Column: The Romeo effect

Last year I spent a sleepless night tormented by the fact that my boyfriend was probably not the kind of guy who would watch me sleep. The idea that I might never wake to find him in my room observing my slumber had me in angst--was this the kind of guy I wanted to be with? What's love without the romance? How could we last when he didn't want to stare at me in an unconscious state?! It was a classic Long Island neurotic episode, minus the Prozac.

Once I calmed down and actually thought about the ridiculousness of the situation, one nagging question remained: Why did I care so much about something so trivial? This wasn't something that makes for a good relationship, yet it had me questioning someone I know cares for me. Then it hit me: I wanted the guy in my life to make these romantic gestures because I had seen it done in the movies. I had become the latest victim of the Romeo Effect.

I am guilty of something many women do-we mold our expectations of men and relationships on what we see in the media. We watch movies like Pretty Woman and Jerry Maguire and decide we want what's on the big screen. And by this I don't mean Tom Cruise or Richard Gere, but rather someone who is like the characters they play. We base our romantic standards on the fictional relationships we see.

The worst part is that we push our expectations of relationships to the superficial end of the spectrum. Instead of walking out of the theater with ideals of honesty, loyalty and respect, we choose to focus on the hackneyed lines and outrageous declarations of love and tell ourselves this is what's important. And from these shallow hopes we put inflated expectations on the men we date.

We end up constructing our own Romeo who is a combination of our favorite leading men. This act, though unconscious, cuts and pastes the best of what Hollywood has to offer and leaves us dissatisfied when we cannot find our Brad Pitt-Tom Cruise-Ben Affleck. Surprisingly enough, these kinds of men are not lining the streets.

We turn a blind eye to two major issues. One, most actors would not and do not behave like the characters they play. They're reading a script most likely written by a woman that is a recount of her own dream relationship. Two, guys do not grow up planning for romance. When it comes to the L-word, men and women are on different playing fields.

From the time we're little girls playing with Barbie dolls we dream of the perfect love story, complete with the knight on a white horse. We plan for romance, visualizing flowers, candles and even pick the perfect song to play in the background. And when we get involved in relationships, these great romances are what we expect. We want our men to say and do all the right things and pull out lines like "you complete me."

When we're growing up, guys play with G.I. Joes and think about sports; we plan our weddings and children's names. They have sleepovers and look at porno magazines while we watch Sleepless in Seattle. So, by the time we start to date, women have a first-rate Hollywood education in romance, while guys have to figure it out on their own. And, smart as our Duke boys may be, I highly doubt watching a girl sleep is a thought that readily pops into their minds.

In the end, we need to learn to accept reality while not giving up on the dream.

Guys all possess the potential to be the prince we imagined when we were young, but not all of them will figure it out so soon. College guys will not be Richard Gere; hell, some are lucky to be as smooth as Dawson Leary at this point. We need to appreciate our relationships for what they are instead of trying to mold them into a box office hit. Eventually the boys will catch up, and that's when the dream coincides with real life. Then, when your guy does something wonderful, it won't be something to check off on your romance list--it will be a surprise, the way it was meant to be.

Jennifer Wlach is a Trinity junior. Her column appears every other Friday.


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