What is love?

Love isn’t all about finding the ‘one’ and getting a perfect happily ever after. In fact, is it about that at all?

No, I’m not writing about the (pretty awesome) dance track by Haddaway, but love itself.

As someone who has been single for a (really) long time, I find myself constantly baffled by my perpetual dater friends throwing the word around like it means nothing. I have one friend who has been ‘in love’ so many times that I wonder if she knows what it means either.

I know that there are many different types of love:

Friend love – for those friends you feel so close to, you’d do anything for them. The friends who stick by you no matter what.

Family love – the love you have for the family you are born into, the ones who you don’t necessarily like all that much, but woe-betide anyone outside of that clutch who says anything nasty about them (even if you’ve said it yourself to them many times).

Child love – the love you feel for the children you bear.

Then there’s the love that I really don’t understand, the ‘in love’ love. The one you feel for the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Sure, eventually, it might turn into ‘love’ love, but ‘in love’ is what you feel.

Movies, plays, books, songs, poems, they’re all written about it, but what does it mean?

This weekend I set myself a bit of a task; watch as many romcoms and Hallmark movies as I could, most of which were found on Netflix, though I did manage to sift through a lot of poorly indexed films and find some on Amazon Prime (it took some searching).

The most interesting thing I found about these movies was that not one of them was about a successful and established couple. Sure, Netflix recently released Happy Anniversary about a couple coming up on their anniversary (hence the title) and realising that they are no longer happy with who they are together. So I’m not sure if that counts as a romance or an anti-romance when looked at objectively.

The ones I ended up watching this weekend were:

Think Like a Man
Leap Year
The Sweetest Thing
My Perfect Romance
Love by Chance

I am not going to slate the movies – though I know that the acting in some of them is weak, and the storylines are so far-fetched as to be ridiculous. I wasn’t watching them to poke and prod at the quality of the acting, or the strength of the script. I was watching them to see how they interpreted love and if they are giving single women like me such a false impression of love and all it entails that we want it even when we see our friends and family suffering (sometimes) because of it.

No matter the age of the movie, manipulation plays a massive part in the relationships.

In Think Like a Man, I saw couples manipulating each other, playing games to get what they wanted. I saw playboys lying, girls tricking their partners and all because they weren’t happy with what they have. Is this love? Is this being ‘in love’? Or is this just what the media/writers want us to believe we can have? If so, not sure I’m really missing out. Strangely enough, my decision to write about love here started because of this movie, one I only watched because I like Kevin Hart (and had just finished watching Central Intelligence)

The Sweetest Thing on the third watch (it’s been at least a decade since the last time) was a revelation I am not sure I wanted. Do Nancy M. Pimental and Roger Kumble think that this is what women are like? It seems that in the early 2000s we were either easy and only in it for the sex (and singing about big penises apparently), or we were desperately chasing after men. So, which is it?

I am not sure what the movie was trying to tell me, or anyone else, about women, or about love. It may well be that the movie was trying to show that women don’t have to be pure as the driven snow before they find Mr Right, that they can sleep around and try different men on for size before they settle down. Unfortunately, the crudeness of some of the scenes, such as the moment when Selma Blair’s Jane is being watched by all and sundry after getting her two-night stand’s penis piercing stuck behind her tonsils was just a little OTT. The sing-along as her friends try to get her to relax is, I guess, meant to get you laughing. I am no prude, but I just cringed and wondered if I had ever found it funny.

Leap Year is sort of sweet, but we have, as with a lot of romcoms/chick flicks, a woman in a relationship who desperately wants to get married. Now, though I am not one of those girls who dreamed of the gold (brass?) ring, or kids and a picket fence home I happen to know a LOT of women that are like this. One even went on a dating site and in her profile quite clearly stated she was ‘looking for marriage’ and on her first date with one poor sap stated: “I’m nearly 40, time’s running out for me to have kids so I want to be pregnant by the end of this year”. I wish I were exaggerating when I say that, at that point, it was already September!

This cliche, that women are out for a wedding ring, frustrates me so much. We aren’t all looking to get married when we go on a date. We haven’t all picked out the dress or the cake, or want cute niece Susie/Jessi/whatever to be our flower girl. Some women just want a DATE!

Leap Year follows a predictable pattern. A woman who is ‘in love’ with her boyfriend is determined that after so many years together they should be settling down, getting married and having kids…so she follows him all the way to Ireland and then discovers that she’s actually fallen ‘in love’ with someone else entirely. Is this fickle? Is this the way women are seen? Or is this just the way of love? The film ends with the heroine and her new love together…and nothing is seen of the commitment-phobe. Was he in the wrong when he didn’t immediately get down on one knee and propose?

