Monday, February 13, 2012

The new Valentines

Within the Convent library I did my pre-senior school in, there used to be a shelf of romantic fiction books. I cycled home with one under the arm, every day. There would be maternal advice on how enough and more time would be available later in life to read up thus but the ravenous reading steam rolled ahead, no holds barred. The catalyst in this voracity was our friendly neighbour, Auntie Malviya! She had a son my age, was obviously married, must have been about 40 years or so but to my amazed bafflement, owned one fully stacked, wooden cupboard of row upon row of neatly arranged romantic novels, all beckoning with their brightly coloured ribs and drowsy, dewy, dreamy covers. I would wonder naively, “But she is married!”

Needless to say therefore, my early teens were a gluttonous haze in memory of all the Barbara Cartlands and Mills and Boons I gobbled up. Auntie Malviya, in fact, made me a birthday gift of my first ever, personally owned copy of one Barbara Cartland and one Mills and Boon. How was I to know back then that with every rapid read, I was digging my own private trench of future dissatisfaction and unhappiness at the real world of romance?! I had no way of knowing I was advancing towards an era that would, in time, be in dissonance with the world of those mushy books.

Without exception, the hero of those mischievous missives would be tall, dark and handsome. Cleft chinned and hoe shouldered, he would be sure of himself to the point of being arrogant.  Smouldering eyes, barely concealed impatience and the man about town air snapped but once in the story, well…when he pulled her close roughly and groaned with a harsh intake of breath at how small and soft she was!!  He did not speak much, but always managed to stay on hand for the grand rescue overtures.

She on the other hand, was designed as a packet of red haired obstinacy, kept together with an odd, wild streak. It made her a perfect foil for establishing his superior ability at eventually getting her to love, honour and obey him! Her financial security, sense of accomplishment and social status came from him. She was just that teeny weeny bit nervous of his power, almost in awe of him. The romance lay in his sense of authority and her dependent, attractively vulnerable status.

I do believe I grew up with this particular brand of romantic indigestion. 

Today, all those years later, with my daughters on way to becoming more educated than I was at their age, I wonder if  their Valentines will  be more equal; real partners in other words, men who will pitch in with their mates over housework and home and hearth, paying heed to their emotional cues, not threatened by their self-sufficiency,dependability and emotional stability.  

More Peter Benjamin Parker than Spiderman, if you will! More Clark Kent than the flighty Superman if you must. The new Valentines!

PS: My favorite romantic novel remained "Jonquil" by Denise Robins, notwithstanding all the mush guzzling!

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