Why is romance considered to be a young woman’s story?
Now and again I ask this question in some form, usually because I’m going through my thesis and I want to check if anything changed. For those of you who don’t know, the title of my PhD is: Cougars, Grannies, Evil Stepmothers, and Menopausal Hot Flashers: Roles, Representations of Age, and the Non-traditional Romance Heroine. . This time, as I shuffle things around and prepare the PhD to be sent off to the examiners, I tossed my little query onto twitter. Being in the Southern Hemisphere and having a 17 hour difference means the answers came from Australian tweeters. I’d like to be inclusive so I’m casting this net wider (I hope).
Some say you never forget your first love, but there are others who might say they wish they could forget their first love, or realise that first love was wasn’t love as much as lust. People fall in love at every age, not just when they are 18 to 20 or early-ish 30 something. I was and am curious to know why romance fiction and the media set a limit for the age representations of women falling in love, ones that force us to imagine ourselves with specific images of beauty that we all know are airbrushed and cosmetically enhanced. Does the lack of mature aged romantic leads stem from fear of our own mortality or is it a superficial fear of not being pretty, fear of wobbly bits (Bridget Jones says “no”), saggy skin, saggy boobs, wrinkles–superficial aspects of age that were are told are ugly? Or is it a matter of assuming we just aren’t interested in falling in love or in belonging because we are too old, and love is frivolous and only the young are frivolous?
A short time before A Basic Renovation was picked up for publication, I became aware of an event that occurred in Los Alamos, the setting of my novel. An Octogenarian couple went to the priest at the local Catholic Church and asked to be married. As my Aunt told me this, I whipped out my manuscript and showed her I had written that story. My ninety-two year-old GP wanted to marry Eilish Flanagan, his eighty-something year-old sweetheart. It was real life imitating romance fiction and I felt vindicated.
I’ll ask you again. Why is romance considered to be a young woman’s story?