Once upon a time, my romantic expectations were over-the-top – blame it on Allie and Noah from The Notebook, Rahul and Anjali from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, or Amanda and Graham from The Holiday. When so much media seems to be about suffering and the failures of society, engaging with a perfect world in which love isn’t lost is joyful. It feels meaningful. I cannot get enough of the perfect love stories that dominate movies, TV shows, novels, and songs. For me watching a rom-com is like going on a fun first date with myself.
Romantic comedy is a genre that repeatedly portrays overstated plotlines and impractical outcomes, like when he chases you down through security at the airport to express his undying love (Hello! You will get arrested), when he fills your room with more roses than you can count (that will cost you a leg and an arm), or when he falls for her instantly—its love at first sight! We see lots of compliments, flirting, gift-giving, stolen moments and affection, predominantly initiated by men. So, what is the effect of being exposed to the idea of the perfect life full of laughter with the one you love?
At a younger age, I often saw myself wondering why wasn’t my partner getting me flowers, surprising me with gifts, showering me with compliments. My love for romantic comedies had been affecting my relationship without me even knowing it. Women seek this perfect version of romantic love in their own lives – sometimes desperately – with their over-the-top wedding videos, and the marriage proposals that are meant to be public spectacles. Even young adults do this, as they try to create viral, Instagram-ready moments with their partners. Some may say this craze with romantic love seems dreamy and harmless. I say otherwise.
Every day, we are fed content showcasing romance and comedy that depict a world that is just a little bit better than the one you and I reside in. Novels, movies, shows and even social media carry stories that are beautiful and new, which work perfectly and easily, and are always associated with beautiful, smiling people having perfect adventures and romances, or saying really witty things to one another. With exposure to the same types of storylines again and again, we often start to think our own reality is pretty mediocre. Expectations that form at such a young and impressionable age become normal, and we believe in a warped version of the reality.
It is emotionally stimulating to get caught up in fictional situations full of adventure, humour, epic romances, eroticism and drama. In other words, it is fun and an escape from reality. I personally expected these things out of my relationship because I was moulded to believe that these are the only actions that show love. For me, it wasn’t until I really reflected on my expectations and where they came from that I started to turn it all around. I soon realised real relationships involve compromise, acceptance, and honesty.
Never apologise for having expectations, but setting expectations on your partner, and not yourself, is problematic. Ask yourself: Can you always tell what other people want? Do you always say the perfect thing? Do you never make mistakes? Single out what you’ve been told matters from what actually does matter to you. Ask yourself: Is this actually something that matters to me? In my late 20s, I realised that I don’t actually like getting flowers, this action doesn’t really mean anything to me and I hate being serenaded in public. So why do I love it on-screen?
Tailor make your Rom-Com
For me romance and laughter is all about that spontaneous trip to the market just because you want to prepare a meal together, long walks and conversations not necessarily at pristine locations, being comfortable with your partner in your sweats, laughing at their silly jokes, or even at yourself in front of them. These are just as romantic as an evening at a fine dine wearing a dress that your partner bought for you. Once I started untangling myself from the expectations that romantic comedies had created for me, I slowly but surely started living my very own rom-com.
Focus on the little things like the way your partner looks at you, getting extra hugs, kisses on the forehead, or when they pick your favourite on movie night, creating experiences that you can remember for a lifetime is real romance. Having said, here are my top 10 picks of must-watch Romantic Comedies that you should watch with your significant other!
2. You've Got Mail
3. Pitch Perfect
4. It's Complicated
5. 10 Things I Hate About You
6. Crazy Rich Asians
7. The Holiday
8. Bend It Like Beckham
9. Going The Distance
10. My Best Friend’s Wedding