Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You Date Who You Read

ABSTRACT. This study investigates the effect of fictional characters on readers' love lives, exploring the way in which books read during the subjects' formative years influence the subjects' tastes in choosing a significant other.

EXHIBIT A. I have this friend, see--let's call her Jade--who was obsessed with Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera in third grade. Long before joining Team Edward and Team Gale, little Jade was Team Phantom. She believed Christine was a dumb, skanky strumpet for choosing the pansy Raoul over the dark, brooding musical genius. Who cares if he's deformed? she thought. If he keeps that mask on, you can't even tell the difference! No, you know what? Take the mask off--the scarring only makes him hotter.

As you can see, little Jade was off to a great start in the boy department.

Besides devouring The Phantom of the Opera, Jade also read Little Women and Emma that same year. And what do those two books have in common? OLD DUDES. Ok ok sorry, they're not old per se, just...mature men. Jo March gets with the German Professor in like, what, his fifties?, while 18-year-old Emma ends up with thirtysomething Mr. Knightley.

So far, we have this mixing in Jade's subconscious:

Fast forward nine years to when Jade turns 18. Who's her first boyfriend? A 32-year-old, brooding, musical genius.

(You just got chills, I know.)

Needless to say, it didn't work out. She eventually learned that using 19th century novels as guides to her love life probably isn't the best idea. She has since then tried to ignore her wiry programming and look at boys her own age, though her proclivities still show every now and then--like the time she called the 90-year-old Clint Eastwood "hot" in Million Dollar Baby.

EXHIBIT B. Jade's friend, let's call her Mary, loved Catcher in the Rye and was absolutely enamored with Holden Caulfield. And who was her first high school boyfriend? Holden effing Caulfield.

CONCLUSION. Judging by this overwhelmingly large and varied sample size, it is thus unarguable that the books you read as a child subconsciously program your criteria for a significant other (p<.00001). The lesson? Books can affect your own happily-ever-after more than you think.

Have you ever dated a character in RL? Did it work out? Add to this case study by commenting and let me know!


Sharon K. Mayhew September 30, 2010 at 11:01 AM  

My RL love of almost 27 years decided it was time to bulk up thanks to the adorable fictional character Jacob...My daughter and I were a little bit Team Jacob (wink) and I think he got a bit jealous. I don't mind, I'm enjoying his youthful revival.

Richard Levangie September 30, 2010 at 3:23 PM  

From the other side...

I was dropped by one lover for NOT being Ross Poldark (from a series of British historical novels by WInston Graham). She came back a five years later wanting to try again because I was closer than anyone she had met in the intervening years.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I actually gave get another chance, and it's still one of the things I regret most in my life. :-)

L'Aussie October 1, 2010 at 3:04 AM  

Ooh, I love Ross Poldark, but never yearned to be his true love. That's quite a story Richard.

Judith, great post, makes me think. I immersed myself in books like Heidi as a child and that maybe led me to my love of travel and the great outdoors, and Switzerland! Who knows?

I didn't hanker after Heathcliff and Mr Darcy until out of my teens..:)

T. Anne October 1, 2010 at 7:31 AM  

lol. Poor Jade! I hope she meets up with a real nice Edward or Jacob. There's a lot to be said for an old soul in a young body. As for me, I married a man my same age, he's a character alright.

tanita davis October 2, 2010 at 3:07 AM  

This is hysterical. In order to, er, further your study for Jade, I'm going to pass this along to a few girlfriends.

I was Team Phantom, too. And I had to sing the stupid All I Ask of You for SIX WEDDINGS within the span of a single year. It was galling...

Myrna Foster October 2, 2010 at 6:12 PM  

What a cool post!

I thought Aragorn was perfect and read the LOTR series every December (my birthday present to me) for years. And nope, none of the guys I dated even took fencing.

Anonymous October 8, 2010 at 3:33 PM  

I am extremely creeped out. Really, really, really, really creeped out.

Obsession with Phantom. Guided by male protagonists in the classics. Falling for 32-year-old so-called "artist" as a result, needless to say it didn't work out.

You just described my life down the the EXACT AGE OF THE GUY. I either need to sue you for life-copyright infringement or have many, many cocktails with you. (I would like to go with option B.)

Anonymous October 8, 2010 at 3:34 PM  

Oh my God, and I was eighteen too. Didn't read closely enough the first time around.

Jude October 8, 2010 at 3:48 PM  

Anonymous--maybe you're me from another dimension but somehow the dimensions have merged for a split second?

You didn't even leave me your name!

Sharon K. Mayhew October 20, 2010 at 9:37 PM  

You'll be missed...Best wishes with your career. I hope to see your name and submit to you some time. :) I love your style...

Shelley Watters October 20, 2010 at 11:05 PM  

So sad to see your blog go! Good luck with everything! :)

Sharon K. Mayhew October 20, 2010 at 11:16 PM  

You can always email agent worries...just bloggy friends...