My daughter, who is eleven, likes to do texting role play with her friends. They literally take on the roles of characters and write dialogue and descriptions back and forth and have been doing so in an on-going story that has lasted months. I have had the opportunity to read some of this, and I gotta tell you – it’s good. Better than most of the stuff out there on shelves today. So I say to her as frequently as I can without being pushy: “You know, you could so easily just print this stuff out and slap a good cover on it and sell a billion copies. You’ve got the talent of an author.”
She always shies away from it: “No, this is different. We’re just having fun.” But this last time, she added, “And it’s all cheesy romance stuff anyway.”
I laughed. Because yeah – all you can do with something like that is laugh. She’s right; her texts are filled with power plays between dark, dangerous characters and female protagonists. But… that’s the point. She obviously has no idea how popular romance is. And she obviously has no idea why.
So I went ahead and explained it to her: “Sarah. Do you know how the female old brain is programmed? It’s programmed to seek out the most handsome, most intelligent, most powerful and wealthiest male version of our species and have a child with him. Do you know why? Because the better looking the man, the better looking the baby will probably be. And beautiful people stand a better chance of survival because others are more likely to give things to a beautiful person.”
I can’t tell you the number of free things my little girl got when she was younger because she was so damn cute. I could have freaking died and she would have been well cared for. And that’s the point. She stood a better chance at survival because she was adorable.
I went on: “The more intelligent a man is, the more intelligent his child will be. Which obviously also increases their chance of survival. That one’s a no-brainer. Ironically.”
“Finally, the richer and more powerful a man is, the more capable he is of providing sustenance for both the mother of his child and that child. I.E. – another point in the chance of survival slot. Everything our old brains tells us we want is a trick to make certain that we pass on our genetics to the next generation. It’s human nature. It can’t be avoided. So why be ashamed of it? Embrace it.”
She thought about that in silence.
“I know that society likes to make us feel bad for the things we naturally want to do,” I told her. “Like have sex or eat ice cream or stop our pain with medicine. And I’m not sure why it wants to do that. Maybe misery loves company. But it’s important that you know that there’s nothing wrong with any of it, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting the ‘perfect’ man. That’s natural and it’s perfectly alright.”
She looked at me and then at the hotel bathroom door, beyond which my husband was taking a shower. I knew what she was thinking. I married a man with a less than perfect body and at a time when neither of us were gainfully employed. We were dirt poor. Why did I choose him?
So I continued: “Where we go wrong as women is when we fail to realize that the world is populated by imperfect people. More than seven billion of them. There is no such thing as perfection. That is the cruelty of nature. It makes us crave something that doesn’t exist. There are very few handsome, intelligent, wealthy and powerful men out there, and most of the ones who do exist know they are ‘all that’ and they’re assholes because of it. Which marks them off the viable list immediately. So, Sarah – that’s where people like me… and one day maybe like you, come in. We know that it is impossible to meet the criteria that nature wants us to meet. So we satiate nature by creating books that cater to its demands. We fantasize. And then we move on to our wonderful, kind, loving husbands who are amazing fathers and thoughtful partners and we realize… that this is what we really want. And nature can go screw itself. We know that the next time it rears its picky little head, we can feed it some literature and all will be well.”
I could tell she was getting it then, because that comprehensive shine had cast over her eyes. But she smiled. “Well… this is still just for fun.”
I’m laughing as I share this with you because that is exactly how I was at that age. It was just for fun. And now I’m here – sharing with all of you.
– Heather Killough-Walden