The Key to Dating in the Millennial Age: Read a Romance Novel

When I listen to my mom talk about her dating days, pre-my wonderful father of course, I wonder where in the hell I’m going wrong.

My mom definitely did the old school style of dating.  She’d go out on dates with multiple guys and they’d go everywhere and do anything. Dinner, the opera, the movies, boating, skiing, wine tasting, football games, hiking, and my personal favorite, bow hunting.  Yeah I know, my mom’s cool. Rather than shopping around on an app, she shopped around in real life.

When she tells the story about how she and my dad got together it goes something like this:

My mom and dad were friends with an awesome couple we’ll call Steven and Minny.   Minny worked with my mom, and Steven met my dad when my dad was doing construction on his house.  They set my parents up, and my mom and dad went out on four dates before my mom broke things off. At the time she was dating other people, and just didn’t see things working out with my dad. At this point of the story I’m thinking “four dates?! I can’t remember the last time I went on a fourth date, much less a third.”

My mom ended up getting engaged to a very nice man we’ll call Bob.  Then she broke off the engagement to Bob. Minny, being the savvy woman she is, just happened to drop that little tidbit to my dad.  My dad, being the intelligent man that he is, called my mom to ask her out again, and she thought, “what the heck,” and they went to brunch. (Don’t worry about Bob he’s okay. Heard he’s got his own show and a burger shop now… Juuuust kidding.)

When I asked her what changed she said, “I’m not sure. I do remember exactly what he was wearing.  He looked SO good.  And we went out to brunch, which turned into spending the day together and halfway through dinner, it just changed.  We dropped our guards and that was it.”

They got engaged three months later, and have now been married for thirty-five years.

That’s one of my favorite love stories.  Yes, because it involves the people who created me, but also because it parallels most…*drum roll please*…. You guessed it! ROMANCE NOVELS! (Why?  We’ll get there.)

So, being the nerd that I am, I started to think about how different dating is today and wondered why.  I researched a couple of articles, read a couple of books, and also talked to twenty-six singles (thirteen men, thirteen women).  When I put together all the information I’d gathered, I felt my happy bubble deflate, my shoulders droop, and my mouth frown. I, Samantha, the woman getting ready to put out her first romance novel that ends with a (if I do say so myself) awesome happily ever after, the person who gets excited for Valentine’s Day relationship or not, the person who exclaims “I love love!”, felt a tad bit of despair.

I read over my findings once more, just to be sure, and before muttering outloud, “Well…fuck.”

Here’s what I learned (real quick: if you judge any of these people,  I suggest youdo some self-reflecting, because Felicia, I guarantee you’ve done one or more of these):

  • One of my most favorite people ever told me he didn’t go on a date with a girl because he watched her Snapchat before and just knew he couldn’t be in the same room with her for more than three minutes.  I’m cringing thinking about my ugly Snapchat pictures I love sending.
  • One girl told me that she had a guy go off on her calling her a tease and a whore because she didn’t respond within 48 hours to his magical opener of “how’s it going.”  She was studying for the LSATs at the time, and had deleted all social media apps off her phone.  After that message she deleted all dating apps for good. Can ya blame her?
  • My friend said he could be into someone but then will pull back because of the fear that he’ll disappoint them. His schedule & lifestyle have been really hard on people he’s dated in the past so instead of disappointing someone new he just stops pursuing them.

When I asked the number one reason for ghosting someone I got this:

  • “I’d say my number one reason is because they don’t fit my ideal match… instead of letting me find out who they really are, when they don’t fit this preconceived ‘perfect’ fit for me, I’ll disappear.”
  • “Some guys can’t take a hint.  I’ll start to do the normal one word response trying to say ‘hey I’m not into you.’ And when they don’t pick up on that I just stop responding.”
  • “Honestly the ghosting is never on purpose…Career comes first right now…I barely have any ‘me time’ so when I do, I feel like I usually want to spend it with people I’m already connected to rather than random dating.”
  • “Usually it’s because I’m not really interested in a guy.  This sounds bad but I probably had a moment of loneliness and they were giving me attention.  I felt bad or had a moment of ‘well maybe I should give him a chance,’ so I gave them my number.  Then they want a date and I’m not interested so I just don’t respond.”

