Over the summer I read a hilarious book by Caitlin Moran titled How To Be a Woman. I don’t know if I have ever laughed so hard with a book- it was one of the most candidly real tackling of the things we have to deal with as a woman I had ever read. The chapter where she discusses current waxing trends just about had me rolling on the floor. Seriously, it’s a great read and I highly recommend it, but be ye warned -it is not for the faint of heart. She is incredibly blunt and at times pretty crass, but if that does not bother you- go find this book. I promise you won’t regret it. OK- disclaimer done, moving on.
The part of the book that I connected with the most however had to do with Moran’s recounting of a relationship she once lived that existed only in her head. When talking about how active and alive her imagination was as a teenager she writes, “My love life was busy, exciting, and totally imaginary.” She then goes on to discuss one particularly vivid fantasy.
“My first serious relationship was conducted with a famous comedian of the time and took place wholly in my head. I’d never met him, spoken to him, or even been in the same room as him- and yet, during one train ride from Wolverhampton to London Euston, I had one of the most intense relationship experiences of my life: all daydreamed.”
Sadly, I completely understand this experience. For as long as I can rememeber I have loved stories; it started with books and later included movies and TV. Growing up I was a complete bookworm and would devour volumes as quickly as possible. While I was reading I would simultaneously imagine myself into the story, and while my imaginings did not always go down the path of romance, this was the case more often than not.
I have lived as a fifth March sister between Jo and Beth who was the lucky one to win Laurie in the end rather than stupid old Amy. I’ve been a part of the Old West and both Regency and Victorian England. I’m pretty sure that my first real crush was Gilbert Blythe. My active imagination actually became a sort of test of how well written and plotted a novel was; if I could not imagine a better story with myself added into it or improve upon the original outcome by recreating separate events, I knew it was a good book. As much as I longed for Mr. Darcy to fall in love with me just once, I simply could not imagine it into being- it was so clear that he and Elizabeth were meant to be together.
I won’t lie to you and and say that I don’t still create imaginary relationships and stories in my head today, but I like to think I’m at least a bit more realistic about it. It’s rather embarrassing to admit, but I don’t think I’m alone in this pursuit. What woman hasn’t spent at least a moment dreaming of what life would feel like on the arm of George Clooney? However, I do wonder how healthy all of this fantasizing really is. In fantasy, everything is pretty much perfect, but this is not the world we live in. Real relationships take work and are not going to go completely smoothly. Most partners we meet are not going to be near as dashingly hansom as either George Clooney or Colin Firth.
But I’m OK with that. What reality has that fantasy doesn’t it that it is real. In the movie You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan has a fantastic line where she says that so many things remind her of something that she once read in a book, but shouldn’t it be the other way around? As much fun as I’ve had living my imaginary lives and loves, I don’t reminisce fondly over them the same way I do my actual memories. I know that my friends and family and the times that we have shared together is my real story, and it can’t be improved upon or written any better. The fantasy is fun, and does serve it’s purpose, but in the end it’s abandoned because it’s never as much fun as the real thing.
In How To Be a Woman, Ms. Moran continues recounting more of her “relationship” with the comedian, and then humorously recalls when she actually met him years later and was overcome with feeling all the emotions of their imagined time together. But she ends it with a statement that I scarily can relate to. “On the days where I have to rationalize this insanity to myself, I postulate that these intense crushes are necessary evolutionary byproducts of being a woman. As our fertility window is so short- allowing maybe a handful of serious, reproductively potential relationships before menopause- these serious fantasies are by way of “test runs”, allowing women to run through entire possible relationships in their heads, to see if they’d ultimately work out or not. Like a computer running through algorithms.” Test runs aren’t such a bad thing after all, I just hope some of them can be real some day soon.