(I was going to call this “My Favorite Fictional Couples,” but then I realized this went beyond opinion. This isn’t just my preference. This is good versus evil. Seriously. I’m right about this. I don’t say that often, but in this case…yeah, I’m right.)
As my daughter moves into the double digits this weekend, I’m bracing myself for the interest in love stories that’s headed our way. This is how I brace myself. By thinking back over all the couples I’ve loved and hated over the years and making lists. (As always, always, always these are in no particular order. I am not capable of ranking things.)
Here we go…
Famous Couples That Give Love a Bad Name
- Romeo and Juliet – Could we please not call teenage obsession (“I can’t live without you”) love? This is a fabulous work of literature. But it’s about hate, not about love. And as a couple, R and J have nothing but pretty words. They are everything that is boring about adolescent romance.
- Mr. Rochester and Jane – Sorry. I love you, Jane. But Mr. Rochester is a giant creep. I mean, I didn’t want you with that weirdo St. John, either. But you deserve a man of passion who doesn’t play weird mind games with you to find out if you love him. Or, you know, lie about already having a wife.
- Catherine and Heathcliff – I almost couldn’t make it all the way through Wuthering Heights. Both of these kids are whiny and melodramatic, not to mention selfish and petty. People like that deserve a tragic end.
- Paris and Helen of Troy – Even if you’re an ancient Greek and there are gods involved, you don’t get to start wars over a beautiful face. It’s just not okay.
- Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky – I’m terribly sorry for the way they oppressed women then. Truly. I know sometimes women were abused and mistreated and had no way out then. But Anna? Anna wasn’t. She just fell in love with someone more interesting. And then had a flaming affair with him. That’s not cool. And just because men did it all the time and got away with it doesn’t make it any more cool. (And they can pretty much stand for the hordes of adulterers throughout literature. I don’t care if you did need to break free, Age of Innocence. It’s not okay to abandon your kids for a childish view of romance.)
Okay, enough of the bad. Let’s get on to the good.
Couples I Want My Daughter to Read About (Someday)
- Beatrice and Benedick – If you only ever read one Shakespeare play in your life, it should be Much Ado About Nothing, and B and B are the best part of it. They are both witty, which makes them both a bit arrogant, and they are both sharp-tongued, which means they each puncture the other’s ego. So they hate each other. Until their friends trick them into getting past the ego part. Then they realize they are perfect for each other. This is a love that comes straight out of real life (with admittedly better dialogue), and getting to the happily ever after is so much fun.
- Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy – For once, a couple that deserves their fame. Pride and Prejudice is all it’s cracked up to be. Say what you want about Mr. Darcy’s stodgy awkwardness, any couple in which the woman makes fun of the man regularly and he recognizes it as a good thing is awesome. Especially if he’s all action when she needs it and she’s all apology when it turns out she was being an idiot. The world needs more men who act and women who admit it when they’re wrong. Am I right? (I am. I’m right about this.)
- Anne and Gilbert – Speaking of women having to admit they were wrong. Sigh. I mostly just had to include them because they were the first to steal my heart. They pushed each other to be better and they wanted all the same things in life and they grew up and grew up until they finally figured it out and got married and raised awesome children. Yeah, that’s where it’s at.
- Henry and Claire – Oh, The Time Traveler’s Wife. I wanted to hate you, but I couldn’t. Henry and Claire were all too real, and their life was so abnormal and it was awesome and it sucked, and they were good to each other and they weren’t, but the thing was, in the end, they did it all together and didn’t regret that. And I was sucked in. My daughter has to wait a looooong time for this one, but it goes on the list.
- Eleanor and Park – I don’t particularly like teenage love, but… “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” Yeah. Rainbow Rowell is a genius, and I could give you a million quotes that show how perfectly she captured the helpless feeling that real love give you. Seriously, it’s beautiful. Beautiful enough that I’m putting them on this list. And I didn’t want teenagers on this list.
- Katniss and Peeta – I know. I said no teenagers. But. The thing is that they had each other’s backs and put each other’s needs before their own long before they recognized that as love. Plus, they are weak and strong in all the opposite places, and the last book is the absolute best and it ends exactly as it should. (You can argue if you want, but I’m right about this, too.) (And if for some reason you haven’t read the whole Hunger Games trilogy, go do so right now.)
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. I perused all my bookshelves and couldn’t find any more couples I actually admire. But. Just because I’m right about these (and I am) doesn’t mean there might not be some I’ve overlooked. What do you say? Are there any I missed?