And in terms of dating apps making us more or less particular:

  • “The idea of settling is hard.  What if I spend time with this one chick who is awesome and pretty cute, great personality and we get involved.  It’s going great but then two months later I get a match and it’s the unbelievably hot chick that I thought I’d never get to even look at me. So now I have to be the dick and drop the other girl because obviously I want to see if I can have something with the more attractive chick.”

That’s just skimming the surface.  I immediately wanted to drink a bottle of wine, eat a carton of ice cream, and drown my sorrows in sad dramatic music. But, I had just bought a great new pair of jeans, and it would be hard to wear them if I gained ten pounds. Instead, I just laid on my bed moaning, “love. is. DEAD!”

That lasted about two minutes before I got bored and turned on my favorite movie, “Pride and Prejudice.”

Now, picture this: I’m laying in bed feeling somewhat sad and defeated, watching as we’re introduced to the brooding, yet handsome, Mr. Darcy (our hero) at a town dance.  Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy’s BFF, is enchanted by the lovely Jane Bennett.  When Darcy whines that Bingley’s caught the eye of the only pretty girl in the room, Bingley suggests that Jane’s sister, Lizzy Bennett, our heroine, is “quite agreeable.” (Jane’s great and all but Lizzy is funny, smart, and quite lovely. We like her more.)  Mr. Darcy, the charming ass that he is, retorts, “barely tolerable, I dare say.  Not enough to tempt me.” Jerk-face-jerk. Lizzy over hears this barb and of course her pride is hurt because what a dick!

They’re not off to a good start.

Later in the evening, when brought back together in a group conversation, Lizzy jokes that poetry is the death of romance (writing poetry as an act of courting was a big thing back in the day. Honestly, thank Golden Girls the practice died out). Darcy asks Lizzy what she recommends instead to “encourage affection” and she says, “Dancing. Even if ones’ partner is barely tolerable.”  *mic drop, exit stage right*

The look on Darcy’s face is priceless. Yeah that’s right.  She heard you asshole.

Now if you’ve been living under a rock, *spoiler alert*, Darcy and Lizzy get together at the end and live happily ever after. But not before some angst, family drama, trekking across England, arguing, and quick-witted barbs between the two. Oh, and Lizzy had to turn down a proposal from the most obnoxious man ever Mr. Collins.

So the end credits come rolling in and I’m thinking “why can’t life be like P & P?”

This is when I have a epiphany and discover the solution to all of life’s problems! Romance novels! (You’re welcome in advance).

No, seriously hear me out.  (I’m talking to you too dudes.)

Here’s the deal: with dating apps becoming the number one way of meeting people, we have become desensitized to the dating process. We often find ourselves “swiping mindlessly,” while either bored, commuting, or drunk with our friends as a game. We have lost the patience to find attraction despite someone’s flaws, or discover the small physical nuances and quirks that we later find endearing (and aggravating sometimes).  We have become more particular with who we date because there are so many more options, and honestly people who once were out of our league are much more tangible now. Lastly, we have developed a “what if” syndrome and are always waiting for the greener grass on the other side, missing out on the grass right below our feet which is actually quite nice.  I.e. What if that hot girl/guy matches us back and we’ve already invested in someone else, and we miss out on our chance with the more attractive person?

Yikes.

Now don’t get me wrong dating apps have been good for a lot of people.  My sister met my brother-in-law on one.  My friend’s brother met his current fiance.  It does happen. But, if you’re feeling single and jaded from the constant swiping, bad dates, and ghosting, then you need to a break and read a romance novel. Like right now. Yes they’re fiction, but they are all based around the same idea: two people finding a lasting relationship built on the best foundation of all: love.  And love is not fictional.

