The Pairing Addiction

Path Through the Trees A houseful of people all weekend. All people I like, too, so that was good. A lot of work got done, a new mailbox was installed, and there was much foodening.

Last night I dreamt I was on a battleship. I had a turtle as a pet, and I had to speak to Admiral Nimitz. Unfortunately, every door I tried to get me to the bridge led somewhere else, and I had to stop every few steps to help someone or another, or make a decision for them. WonderWoman and I talked a lot this weekend about being the person called upon to make constant decisions and keep the peace, and how it becomes a reflex. Food for thought all over that.

I’m a little piqued today by people writing to chide me for not having Emma and Archibald “in a relationship.” They are in a relationship–it’s called a friendship, and neither of them are interested in each other romantically. Why is this even a thing? Because I’m a female writer? Because there’s no other reason for a guy and a girl to hang out together? Because I’ve written romance before? It seems like there’s either too much or not enough romance in any book I write, and I just wonder about why people pick that to complain about. Sometimes it’s a part of the story, sometimes it’s not–just like in life.

The complaints tend to come in waves every two or three months, and I’m not quite sure what to think about that.

There’s this whole glorification of “romantic” love in our culture. We’re addicted to the idea, the emotional jolt. 99% of our songs, most of our movies, a good chunk of our books, commercials, TV shows, all these things we consume, hing on different permutations of this “romantic” thing. It’s a fascinating cultural conversation to watch, but it’s so insidious–like the endless daily messages directed at women to be thinner/sexier/less threatening/more hairless in certain spots. It becomes reflexive, and feeds on itself over and over again, amplifying each time.

Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but sometimes the constant banging on the “you have to ‘love’ someone” gong is overwhelming and a little terrifying. My fairy-tale YAs all have that component, because it’s in the original tales, but Bannon & Clare? Not so much, because it doesn’t serve the story. Emma is involved elsewhere and Archibald, well, he’s not wired for romantic love. Their relationship is full of other things, and while it does contain a particular type of love it’s definitely not the type I suspect a lot of readers are expecting.

I do know I’m not going to be shoehorning those sorts of relationships everywhere, in every book, just because. It’s an important part of life, and stories, but it’s not the only thing in either.

  • Absolutely, Lilith! This idea that romantic sexual love has to take a central place in every female protagonist’s life gives me fits also. Of course, it’s simply a part of the whole society’s attitude that any woman must be dying to have her “one true love” (no matter how many, serially) as the focus of her life. Sex and romantic love can be very important, of course, but not every woman at every stage of her life needs them at the center of her life.

  • wolflahti

    Yah – a guy and a gal can’t be in anything but a romantic relationship in the same way that two guys in a close friendship *must* be gay (Pumbaa and Timon, Sam and Frodo, Kirk and Spock).

    Sigh.

  • “I do know I’m not going to be shoehorning those sorts of relationships everywhere, in every book, just because.”

    …And let me just offer a hearty “Thank you!” for that.

  • BassoonBob

    I, for one, am thrilled at reading about the friendship between Emma and Archibald. It is so tiring to be hit over the head with sex/ love in every man/woman relationship. And if you ever bring back Ms Steelflower, I will buy it just to follow the group’s interactions in their travels.

  • martian moon crab

    my “one True Love” is books, and I have a pet, so just about everything is covered..

  • Andi

    Thank you for making their relationship REAL. I love the fact they have a relationship that has nothing to do with sex. It is still love and we don’t get enough of those types in relationships in books today! You go! And please don’t change it!

  • Moira

    Oh my god, so much. My book club was reading a mystery, and I liked it fine until the male cop’s female partner was introduced. For a while it looked like the relationship, which was fabulous, was going to remain platonic, but no, they had to sleep together. I complained about this, but was told it was impossible for a man and a woman to work closely together without sexual tension developing, which is BS.

  • pinkpelican

    I was a huge fan of the original Avengers series out of the UK. The dynamic between Steed & Emma Peel was complex, subtle, & awesome. There was a degree of flirting, but it was clear they were equal partners (well technically, I’m pretty sure that Emma had the upper hand throughout) whose dynamic was platonic. While the stories themselves were silly & campy, the characters of Emma and Steed were brilliant, and Patrick McNee’s & Diana Riggs’ portrayals of the characters were magnificent.

  • wolflahti

    Um, the original Avengers series (1961) featured John Steed and Ian Keel. When Keel departed, his position was filled by Cathy Gale (played by Honor Blackman, probably best known as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger). Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel didn’t come along until the fourth series in March 1965.

  • wedschild

    I just have to say – one of the things I adored *most* about Iron Wyrm was that it *didn’t* have the main characters develop a romance.

  • Yes, this, a thousand times over. Automatically pairing up a man and woman romantically whenever there is at least one of each sex is lazy and often uninteresting. There are so many other ways that two people can relate to each other.