“How can you even bear to read that, let alone like it?” The standard reaction I got from my guy friends when they saw me blushing and jumping around after reading the letter Captain Wentworth wrote to Anne, in Persuasion by Jane Austen. I even showed it to a couple of them, but all they did was laugh. I could not help but wonder how their hearts didn’t just melt. But then, isn’t this the way most guys behave when it comes to romance novels-be it Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Margaret Mitchell or even the modern-day Mills and Boon, Nicholas Sparks, Daniel Steel, Freya North, et al?
Initially I attributed this to their sense of ‘machismo’. But feeling that it cannot be the sole reason, I set out to understand, holistically, why men turn away from these books.
Method of research: I texted most of the guys on my contact list and asked them a completely out of context question Do you like Romance novels? I forgot to even write a polite ‘hello’ or ‘how are you’; I just went straight to the point. Amongst the majority of ‘obvious’ nays, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a couple of affirmations. After, talking to all of them, and even getting in an almost-argument like situation, I present to you the following reasons of ‘Why guys don’t like Romance novels’ :
1. The stories are boring and slow.
The blood-spilling-action-loving guys do not like to deal with the slow pace of the story. For them, a proposal will not be interesting until there is a car chase or a ‘super’-fight involved. Or at least throw in a bar fight between the ex and the jealous boyfriend!?!
2. Way too clichéd
Men often don’t like to read romantic novels because they feel that a lot of it is faked Love at first sight, holding a boombox outside their love interest’s window, and most of all the destined reuniting of long-lost lovers. One of my research participants even argued that genuine acts of kindness guys might show are also labeled as ‘cliché-ed’ tactics of flirting in most romance novels.
3. They are embarrassed of being associated with a “girly” book
In today’s society where men are expected ‘not to cry like girls’, they are apprehensive about picking up love stories because don’t want to be associated with anything girly. No one is ready to be in a position where their mardangi or machismo will be questioned. Especially since these days, even a little effeminacy or ‘girlish’ habits can lead a guy to be teased about his sexuality.
4. They feel they are unrealistic
For them, romantic novels lack pragmatism. Even though, they might believe in (a few) happy endings, the novels are still quite impractical. ‘Happy endings don’t come as often as is shown in the novels’, as one of my friends put, cynically.
5. The need of ‘smart books’
There are some who cannot handle the ‘illogical’ story lines and twists and need something to ‘stress their neurons’. For them, books should always impart knowledge. O-okay, Einsteins.
6. They are afraid of commitment
Now, this was interesting. One insight was that since young men are often afraid of real commitment, they don’t quite want to read 300 pages on that. Hmm..
7. Simply don’t like them
No particular reason. Just, eh.
Well, now that we’ve understood the analytic of it:
For those who would like to venture out into the unfamiliar romantic genre, first of all, welcome! (We’re really nice people here) It doesn’t matter what others think of you. If girls can read and like thrillers and action packed novels, what are you afraid of?
Yes, clichés are a big part here and it can be unrealistic sometimes, but not always! Love stories often have a deep compelling story line to go with it. Leave all that prejudice aside and pick up a book!
For those who, oh so desperately, need books with only knowledge, THERE IS SOMETHING CALLED ENTERTAINMENT. Besides, even if Jane Austen won’t tell you how to deal with political instability or such, it will surely give you a peek into how society functioned and what fashion trends were in vogue at that time! Or..take ‘Gone with the wind’.It gives you a totally different perspective of the American civil war.
For the last category of people, it’s okay. We can’t enjoy everything and anything.
A list of suggested (beginners’) readings for Romantics 101 as suggested by guys :
–A walk to remember (Basically, just dab your hands at some Nicholas Sparks and see if you like what you read!)
–P.S. I love you (Cecelia Ahern offers up romance coupled with a dish of fantasy that’s endearing and strangely comforting. If you take to it, try If You Could See Me Now and Thanks for The Memories as well!)
–Jane Eyre (A romance that’s much more. For readers who need more than boy-meets-girl. You won’t complain about authenticity or food for thought.)
–Gone with the wind (Because it’s the last word in romance. And because Rhett and Scarlett put an end to the myth that only love stories with happy endings get to be legends.)