Monday, February 11, 2008

Why Romance?

Sex is great. It can be fun or intense. It releases endorphins and gives you that glow. It’s natural, an instinctive urge. Yet, although many women nowadays are far more open about their desire, both for having sex and for reading about it, I think it’s also safe to say that when it comes to books romances still rule. And not just the erotic romances, although they’re my personal favourites, but romances in general. We may like it sweet or raunchy, naughty or full of intrigue, outside the box (or the bedroom), sometimes with more than two people, or with same-sex couples but most of the time we demand the ‘happily-ever-after’ ending. Let’s face it, the sex may get you all hot and bothered but it’s the resolution, the knowledge of the couple travelling on together, that satisfies the soul.

I think that, just like sex, the urge to want things to work out between couples is instinctive. Anthropologist Desmond Morris explained it by saying pair-bonding has developed in our specie as a survival technique. Man is not a solitary animal. To thrive we have to interact and cooperate with each other. Pair-bonding allowed the men to go off hunting, assured that their women, who remained behind, would remain faithful. They also no longer had to think of their companions as competitors, but could concentrate on working with them. For their part, the women would be assured that whatever their mates brought home was for the benefit of the family unit, instead of having to share with that hottie-hottie in the next cave.

Of course things have changed, with women working as much as men, but it’s still basically the same. We have the same needs, the same urges—the changes are simply geographical. The jungle is the office. Bringing home the bacon means a stop at the supermarket instead of killing a wild boar. The hottie lives in the next apartment or works in the accounts department at hubby’s company. Or at the wife’s company. We constantly hear stories of infidelity and destruction of the pair bond. Unfortunately that seems to be a part of the way society has evolved.

But when we read, it doesn’t have to be that way.

When we pick up a romance we want to see two people, soul mates, finding answers in each other, even when they didn’t know there were questions in their hearts. In the world the author has created we seek the triumph of right over wrong and reassurance that everything will be perfect, or as close as possible to it, in the end. Maybe it’s a higher standard than we sometimes hold ourselves to, but it seems to be what we crave, what we dream of. And we want it to last, which is why we end the books where we do, leaving what happens after to the imagination. Without romance, both the real-life and the made-up, the world would be a very boring and perhaps chaotic place.

So long live the romance, both between book covers and between our bed sheets, and let’s live our own happily-ever-after, in whatever incarnation we can!

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