Shiny Happy Heroines
By Melina Kantor
After I finished graduate school, I struggled to build a life in New York City. I was determined to find a job and create a social life.
Sadly, I wasn’t very successful at either. At the time, I was living in a studio that didn’t hold much more than my twin bed and stacks of books. I’d ride the subway and look at other women my age dressed to their professional gills in their fitted coats and stylish shoes, on their way to what I imagined were fantastic, glamorous jobs. In my mind, they were all married, or at least on their way to being engaged.
I used to whine about this to my mother. Regularly. She got sick of it, and quickly. One day she snapped and told me, “You’ve been reading too many of those books with pink covers.”
In other words, too much chick lit and contemporary romance.
Now, I think we’d all agree that there’s no such thing as too much of any kind of romance novel. Her point was that I was reading about too many twenty-seven year old single girls in New York, living the life I wanted, and having their happily ever afters.
In my mind, reading about heroines who had great shoes, cute apartments, cute pets, good jobs, great social lives, and a love interest gave me something to strive for, along with a much needed dose of hope.
But I must admit that my mother had a point (as, let’s face it, she usually does). Yes, there are plenty of twenty-seven year-old women who do have a classic chick lit heroine way of life. But many of us don’t. Which is why “shiny happy heroines” can play with our confidence.
I’m not saying that characters can’t be happy and successful. But I do think that even in the lightest and happiest of stories, it’s important that the heroine have her fair share of struggles and challenges in order to make her more like someone we can relate to.
Otherwise, readers may find it difficult to connect – especially those of us who live in real New York apartments where we keep our blow dryers on the bedroom floor because our bathrooms have no outlets and our socks in a drawer under the television because we don’t have an inch of space to spare.
Now, at the age of thirty-three, I have a decent apartment. And a job, and a cute (although extremely naughty) dog. I’ve made friends and built a life in New York City.
But still, life’s not ultra shiny. Not at all. And my friends’ lives aren’t necessarily glistening either.
By the way, I still devour “books with pink covers.” I always will. But I do admit to being more choosey about the type of heroines I read about.
What do you think? Do you enjoy living vicariously through “shiny happy heroines” or do you prefer a heroine with some real challenges?