You’re still skeptical.  So let me lay some wisdom on you and tell you what romance novels will teach you jaded folks:

1. First (and second, and sometimes even third) impressions don’t mean s***.

Seriously they don’t.  I don’t really need to make a case for this one as I already told you about my mom and dad, not to mention Lizzy and Mr. Darcy.  If you’re still confused please see above or watch Disney’s feature film, “Beauty and the Beast.” Hell, watch “Lethal Weapon.”  Unless the person your meeting is trying to murder or threaten you, they don’t mean nada, and you should give them another chance.

2. Attraction takes time sometimes.

Once again, let’s refer back to Lizzy and Darcy.  Now, I’m not saying that someone you have absolutely NO attraction to is the one for you.  I’m not saying you should force attraction, or have to search for it.  But, nowadays there’s some buildup to a first date.  You see pictures of the person, which initially helps you decide to swipe right, you message back and forth, and sometimes even text back and forth. You’ve gone through all that and your still interested enough to go on a first date.  You go on the first date and maybe they aren’t having the best hair day, or they’re tired, or they’re nervous and you leave thinking “it wasn’t the best date ever but it was fun, I just didn’t really feel a spark.” DON’T BLOW THEM OFF.  Go for a second date (fuck it go crazy and go for a third!) and see if there’s a little more there this time.  Attraction should build over time. Otherwise it becomes stagnant, and who wants stagnant in the bedroom? Yuck.

3. Your ideal person doesn’t exist.

Sorry they don’t. There is no such person.  People are flawed, and with the right person those flaws become superfluous.  If you find someone who, in your opinion, is not flawed in any way shape or form, then you my friend are in denial. Either that, or this perfect person doesn’t talk, because it’s a doll that you ordered online, and it has no soul. You’re dating Satan in doll form. I hope you two live happily ever after.  Now obviously some flaws are deal breakers.  But we’ve created such an endless list of deal breakers we’ve lost sight of our match makers. (See what I did there?).  Focus on the bigger picture: Do they have similar pursuits?  Do they make you laugh?  Do they have manners?  Do they listen when you talk and actually build on the conversation?  Whatever.  Just for the love of Game of Thrones stop nitpicking.

4. Timing isn’t everything.

Most heroes and heroines don’t get together right away because: a) that would be a real short book and b) the last thing they want in the world when they meet their person, is a relationship.  It is never a good time for the “complication” of a committment to another human being.  And yet, it still happens, because that person is worth it.  So, if you’re thinking “now’s not a good time,” and that’s your only reason for not taking things further, you might want to think again.  Life’s always going to be chaotic, and crazy, and unpredictable. There’s always going to be a reason for why that time is not the right time.  Stop with the excuses. When you do, you’ll do a face-palm for waiting so long, because you’ll find the right person will be a calming presence amongst the discord.

5. The best things require work.

Swipe right, swipe left.  IT’S SO EASY.  So, when we go on a date that requires more effort than using our thumbs to make a split decision, OF COURSE it’s going to seem like a chore.  In romance novels the hero and heroine always, always, ALWAYS have to work to be together. When it finally happens it’s so much more rewarding because baby, do they deserve it.  That’s what life requires if you want a relationship.  Work.  You have to put in a little more effort than swiping and meeting for drinks hoping the convo will flow nicely. Should it be easy to be around that person eventually?  Yes.  After a few dates deliberate conversation will turn into a flirtatious repartee and everyone will be happy.

Case in point: Dating apps are turning the single millennials of the world into thoughtless dating robots.  Not really, but kind of haha. We’ve lost patience for the journey of getting to know someone, and fail to see and appreciate the art of awkward first dates.  We’ve become jaded, a little more shallow, and a little less romantic.  Consequently, despite being active on dating apps, we’re reserved in our efforts resulting in missed opportunities.

So, If you’re feeling grumpy about the hot or not world, take a step back and read a romance novel.  Read about two people taking the time to find their fit.  It’ll help remind you that dating shouldn’t be a quick fix to loneliness but rather an adventure to companionship.  Never read a romance?  Well don’t you fret your pretty little head, I came prepared.

For dudes:

Pucked by Helena Hunting

The Search by Nora Roberts

Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley

Wicked Deeds On A Winter’s Night by Kresley Cole

Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard

Deacon by Kristen Ashley

The King Series by T.M. Frazier

The Titans Series by Cristin Harber

 

For the ladies:

Rock Chick by Kristen Ashley

The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole

Charley Davidson Series by Darynda Jones

 

And like I said before, you’re welcome.

