Yes, I know. I am supposed to encourage people reading around here. But it is not about the quantity of books you are reading. It is more about the quality of your reading. And I said of your reading, not of the books you read. Because who would I be to judge a book quality? No, today I want to talk to you about the Bad things reading did to me. In my Meet the Book Blogger Tag article, I talked to you about why I love reading so much. About the fact it brought me so beautiful memories and taught me important things, such as having an open mindset and being more true to myself. But as I reflected about my reading life, some books I’ve read actually did some bad stuff to me. And I would like to share those things with you today, hoping it might help getting them out of my system, and spread awareness.
Pin it, share it!
No, I am not going to talk about books giving me « too high standards » about love, and guys/girls or things like that, because they didn’t. Actually, in my case, it’s quite the opposite. In my early reader’s life – I am here talking about a thirteen years old Estelle or so – I started reading a lot of New Romance novels. Those teenagers heteronormative love stories, with a lot of toxicity and wrong things in them. Bad Boys, huge student parties, shy girls reading books… At the time, I highly supported the fact that those kind of books isn’t doing any harm, that it is just words on paper and it is the readers’ business to be aware enough of the issues in the books they are reading. But the thing is: I was thirteen. I was a stubborn kid, way too confident about what she was saying and the truth is: I couldn’t be fully aware of what I was reading by then.
I started noticing the consequences such reads had on me about a year ago, so seven years after reading my first New Romance book, and years after stopping reading any. Those are things I started realizing when being in a romantic relationship for the first time. I do believe us humans are all fluctuating, we are going to learn things about ourselves and the world all our lives. And those things are going to change who we are, one way or another. This is one of the most exciting things about life, if you ask me. But yeah, all of this to say: I am sharing this with you today because I have already done work on myself to fix the issues I noticed. But the work is not over. I am very glad that a lot of contemporary books get released now, about the issues I am mentioning below, so young people don’t get to experience them this much. Okay, here I go, here are the bad things books did to me when it comes to relationships.
Being a couple = spending all your time together.
I am starting here because it is the first thing I realized is absolutely bullshit. I used to believe, thanks to my reading, that in order to show someone how much you love them, you have to spend all your time with them. And therefore, sacrificing a bit of your mental health, your own time, your friends time and your family time. This is something you see a lot in New Romance books, and I am not quite sure the authors realize it. It is not only about the characters choosing this, but about the fact 90% of the scenes in those books are centred around the two characters only. I think it is something I noticed very quickly because I am in a long-distance relationship, and those help deconstruct a lot of things you thought you knew. And one of the things I learned is how important it is to build your own life, your own daily stuff, even if it doesn’t always include your loved one. In the same vibe as this one: no, you don’t not have to text all day to show your love, but this one I am having more issues with so I prefer not to dive further into it.
A lot happens when you are not there.
In New Romance novels, one of the main source of conflict in a couple is jealousy. And it is such a common thing to read about that I ended up believing it is actually healthy to feel jealous. When it is not. I mean, we all have our amount of jealousy, but a relationship is supposed to be about having someone to trust so much that you won’t have to worry about everything they are doing when they aren’t with you. Which is almost always when the bad stuff happen in books. I mean? The boyfriend making out with someone else at a party because he is drunk? Reconnecting with an ex without mentioning anything? Cheating? I am sure you can at least think about one book you’ve read. Honestly, I have plenty in mind, and this is the whole problem to me. I learned at age thirteen that it was common for stuff to happen in your back. When it is not. At. All. And you should trust your loved one(s). And yes, I am aware those are books a thirteen years old isn’t supposed to read and I might have brought this on myself. But it is best to realize where you’ve done wrong in order to spread awareness.
Appearances do actually matter.
Because, okay, alright. Tell me one New Romance book in which the guy says « I don’t care about your appearance » but the girl actually doesn’t look like an absolute forking model? (yes, I am being heteronormative, but I never read any LGBTQIA New romance novels). I mean, this is for all the Summer and August and whatever the seasonal names girls have in those – with long curly ginger/straight long shiny blond hair, perfect skin, cute little nose, shy smile and the whole I-am-not-aware-of-my-beauty package. That is very easy for a male character to say appearances don’t matter to a girl who’s, by every standards of our western society, very attractive. Because it sounds fake, and it is fake. In my teenagerhood, not once have I read about Summer the curly ginger girl when she wakes up and her hair look like birds decided to start a business in them. Not once have I read about curvy and fat girls loving their bodies – and their bodies being loved. Not once have I read about non-white girls finding happiness. Not once have I read about a pimple or a mole or birth mark or anything.
In the surface, when the love interest says « your appearance doesn’t matter, I’ll love you either way », the message it tries to deliver is very inclusive and beautiful. But we know it by now: the best way to deliver a story is by showing, not telling. Because what stays with you after your read isn’t the surface, it’s what is under it. And the thing is: I thought for a really long time that, in order to be loved, I had to look my best all the time. My hair had to be done all the time. Make up all the time. Pretty clothes all the time. When the truth is: no one needs this, because love truly isn’t about appearances. And most of the time, you don’t even have to say « it doesn’t matter » since there is no problem to start with. I mean, think about it. Wouldn’t it be kind of offensive for someone to tell you your appearance doesn’t matter to them? Like? Is there something about my appearance that should matter if you didn’t love me? That’s forked up. A cute thing to say instead would be: changes in your appearance wouldn’t matter. Simple. Effective. Reassuring. And way better to carry the same message. To me, at least.
Love will forgive everything and anything.
Hardin and Tessa, this one is for you. But, of course, After definitely isn’t the only book series delivering this kind of message. And it is sick, because love isn’t supposed to mean forgiving every harm that is done to us. I haven’t experienced such a thing yet – and I am very glad about it – but I noticed it while reflecting on those books I read many years ago. Every mistake the guy makes – because it is often the guy in books, let’s be honest on this – leads to a loud fight (when? hello? healthy way of communicating exist as well) and an often violent break-up. But since it needs to be a happy ending somewhere, the guy comes back all sorry and because the girl is so in love with him, she is going to forgive whatever it is he had done. More than that: she is going to forget about it. Do you realize how unhealthy and devastating it can be to have such ideas in your head?
Because, more than meaning love if supposed to beat everything and anything, it means that if your love doesn’t, it wasn’t strong enough. Or you weren’t strong enough. Or you’ve done something wrong somewhere. And self confidence will suffer from such a thing, because every relationship is different. Everyone will deal with problems in a different way, but not in books. You don’t have to follow a loud fight>crying>break-up>make-up scheme to deal with stuff. You can also seat, talk, communicate and find your way through things, calmly and healthy. And it goes in the line of other things this kind of books won’t ever show or represent: an healthy way of breaking-up, or how to manage a long-term relationship. You will only see the meeting/flirting/getting together part, the fights and… Yeah, that’s it.
That’s all for today folks, but before I go it is important that I say this: I am here talking about a particular kind of books, that I do not read anymore. Since then, I understood how to find more healthy romance novels, and it is almost always in the adult section. And that’s problematic: healthy stuff should be targeting young people as well. Because that’s when you are a teen that your brain is taking shape, that you build your first vision on the world. And if this vision is forked, you will have to work hard in order to change it. Which isn’t always a bad thing, but could be if it affects your life and relationships.