Changing Dynamics of Romance
Why My Taste in Books and Men has Changed Over the Years
I read my first real romance novel at the age of 10 or 11. It was a serendipitous discovery, of sorts: I found it smothered between stacks of Nancy Drew detective novels at the Quilon Public Library. And assuming that the innocuous-looking volume bound with pink floral cardboard (I suspect that the racy original cover had been ripped off by some prudish librarian) was just another treatise to that strawberry-blonde girl sleuth, took it home.
Two minutes into the book (Stay through the Night, it was called) and I realised that it wasn’t exactly what I had expected it to be. But like many forbidden firsts, I couldn’t stop once I had started. I read till the wee hours of the morning (literally staying up through the night), and was hooked.
The next decade or so of my life was spent ploughing through them by the dozen: piles of Mills & Boon, Barbara Cartland, Nicholas Sparks, Judith McNaught, Victoria Holt, Phyllis A Whitney, Jean Plaidy, Catherine Gaskin, Nora Roberts.
Now, if you have ever read one of these, you would know that they’re rather formulaic. There is the brooding, volatile hero in the tall, dark, rakishly handsome mode, with a terrible temper and/or loads of baggage. There is the heroine, petite (always), slightly unassuming and mousy at first glance, but actually beautiful once she sheds her drab armour. Then, of course, there is the vamp: an exotic Bird-of-Paradise with a lush figure, wandering ways and a heart of darkness. Places, names and circumstances change, of course, but some things are constant: the coming out of the heroine, a night of intense passion, a bitter break-up and a final riding-into-the-sunset-style reunion.
It skewed my version of what love had to be, terribly. In my head, “the one” just HAD to be a Byronic man with hooded eyes, a 56-inch chest and a PAST — try catching one of those in Chennai.Also, when one is 5’6” and decidedly Rubenesque (a much nicer word than overweight, isn’t it?), it is very hard to be a shrinking, delicate darling waiting for Prince Charming to sweep her up in strong, densely muscled arms. Mostly because they don’t go around you in the first place.
I decided that the only way to actually feel petite (relatively) was by going out with people bigger than me. Thus began my rather unhealthy obsession, not just with my own weight, but with my to-be-partner’s, too.
You know that rather clichéd question talk-show hosts ask blushing new couples on air? What did you notice first about him or her? It is usually something trite: her smile, the shape of his hands, her emerald-green eyes or the laugh lines around his mouth.
Ask me, and I’ll tell you pat: his waist size. It is easiest if the man in question is wearing a pair of Levi’s — the label proclaims it to the world (which is why I NEVER buy jeans from that brand) — but for a woman who has eye-balled serving sizes for most of her life, it isn’t that difficult anyway.
Which probably explains the trail of Big Moose-sized men in my life. There were a few exceptions, but I can’t deny that I found physical largeness in men extremely attractive. It didn’t matter that the size of his brains was inversely proportional to the size of his body, or that he wasn’t very nice to me. Or that he brought his mummy along with him on dates. He made me feel smaller, and that was enough. And yes, if I suspected someone was lighter than me, it was usually a firm no, even if I liked him otherwise.
Until I was finally coerced into going out with someone markedly smaller than me — a good 15 kilos lighter, I would think. And we managed just fine. In fact, loads better than most people before. Sure, he probably couldn’t do the carrying-into-the-bedroom scene that marks the climax of any romance novel, but he was kind and gentle and decent (and made the best scrambled eggs in the whole wide world).
Maybe it was the real thing. Maybe it was not. But one thing I learnt is this: cheesy as it sounds, love doesn’t (and shouldn’t ) come in sizes.
Credit : The Hindu