Apr. 28th, 2017

osprey_archer: (books)
I should have paid more attention to the subtitle of Mandy Len Catron’s How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays. As the subtitle suggests, the book is mostly a memoir of Catron’s own love life, which mostly consists of a nine-year relationship with an emotionally unavailable man.

When it finally fails - inevitably and yet slowly, painfully, like a bandaid being peeled off millimeter by millimeter - Catron complains that she feels like everyone is judging her, and I can see why this perception is painful for her, but at the same time I am 110% with that judgmental everyone. The bad life lessons you learned from romantic comedies didn’t make you stay with this man, Catron. You chose him. Repeatedly. For nine years! Stop feeling so damn sorry for yourself.

(My mother says that we are most aggravated by behavior in others that reminds of us parts of ourselves we don’t like, and I think that is definitely operative here: God knows I can throw a good self-pity party when I feel like it. It’s just so much easier to see how embarrassing it is when someone else does it.)

The book’s summary led me to expect something different: it claims that How to Fall in Love with Anyone “explores the romantic myths we create and explains how they limit our ability to achieve and sustain intimacy,” which it does, sort of, if you call rehashing forty-year-old feminist critiques of Cinderella “exploring the romantic myths we create.”

The nadir of the book for me was the bit where Catron describes how she would revise Pretty Woman, were she to be in a position to remake it: rather than get together with the hero, the heroine leaves to pursue her own dreams as a single person.

I suppose I ought to be in favor of this sort of thing, but honestly it sounds unbearably preachy: you have this whole movie setting up a couple and then PSYCH! They’re not getting together after all, suckers! Go sit in the corner and think about what you did, wanting a romantically satisfying ending to this romance movie that telegraphed ROMANCE from scene one.

If you want to tell stories validating the single life, then for God’s sake just… tell stories about single people having full and happy lives. That’s it. That’s how you do it. No need to contort a romantic comedy into a non-romance. Go read Cranford and contemplate the lessons it teaches.

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