Later Gators.

 

 

 

Featured Read Friday: The Ugly Duchess

Many people are shocked when they hear my favorite romance novel is Pride & Prejudice and that I often watch the movie when I’m in need of inspiration (the Kiera Knightly version.  Sorry Colin Firth fans but Matthew Macfadyen walking through the field covered in morning dew to profess his love for Elizabeth with a nervous stutter will forever be one of the sexiest scenes I have ever seen).

They’re probably shocked because my vernacular is more commonly “dude,” or “wait, what?!” compared to the eloquent writing of Jane Austen and this week’s author Eloisa James.

I love my contemporaries, my paranormals, my thrillers, but there something to be said about a good historical.  Give me the ridiculous rules of “The Ton,” a rebellious lady, a Duke who is a redeemable idiot, and their fight to true love and I’m a happy little reader.

EJ has been on my TBR (to be read) list forever.  I finally got to her last year with her book, “When Beauty Tamed the Beast.”  I remember distinctly coming home one Friday night, grabbing my favorite blanket and settling on my couch, opening the first page around 7 pm finishing it at 2 am the next morning, and as I closed the cover I yelled, “where have you been all my life?!”

Eloisa gives us heroines we relate to, heroes we route for (if even sometimes begrudgingly), with plots that thrill, all delivered with a wit similar to Shakespeare.  (Fun fact:  EJ teaches Shakespeare at a university as her day job… No wonder I love her).

One of her (I think) more underrated books, which happens to also be one of my favorites, is this week’s feature: The Ugly Duchess.

EJ starts us off right away with a good conflict.  We enter in the midst of an argument between our hero James Ryburn (who is twenty at the time) the heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook and his father The Duke. We learn James’ father is a fuckwit. Not only has The Duke squandered the family fortune but he’s also dipped into the dowry of our heroine, Theodora Saxby (who is seventeen at the time), his ward since she was an infant (if you’re wondering…yes that’s theft).  But it’s cool; The Duke’s got an idea.

Why doesn’t James marry Theo?  Yes Theo isn’t a beauty, and she and James were raised like siblings, but it’s cool because they aren’t really related, and she and James are best friends, so they’ll get along just fine. *takes big gulp of air* Also, The Duke says not to worry about the “her not being pretty” thing because once James gets her pregnant and secures an heir, he can just go get a mistress.

James get pissed (+1 point), says Theo isn’t ugly (+50 points), and threatens to throttle his father for evening mentioning the idea (+25 points), putting James and Theo’s friendship at risk (+100 points), and stealing from her (+100 points!).

Sadly, The Duke has put James in a tight spot and uses guilt and some harassing to get him to agree.  James says he’ll never take a mistress, makes his dad sign the estate to him, and tells him he’ll live elsewhere. (-1,000 points for agreeing, +10 for the shrewd business agreement with The Duke).

We are then introduced to Theodora , who goes by Theo (which IDK why but this nickname warms my heart) and find she is intelligent, witty, and doesn’t give a flying eff she’s not considered “a beauty,” because she knows people will love her for who she is, not her looks. She also has a developing sense of fashion and creates designs in her head that she’ll wear once she is married and her mother can no longer pick out dresses that are unflattering to Theo.  (The anticipation of her inevitable future debut as a kickass fashionista thrilled me).

We love Theo.

After some insight into their relationship with a couple ball scenes, EJ gives us what we want… James proclaims his feelings for Theo (albeit totally sloshed), and Theo and James marry.  James because he had to in order to save the estate and his father, Theo because with James false proclamation of love she realizes that he has been the one for her all along. My heart broke a little at that point. BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T KNOW AND YOU KNOW SHE’S GOING TO FIND OUT.

When they marry Theo is dressed in a wedding dress that is highly unflattering for her and the newspapers refer to her as “The Ugly Duchess.”  This has Theo wondering why James (who is of course devastatingly handsome) would marry her.

