Romance Off the Page

When I was young and boy-crazy, I read whatever gay young adult fiction I could get my hands on. At the time, there were not a lot of high school love stories written for boys like me. That’s heteronormativity for you. The kind of love and romance I was interested in only existed in young adult books. There was a dissonance I felt when I pored through these books. On the page, love seemed to make sense to the characters. In real life, I didn’t get it at all. Always the romanticizer, never the romancer. I thought perhaps I was doomed to a life of asexuality. I mean, how was I supposed to know what love feels like at 17? But when you’re 17, that’s all you want.

Recently, I decided to pick up my first “Rated R-for-Romance” adult romance novel. I forgot how wonderful it is to get swept away into a love story as fantastic as this one (I’m reading Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, if you’re curious). Aside from the hot and heavy parts, I no longer feel that dissonance between fictional romance and real romance. In fiction, love and romance can be anything. Now I know the same is true for real life. As we found in this week’s show, love has no script.

As the kids on TikTok say these days: “Be the main character. Romanticize your life.” Never mind all the Lifetime movies and self-help books (and porn) selling us the same exact stories we’ve already heard. We are the main characters of our own love stories and we have the power to shape what that looks like. We get to choose who we love in our life and how we show them love and care.