cause you’re chasing. Worship the grandeur of your dream, the passion and strength will follow.