I love women. But as a healthy, overwhelmingly heterosexual woman, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that men, in all their varieties and flavors, bring to the table an excitement that is totally different from what I get in my interaction with women.
From watching tuxedo-clad, classically trained opera singers to watching rough-and-tumble soccer players half my age squaring off on the field during halftime of my own kid’s soccer game, I derive tremendous pleasure from men as they are, gorgeous, strong, fascinating creatures both familiar and mysterious.
That’s in real life. In a romance, however, I have trouble admiring the hero just like that. Because the romance hero is not some stranger there to provide a slightly middle-aged, slightly dirty-minded woman detached, uncomplicated enjoyment, he is there to exist in a relationship. And in romance, as in real life, I judge a man very much by the kind of woman he chooses.
And then, the kind of woman he chooses becomes very much all about me.
I am a damned fine woman—if you’ll excuse my immodesty here—but I’ve never been what would have been called a “good girl.” I was born a cynic. I never was innocent. As a child, I had very dark thoughts about life and people and wouldn’t know uncomplicated love if it kidnapped me and took me to a unicorn picnic.
I don’t love unselfishly—if I love you, you’d better love me back, a lot. I won’t bother charming some crotchety old bat with my sass and spirit—I’d sooner mix Ex-Lax into her morning cocoa. On top of it, I’m power-hungry and possibly narcisistic.
In other words, I am so not your typical romance heroine. And yet I’m a damned fine woman.
And every time a hitherto fascinating hero falls in love with a milquetoast heroine, I roll my eyes and discount both his IQ and his EQ by about 20 points. And if he loves her for her innocence, I bang my head on the wall. I’ve never known a man who is attracted to a woman for her innocence. They like us because we are beautiful, because we’ve boobs and hips, because when we walk they drool! What is wrong with you, hero dude?
One of my favorite examples of this kind of inexplicable heroine-worship happens in an old-timey futuristic where the hero, who can do everything and I mean everything, carries the heroine on his back and runs for about twelve hours straight through a weird forest that would come alive at night and eat them or some such. At the end of this super-marathon, he set her down and admires her for having held on. For having held on, when death was her other choice! I promptly lost all my interest in him.
Whenever a powerful, accomplished man falls in love with a baked-potato heroine, I want to ask him, what do you see in her? Why don’t you hang with someone of comparable experience and capability? Would you feel threatened if you are not the first or only man to give her an orgasm?
And this is one of the major reasons why as much as I delight in love stories, and relish a happy ending, I don’t read as many romances as I’d like. Because there aren’t enough fascinating heroines, and seven out of ten fascinating heroes end up devoting themselves to the sort of walk-on-water heroines that bear no relation to what I understand to be the fascination of femininity.
As I said, it’s all about me.