James comforts Theo and you fall in love with him when he says, “I could never marry an ugly woman… I have some pride you know.  I married you because you are delectable, and beautiful, and don’t look like all those other girls.”

You think that James will realize he’s an idiot and love Theo and he does… But does he tell her right away before she finds out the truth about why he was suddenly inclined to marry her?  Of course not.

So Theo over hears a convo between the fuckwit (The Duke) & James realizing James married her for her money and obviously would never be with an ugly duchess like herself (*sobs*) and kicks both The Duke and James out.  Like the frustrating man he is JAMES JUST LEAVES. JUST LEAVES. WTH. COME ON MAN. FIGHT.

You’re feeling so much angst and it’s only like chapter six and this point.  (The sign of a good book).

Now let’s remember James is only twenty at this time and Theo only seventeen so EJ wisely has seven years go by meanwhile giving us small glimpses of what they’ve been up to.

Where do they go?  Well Theo becomes a fashion force to be reckoned with, sadly her wit and cheery disposition a ghost of what it had been (for James to rekindle mayhaps?) and James becomes…A PIRATE.  Yes. Please.

An English Gentlemen gone bad boy?  Gimme.

When Theo is in the process of legally declaring James dead in the House of Lords, who comes swaggering in?  A large, built, tanned rough looking man with a devilish grin and a tattoo under his eye (YUM). Who is this roguish man?  Well duh, it’s James.

I’m clapping with glee at this point… So if you don’t want any spoilers I’ll end it here with saying now we get the quest for Theo and James to find their HEA.

This book will not disappoint.  As always, Eloisa James is a master at making you feel all the feels, falling in love with characters that are truly unique individuals, and turning a children’s fairytale into a beautifully crafted love story.

Enjoy! (If you don’t mind spoilers scroll down past these jokes):

 

Q: What did one elevator say to the other elevator?

 

 

 

A: I think I’m coming down with something.

 

 

 

Q: How did the telephone propose to his girlfriend?

 

 

 

 

A: He gave her a ring.

 

 

 

 

And one final one just to make sure….

 

 

 

 

 

Q: What does a tree do when it’s ready to go home?

 

 

 

 

 

A: It leaves.

 

 

 

Okay guys here’s the spoiler.  So James comes back and internally is all I love Daisy.  I fucked up.  I’m a tanned, dangerous, Pirate man now and I’ve grown up so I’m going to seduce her.  Let’s do this.

Theo’s like don’t call me Daisy.  I’m moving out.  Let’s agree to disagree because everyone knows you married me for money and I’m ugly. Oh and abandoned me for seven years.

James is like wrong.  Look at me use your desk to write a correspondence and show you how wrong you are by physically claiming this as my desk just like I will reclaim you.

And in the middle of him imposing himself once again as the Duke that’s when, if you’re like me, you get mad:

” ‘I see,’ she said quietly. ‘If you are wondering whether I betrayed you in the years of your absence, I did not.’

There was a flash of emotion deep in his eyes, but it was gone so quickly that she wasn’t sure she saw it.

‘My answer to that question would be the opposite,’ he said as casually as he was discussing the weather. ‘Two days of marriage failed to impress itself on me.  I am fairly certain that most men would understand my lapse.'”

OH. MY. GOD.

REALLY?! REALLY?!

I mean as a writer I agree with EJ’s move here having him sleep with women.  He needed that growth.  I got mad but then I was like “well maybe he’ll know what the fuck is up in bed now.”  (A sign I’ve been binge watching Sex In the City too much again).  But as a female reader you’re like COME ON DUDE.

But James really has loved Daisy/Theo/Theodora all these years.  He loved her since his mother died.  And after some seducing, some bathing, and slamming some dick into the wall for talking trash about Theo, in front of all of society to see, James reclaims her heart, and ours as well.  Then he goes even further by basically proclaiming to all the gossiping assholes , “my chick bad, my chick hood, my chick do stuff ya wish yours would.” (Thanks Ludacris).

*Mic Drop*

Exit Theo and James into their Happily Ever After.

*Cue us closing book with a sigh of happy*

Later gators.