Hopeless Romances: The fictions that ruin our relationships

Sarah Howden 16 October 2014

When I was thirteen, I was forbidden to do three things: hard drugs, join the Tory Party and read Wuthering Heights. My mother explained that teenage girls read Emily Bronte’s novel when young and suggestible. The next 10 years are spent searching for Heathcliff, trawling an adolescent smog of lynx and insecurity for a whiff of angst-fuelling testosterone.

Some descend into despair because their dark and mysterious stranger never appeared, and spend their teenage years inventing traumatic back stories for the nice boys they meet at Tiddlywinks society. Others throw themselves at a disturbed young man who seems like he’d enjoy wandering the moors at night, brooding and killing small animals. Neither is a recipe for healthy self-image.

Perilous as this passionate romantic view may be, my mother missed a trick. Far more dangerous than Heathcliff to sexually frustrated teenagers is the super-embossed goo of kissing in the rain and writing letters that is Noah from The Notebook.

Or what about the delightfully sickening Augustus Waters from John Greene’s The Fault in our Stars, telling insecure girls everywhere that once they meet the right guy, they too will have their first kiss in the Anne Frank museum to rapturous applause?

 For hopeless romantics of a former age, Jane Austen’s Mr ‘you-can-change-a-man’ Darcy can’t have resulted in wholesome relationships and still doesn't now, especially when we’re faced with the BBC’s half-naked Colin Firth shaking his matted head as he emerges from the lake. It’s that fatal combination of an untamed wolf and a National Trust brochure. No wonder we’re still single.