There's nothing quite like a used book store. There's one in my neighborhood called Tin Can Mailman and it is two floors of narrow hallways, tall bookshelves and endless stories. I noticed a free box outside and sat for a minute giggling at the similarity of all the dramatic embraces on the covers. The whole box was full of discarded Romance novels. Sitting out on the curb on a rainy day, nostalgia of lost love seemed an obvious metaphor. Love and sex are the most googled words. Love songs, movies, books and general romance plots are everywhere. However, Romance is just one genre. It's indulgent and pleasurable to read, but at the end of the book I didn't learn much. Most of the time, I have no desire to read it again or save it in a corner of my room for it's magical insight. I have loved how even many of the new Disney princesses aren't in wild pursuit of marriage. Elsa's main love was with her sister. Merida, from "Brave," worked on repairing her relationship with her mom.
When in the Tin Can Mailman, I rarely enter the cheesy Romance section, but find myself lured into the mountains of knowledge. All of the really transformative books that I've read have been from other genres. Philosophy, travel, history, action, self-help, humor and who knows what else. There are a handful of books that had dramatic impacts on my life, and have probably walked past many that have the capacity to do so as well.
I think it's important that we realize for ourselves and our daughters that Romance is far from the only narrative. I've spent a lot of time reflecting about my own teaching as a female identifying child. The gender norms for women in relationships were especially impactful during my spongey transition from child to adult. I started worrying about fitting into society's definition of a "girl." I was taller than all the boys, and had relatively straight figure. At that time, I really invested emotionally into the whole concept of being someone's "girl." If I could go back and talk to myself in the 5th and 6th grade when my adult gender identity was starting to emerge, I would tell myself not to be defined by those norms. As social creatures, it's only natural that we desire intimacy and connection. That's totally ok! But I want to shout to the women of the world that no relationship innately needs to define their life. Connection and companionship isn't limited by monogamous relationships and value certainly isn't defined by them either.
Just like Princess Merida, my longest love affair has been with my mom. I love my friends. I still miss my first dog. There is a lot of love in my story. Actually, I'll probably fall in love hundreds of times with hundreds of places, people and things. Hopefully, not too many things, but that's beside the point. I want to carry on the pursuit of adventure and fearless play that characterizes so much of childhood and only the best of novels.
I want to invest into relationships, but not invest my worth into relationships. I think it's important to invest into questions like, "What do I want my life's work to reflect?" and "Is what I'm doing now how I want to be defined?" because the best parts of stories aren't the end-all-be-all moments, but the character development over time.