I read this piece by the fabulous Jane Scott. Aside from being an exuberant Art Director, artist and fashionista, the girl isn't afraid to inquire within! Please enjoy this wonderful essay on love, breakups and makeups...
Make-ups and Break-ups by Jane Scott
Valentine’s Day is going to be a little different for me this year. I didn’t think that my enduring, long, passionate, 25-year love affair could be broken up by a Reality TV series preview video on Yahoo. But, on January 4th, 2011, it did.
But, the best place to start is at the beginning with my first real boyfriend, Anthony.
Anthony and I had gone the traditional route of friends first in the second, third and fourth grades. He was an impressive bachelor. He was the tallest in our class, very athletic, handsome, moderately intelligent, and good in math. His plagiarizing the classroom encyclopedia for any report’s subject be it country, explorer or historical event was mildly unsettling. But, I learned to choose my battles. He could draw. But, I wasn’t fond of his horrific skeletal violent depictions on paper, copied (of course) from the Iron Maiden t-shirts he frequently wore. But, we liked each other. We always sat near each other in class because our last names were alphabetically close. We had fun making each other laugh too.
Our relationship, like most elementary school ones occurred by means of a bizarre truth or dare “going around” negotiation with several classmates. There was no hugging, kisses, shared lunches, or gifts. Evidently love meant being picked as the first girl on his team after the athletic boys were picked. Although, I did receive my 5th grade obligatory Snoopy Valentine’s Day card stating “You + Me = Valentines” and on the back “ To: Jane. Love: Anthony Rosini”. Not “FROM” mind you, but “LOVE”. A grand gesture for Anthony standards, but not enough to keep me faithful.
A new passion emerged in my life of the non-human variety. That passion was the romance novel.
I started off with the lavender covered Silhouette novels circa 1970s/1980s. These always required a picturesque locale and a wealthy, titled suitor. Oh, and they NEVER went all the way. Only third base. No home runs until a ring was promised and that was always at the second to last sentence. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Romance novels are about smut, not plot and location. And yes, that came later. But, my lavender novel reading courtship days were chaste.
I’d like to point out that I did have standards. No unattractive suitors on the cover. If the male model on the cover had a 70s moustache, leisure suit, excessive gold medallions or bad hair - Out. If he looked like a GQ magazine ad - In.
At some point in the 80s the violet series ceased being published. So, I quickly progressed to the white Harlequin ones and it was there that I lost my romantic literary virginity. In white Harlequin novels, you get more action. Pre-marital action before love is established. Fondling coupled with missionary position sex, generally.
So, it was then that my relationship with romance novels in my hormonal teens became more about the fine art of the sex scene. The crafting of the seduction. The bulging muscles. The why’s, the when’s and where’s. My friends may have been dating, but I had better things to do and read on a Friday night.
Which ushered in the red book series phase. Not the finest relationship hour. For anyone knows the red ones are only about sex. They’re the cheapest in cost and in sentiment for a reason. It’s stamped on the flame filled covers in words like “Blaze” and “Heat.” The cover art is more negligee and bare chests, rarely respectable clothes. No exotic locales, just satin sheets and wine glasses. The wham, bam thank you ma’am one nightstand quickie of romance novels.
These books pretty much announce to the world “I’M READING PORN!” But, then any romance series could have that association. But, the red ones were a little too loud and clear. They also had horrible plots, because well… they’re porn
Somewhere in the tawdriness, content actually became important. The character’s journey not centered and derived solely on having three simultaneous orgasms for the first time on a kitchen table or swimming pool.
Which lead me to romantic fiction, chick lit, if you will. These are the books you can generally read in a mixed crowd or on public transportation. They usually have a point too.
I learned a very valuable lesson with the chick lit. When you are looking for quality, a sense of humor and depth. You CAN NOT rely on cover art. In fact, attractive cover art is generally a front for a badly written, boring book.
Which meant I had to seek out the ugly countryside covers that look like rejects for that PBS painting dude’s landscape paintings. Turns out the books without the pictures of the men were the ones that had characterizations, plots and could be occasionally funny too.
The heroines and heroes were messy, flawed, and issue-ridden. And sometimes, they didn’t even have sex on the page. Which kind of sucked frankly, but it was the price you paid for guessing a book’s content by its cover.
I’d like to think that my relationship with romance novels given this more realistic story somehow normalized into reading books other than romance. But, in gaining taste, I simply clung to those trusted authors’ books even tighter. I read and re-read these characters hoping for some secret code I could borrow or a world I could jump into other than my own.
When I had the rare occasion to actually venture out on a date or hope a friendship was more, the romance books were forgotten. But, the minute it went sour and reality stepped in. They were back to being my old trusty lovers. Ever present, never criticizing, always diverting.
I always viewed my romance novel love affair as that great research for my future soul mate. The more reading, the more research to share! Oh the things I know… But, the years went by. The milestones of getting married, co-habituating, settling down, having kids were happening for everyone around me, except me. They happened every time I thumbed through the romance novel. But, my diary didn’t have the same entries.
Turns out. Reading romance novels a lot is a type of addiction: A love addiction. Yeah, they have them. A whole umbrella of options ranging from sex and romance addictions for the extroverts to fantasy addiction for the introverts like myself.
Which leads me to the break-up initiated by my trusty old KROQ Love Line D.J. I knew since my childhood and teen days in California, Dr. Drew. He has a TV show called Intervention. A celebrity rehab meets reality TV car crash of a show. I don’t have cable and tend to avoid it. But, the title of his TV series preview video “romance addiction” sparked my interest. Anything with the word “romance” generally does. In the video, he briefly mentions the untapped world of love addictions. How they aren’t just about indiscriminate sex, but something subtler like excessive romance novel reading. And how all of these types of addictions are intimacy repelling. Which explains why I like to cuddle up to them on Friday nights.
Crap. So much for blaming the Facebook.
So now, I’m reading more books with “romance” in the title these days. They just center on creating worthiness, true intimacy and healing childhood wounds through appropriate adult boundary setting. Something romance novels failed to teach me.
So I’m breaking up with my co-dependent, unrealistic, intimacy deficient, truth neglecting, non-human paper lovers.
I know you were expecting a make-up scene. Every great romance novel’s final chapter has one. Trust me, I know. But, my make-up scene isn’t the resolution. It’s actually the problem.
My “making-up”, also known as another word for “pretending”, scene was finding something like romance novels to divert me from confronting my inner love demons in the first place. Finding the courage to love myself unconditionally. But, in defense of my old lover, my top few favorite romance novels actually do cover that on occasion. The savior is actually the self, not the white knight with his bulging manhood.
What we “make-up” to self soothe or divert from our true selves eventually has to “break-up” for us to live authentically. So, I don’t view this break-up with sadness, but rather with great hope and relief on behalf of my whole hearted, true self. I can still enjoy the occasional fiction, but only when I have participated in the more compelling non-fiction characters in my own life.
So, this break-up story isn’t one for the romance novels, but I’m thinking, that’s probably a good thing.