Occasionally when I'm bored or have some extra time on my hands, I'll go blog surfing. I came across a blog where there's a hot debate raging over what constitutes a romance. There were some interesting points brought up, but naturally, there was no consensus. It does seem to me that the definition of romance has been stretched out of shape entirely. It's easy enough to look at a story/movie and decide for yourself that it's not a romance. But the problem comes when you're trying to define what is a romance.
At one time, a romance was a male and female (one of each) who met, fell in love, got married, and had a family. That's what was popularly known as the HEA (happily ever after). Then romances stretched to include a widely varied population of vampires, weres of all descriptions, aliens, demons, angels, same-sex partners, multiple partners, and assorted kinky behaviors. Exactly where do you draw the line and say this is a romance and that isn't? What determines which kinky behaviors are too kinky to qualify? How many people is too many? Which non-human participants should be barred from the story?
I'm thinking that it has to do with terminology. Because "romance" comes with certain connotations, it's more and more difficult to make all those extra components fit. There is that narrowly defined required ending of an HEA that becomes increasingly difficult to manage. I wonder if we would do better to call them "love stories". Love stories don't have preconceived notions tied to them. Love encompasses a whole host of possibilities.
We're vaguely uncomfortable stating that a same-sex partnership has a romance. But feel easier about declaring that they've fallen in love. There may very well be very romantic elements in their relationship, but the primary component is that they fell in love. Same goes for the other host of possible contestants. Love is something that can forgive, compromise, cherish, has infinite patience, and fills the heart. With love, the reader feels that all things are possible. Love is a deeper, surer emotion than romance. Love understands that sometimes the deepest love means setting the love object free. Love speaks from the heart.
To me, romance just makes me feel impatient. That's not to say that I would turn down a chocolate bar if the house hunk happened to bring one home, but the picture of candles, flowers, candy and bling as the only worthy demonstration of romance sort of leaves me cold. If you want to ring my chimes, do the dishes. Or carry out the trash. Vacuum the apartment, walk the dog, or cook dinner. Now that's romantic.
I think somewhere along the line, we've gotten away from the true demonstrations of love, of cherishing, and settled for a perfunctory floral arrangement and some cheap candlelight before the participants jump into bed and do the deed. I'm all for hot sex. Anyone who's read my books can probably attest to that. But isn't there more? Shouldn't romances be more about commitment and less about who's doing what to whom?
Commitment implies that you're going to take care of all those nitty-gritty details in life like cooking and washing dishes and laundry and cleaning--all of the participants. That's what life is. Commitment is getting up with a sick child. Commitment is helping care for elderly parents. Commitment is both of you hunched under a car on an icy February night while you change the muffler. Commitment is waiting together in an Emergency Room while they stitch up your child. Commitment is having a funeral for the cat because it was hit by a car. Whatever flavor your love story is, it's nothing without commitment.
Without commitment, there is no romance. Without commitment, the participants can't be secure enough to tie each other up, or have a trio instead of a duo, or settle down with a same-sex partner, or leap into the unknown and embrace a vampire or werewolf. All of those require a commitment that only comes from opening the heart and falling in love. That kind of falling in love is the forever kind--not the "until something better comes along" kind. And in the end, isn't that a Happily Ever After?
Please drop by and see what Kelly has done to the Saga at www.kkirch.blogspot.com and then pop over and catch Amarinda's take on her day at www.amarindajones.blogspot.com Blessings on your day!