My Perfect Romance and Love by Chance were two films of a similar ilk.

MyPerfect Romance is actually based on a Harlequin novel and follows exactly the same pattern as every other Harlequin ever printed. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have read more than my fair share and sometimes they are the best way to spend a cold winter night when there’s nothing on the TV or I just don’t want to tax my brain.
But, as I said, like every other Harlequin ever printed, My Perfect Romance follows a set romantic schedule:

  1. Woman works for playboy with complicated family and big bank balance
  2. Playboy needs woman to do something for him (in this case it’s help him to launch a dating app
  3. Woman agrees, they make a bet on national TV (sometimes it’s woman agrees to pretend to date playboy to get a business deal/fool family…you get the gist)
  4. Woman slowly realises that she’s in love with playboy
  5. Playboy slowly realises he’s in love with woman
  6. Family/business stuff interferes
  7. Playboy declares love for woman in public place (in this case it was on TV – again).

Not sure what the female protagonist saw in her playboy boss unless it was the fact that he filled out a pair of trousers nicely and had a massive bank account. The book may well be different, it isn’t depending on a PG-13 rating after all, but in the movie, he had no redeeming characteristics at all. He was shallow and selfish, and clearly thought a lot of himself. Maybe in the book, we got to know him much better, but I am not going to head to the local library to see.

I love UST, this just didn’t have anything. It was difficult to discover what the movie thought love was. It was 90 minutes of unconvincing wistful gazes and nothing else to show that there was anything there of quality or any kind of genuine emotion.

Love by Chance…I watched this for two reasons:

  1. I loved A Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, and loved Beau Garrett in her role as Phoebe
  2. It was about cooking, or at least parts of it were

The movie itself started out with the classic lonely woman who is too busy to find a date. Her mother is, in this one, the person who doesn’t want to see her daughter go without the female necessity of husband and children and she’s really pushing the issue. Roll up Eric Carlton; doctor, handsome, caring, great with kids. The pushy mother’s wet dream! The twist that makes up the core of the movie is that Eric pretends to meet Beau’s character, Claire, by accident, a meeting of pure ‘chance’. Claire is a closet romantic who longs for a meet-cute like her parents – we later find out that wasn’t quite as accidental as her husband believed either.

Unlike My Perfect Romance you can see the development of this relationship and their disagreement is over something a little more serious than “You didn’t tell me that the figures had come in on that project while we were dancing at your brother’s wedding” (yes, seriously, that’s the ‘twist in the tale for MPR).

I found myself rooting for Claire and Eric and I even found myself feeling sorry for Claire’s mother (played brilliantly btw by Brenda Strong).

Anyway, I’ve diverted somewhat from the main reason for this piece…love!

Do any of these films actually show anyone what love is or do they just instil in anyone that watches them a series of unrealistic expectations that will eventually lead to nothing but disappointment when reality sets in?

As a teen, I was in love with the idea of love. I wanted to be Samantha Baker being wooed by Jake Ryan, or Sabrina Fairchild realising that Linus Larrabee was the perfect man for her even though he was just that little bit standoffish (sort of like Fitzwilliam Darcy). As an adult, I know that none of that is the real world, that there is no handsome quarterback waiting outside a church with a Ferrari, or a man who will suddenly look at me and realise I am ‘the one’ (not that it wouldn’t be nice).

I am not recommending that you throw out your copies of Bridget Jones (though seriously…she is a bit Mary-Sue), or burn your DVDs of Pretty in Pink, but I wouldn’t suggest you go looking for what’s in them either.

My generation had a lot of incredible romance movies, but if you dig into them a little deeper you’ll realise that Larrabee wanted a woman he could mould, Jake and Samantha probably wouldn’t last much past high school and Vivian Ward was a prostitute being paid for her time by a lonely businessman.

Romance movies are, in general, for enjoyment and entertainment, but they do introduce the ‘Darcy syndrome’…creating unrealistic expectations about love and all that life with your ‘one’ entails.

Love isn’t all about white picket fences and 2.4 perfect children. It’s about staying up late with a crying baby that’s teething. It’s about worrying together about keeping the lights on and the fridge full of food. It’s finding something to laugh about when things are really tough and all you want to do is scream at the world. The question is though…is this being ‘in love’ or is this what happens after the romantic glitter fades and the reality of life sets in?

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