Greetings! Welcome to the inaugural post of what I hope will be a continuing feature, wherein I attempt to give advice that’s thoughtful, cranky, and based on the myriad facets of knowledge I’ve gleaned from a shitload of romance novel reading. I’ve heard people say that they’ve learned vocabulary and historical knowledge from romance novels that appeared on the SAT or other standardized tests for academic evaluation. Certainly that was true for me. And I’ve heard many people whispering about the sexual knowledge they’ve obtained from erotica and romance novels, for both their own sexual satisfaction and that of their partners – booyah, says I.
But I also think that romances teach a lot about human psychology, because romances deal with protagonists at their most vulnerable. Is there an emotional state more precarious than, “I really like that person, and I hope they like me, too?” So, I’ll attempt in this feature to answer questions based on, you guessed it, the great sociological and psychological examination of humanity that is The Enter Romance Genre.
No pressure or anything.
Engaged Almost writes:
I’ve been dating the same guy for eight years now. We went to college together, and we’ve been living together for awhile now along with his sister…. [edited for brevity -SBS] He’s proposed twice – once a few years ago when we were both drunk in a bar, and I said yes. Then I sobered up and said no. The second time was a few weeks ago, and he’s still waiting for my answer. I love him, but how do I know if he is The One?
Let me ask you this: have you ever seen a romance hero propose earnestly more than three times? I’m thinking on this one, and no, I can’t say as I have. Not unless the proposer has learned a lesson or two in how to approach a woman.
Think Darcy: he had to propose twice because his first proposal was the mother of all backhanded compliments, worse than when your frenemy says, “Oh, I love that shirt. It makes you look so thin!” The Earl of Banallt in Carolyn Jewel’s Scandal also proposes twice, first out of lust and self-interest, the second out of genuine intentions. Many a romance features a reformed hero who realizes how he ought to treat the object of his affections.
But that works both ways. Playing games with a man, playing hard to get – all bullshit maneuvers designed to humiliate and ultimately treat a man as if he isn’t your equal. And if women all over Romancelandia and in Reality are going to stamp their slippered feet and demand love matches and partnerships of emotional equality, they can start by treating men with equanimity and respect. You want that respect, you have to deal it out first. I’ve not yet encountered a hero who allows himself to be repeatedly debased and mistreated by a woman who professes to love him. It’s not heroic, nor the act of an admirable heroine.
So teasing a guy by not giving an answer ultimately demeans you both. And men are not dumb. The popular stereotypes of single men all revolve around oblivion and debauchery, but even if it takes a man awhile to figure a woman out, men are not clueless, and they won’t stick around when they’ve been told they aren’t wanted. Really, any man with a sense of self-confidence who is worth a woman’s time is not going to hang about and humiliate himself over and over.
I’d say a man asking three times a lady crosses the line from dedication to stalkerish desperation, and any woman who negotiates a situation for that result is looking for someone who she can control, not someone who can be her partner in crime and nefarious sexxoring.
But at root, the number of proposals isn’t the issue here: if you have some hesitations about marrying this guy, then cut him loose. A hesitant maybe is a no. Keeping him around as a maybe, as someone who you’ll commit to if nobody better comes along, demeans you both. Shit or get off the pot. He and you deserve better from a marriage than the words, “I love him but….”