My friend and I talk a lot about “Disney Syndrome”—the way many little girls are brainwashed to believe that life is solely about growing up, marrying Prince Charming, and everything’s just happily ever after from then on.
What I’ve seen recently is a more advanced, adult case of Disney Syndrome: Romance Novel Disease. For any of you out there who don’t read romance novels, let me sum up every romance I’ve ever read (hey, I can’t read manga all the time): Hot, tough guy falls for girl he thinks is beautiful even though she doesn’t see herself that way. Most likely great sex ensues. Turns out guy has baggage from his past which the girl helps him work through because she’s his savior and helps him move on—moving on meaning they tell each other how much they love each other and want to have great sex forever.
I have a friend who was struggling with his girlfriend not registering what he was saying to her. Then it came up in our conversation that she read a lot of romance novels and everything clicked to me. It made so much sense; I told him, “She’s going to save you from your past and heal you with love. You swooped in like no man she’d ever met, so it must be destiny! You expanded her horizons and taught her new wonderful things and in turn she can love you like no one else can.” At which point I started laughing maniacally. I should probably point out that they did break up because while she lived in a romance novel, he lived in real life.
Recently I met someone who thinks I’m cute, has a knight-in-shining-armor complex, does that great tough guy on the outside/just a big softie on the inside thing (he donates to battered women shelters, for crying out loud), and to round out the package has the necessary tragic past. My first thought was, “What a great guy.” That thought was immediately followed by, “Something’s wrong here. This can’t be right. No one is really like this.” And then I realized it: “He’s a romance novel.”
Perhaps I should give him the number for my friend’s ex girlfriend..?