How many movies have you seen where the guy reluctantly confesses to having watched a romance movie because his girlfriend made him? How many men do you know who turn their noses up at the thought of watching romance movies? Movies are bad enough, but can you picture a man reading a romance novel? All the men sighed a collective, perish the thought. It’s not limited to men, women increasingly take pains to distance themselves from romance stories, at least publicly.
For writers, romance as a genre has long been considered the low hanging fruit of writing. For audiences, it’s considered pure fluff with nothing to say, suitable for killing time when you just don’t want to engage your brain. What is the cause of this ambivalence to romance stories? Why don’t we take them seriously? Why is it that stories revolving around love and human connection are not as important as those where ripped Liam Neeson-esque guys blow everything up in the pursuit of revenge masquerading as justice?
The way our society is structured, the family unit is our first team, our first introduction to and representation of what society and the world at large are like or at least should be like. We all start out the same, a man and woman meet, well if we’re fortunate, have mutual love and respect for each other, do the Budapest shuffle and ta-da nine months later, here you are. Considering how foundational the male-female romantic relationship is, you would think romance stories would be elevated. And no, not erotica and all its alarming permutations.
I submit that one of the ways we can begin to create lasting change in society is to reconsider our narratives about romance and our relationship with said narratives. Romance stories focus on the human element. They focus on seeing people and accepting them as they are, warts and all. They focus on people trying to be the best they could be. They showcase human vulnerability at its best along with the desperate need for connection that we all share. They focus on other people’s needs and desires and not just our own selfish interests. They strip us down to our core absent the pomp and distraction of stuff. In a world that is increasingly materialistic, romance reminds us that when all is said and done, what matters, what truly matters is people and I think the world could use a little more of that.
In a world in which there is so much violence everywhere, including or maybe originating from the violence between men and women, maybe the gentleness of romance can be the place where we begin to relearn the place of love and vulnerability in our interactions. It can be where we begin to handle each other with care and concern again. There isn’t much you can do about disastrous US Foreign Policy literally everywhere in the world or the ever-increasing public debt in Kenya but you can learn to be gentle and to treat others the same way.
They say hurting people hurt people and that one of the primary indicators of the kind of spouse and parent you will be is the kind of relationship your parents had. Maybe we start to place more value in the male-female relationship outside of wild rabbit sex, and maybe we show each other and by extension our children that there’s nothing wrong with tenderness and vulnerability and love even of the romantic kind. Maybe the next time you’re watching a romantic movie and someone makes fun of you, maybe this time you tell them you’re playing your part in changing the world. Keep the romance stories coming and let’s go make the world a better place.