Sometimes a phone conversation with a friend is just that. And sometimes it makes you sit up, take notes (literally) and start writing your next blog post in your head.
A few days ago I was talking to my friend Chelsea about something women have been talking about ever since BFFs were invented: men. Specifically, my issue with the male as the hero in every love story. From Pride & Prejudice and Wuthering Heights to Bridget Jones’s Diary and Something Borrowed, the guy is always the one chasing the girl. And don’t even get me started on the movies: When Harry Met Sally, 10 Things I Hate About You, Pretty Woman, every film Molly Ringwald made in the ’80s.
This should be the part in the post where I swear off all these movies and books for not showcasing strong female characters who go after what–or who–they want. I’ll be the first to admit that Pride & Prejudice is one of my favorite books, and I’ve seen all the aforementioned movies dozens and dozens of times. I don’t think these female leads are weak. In fact, I think they’re pretty great. They play women I know, and they address something we might not always like to admit: Women like to be rescued. We like to be swept off our feet, and we’ll forget a man’s flaws as soon as he climbs our fire escape with a dozen roses clenched between his teeth. (Forget Disney movies. Richard Gere and Julia Roberts gave me unrealistic expectations about love.) Does this make us weak? I don’t think so. It makes us human. It’s human nature to want to be loved, to want a grand gesture, at least once in your life. It’s why I get a dreamy, goofy smile on my face whenever Mr. Darcy walks toward Elizabeth as the sun is rising. It’s why I go, “Oh, Harry” when Billy Crystal says to Meg Ryan, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” How can anyone, regardless of sex, not turn into a pile of mush after hearing that?
But I want more. Maybe more is the wrong word. I want something different. I want a strong female character that goes after the guy first and gets him. And I don’t mean a female character that goes after the man, and then said man tells her she’s crazy or reading the wrong signals, only for that same guy to finally get his shit together in the last 15 minutes and realize, “Hey wait a minute! I do love her!” [Insert grand gesture. Roll credits.]
I want the girl to be the one outside the guy’s window, holding a boom box up in the air. I want Elizabeth to swallow her pride and go after Mr. Darcy. I want Catherine to realize that, “Hey, maybe Heathcliff needs to work out his own issues before I let him sweep me away.” I want to read a wedding announcement in The New York Times about a woman who found the man she wanted to marry and didn’t stop chasing him until he became her husband.
Now back to that phone call with my friend…
Chelsea (said friend): “You’re like Ted!”
Chelsea: “From How I Met Your Mother. Ted’s in love with his best friend, and he spends so long trying to get her.
Me: “You mean Robin?”
Me: “But they don’t end up together.”
Chelsea: “I know, but he still tried!”
I suppose I can feel a little better knowing that even the guy doesn’t always get the girl. But at least Ted tried. That’s half the battle, isn’t it?