Oh, the glorious relief of having a laptop again! My Theophania was in and out of the shop for several weeks. Then she was pronounced dead. The repair shop showed me her mangled corpse, which I felt was hurtful and unnecessary. They used dreadful words like ‘motherboard.’ I am not accustomed to such language. I had to sit down.
After I was somewhat recovered, I went to the computer shop, where they said terrible things to me like ‘Don’t try to carry that away, it’s a display model’ and ‘There’s a postal strike, you see, so everything’s a bit backed up’ and then used more shocking and alien words like ‘Pentium processor.’
The computer was not delivered. Day after day, it was not delivered. I became more and more wild about the eyes, and the piles of paper around me began to build up steadily.
PENELOPE: So I see there’s no laptop today either.
SARAH: No, but it’s fine! I feel fine! Never better! In the pink!
PENELOPE: What are you writing?
SARAH: Short story about a handsome prince. Oh, he’s so handsome. Secretive eyes. Long legs. Has a falcon.
PENELOPE (who knows me well): And?
SARAH: He’s a zombie!
PENELOPE: … Are his secretive eyes still in his head?
SARAH: That’s a good question!
PENELOPE: … I think I need some wine. I don’t think you need any.
SARAH: I’m totally all right, you know. I don’t need a laptop. I’m doing fine. Me and my zombie prince. In the pink! For zombies would you say ‘in the green?’
My laptop came this morning. It has no name yet, but I think we’re going to be very happy together. I apologise to everyone for all the emails I owe them: whenever I could check a computer I mostly had to pay attention to foreign rights stuff. (About which, again, more later!) I’m kind of ashamed of how clearly addicted I am to products of the machine age.
To get to the point of this post, however: How I Coped With My Withdrawal Symptoms. Well, you see, I never dabbled in Japanese entertainment until moving in with Penelope. I didn’t really know the difference between manga and anime (Japanese comics and cartoons). I was a little distressed by it, to tell you the truth, since the little people in the drawings had such big eyes and such pointy noses. What if they kissed and slipped? It seemed to me like a world full of tragic accidents waiting to happen. Penelope watched it and I regarded it in much the same puzzled way she regards my endless country music playing and frantic scribbling about demons and zombies.
One day quite early on she hit on my secret weakness.
PENELOPE: I’m watching an anime about magical ninjas!
SARAH: Ten-four. (plays Garth Brooks)
PENELOPE: There’s a morally ambiguous boy determined to join the side of evil.
SARAH: Cool. (plays Hal Ketchum)
PENELOPE: Well, all that happens in the first episode is the hero vandalising monuments and running around screaming that he’s awesome, but-
SARAH: Wait, wait. Petty crime? And vainglory? (considers) Bring on your magical ninjas!
So as I sat alone and palely loitering without La Belle Laptop, Penelope brought me something she was quite sure would cheer me up. It was a j-drama. (Japanese soap opera, pretty much.) I wasn’t sure. I’d heard things about crazy plots. I’ve been wary of subtitles since A Painful Incident Involving Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But Penelope had never steered me wrong before. Plus, I was desperate.
It was about high school, wealth, cruelty and true love. The heroine was a nice girl, able to stand up for herself without being in the least sassy, and there was a mysterious long-legged lovely thing around to be her prince. I was rather charmed. There was also a perfectly adequate high-school villain, the school bully who had all the sex appeal, fashion sense and social graces of a crazed weasel. I called him Dorkface.
About three episodes in, the crazed weasel boy’s hobbies expanded to include beating people up, doing jigsaw puzzles and trying to court the heroine in such a mangled and confused way that she didn’t know whether he was playing an elaborate joke, plotting to kill her or possibly just having a manic episode.
At the moment when what Dorkface had intended to be their first date devolved to the point where the heroine was screaming ‘This is scary! You’re gross! And I don’t want to die!’ I turned to Penelope and said solemnly: ‘If she doesn’t pick Dorkface, I will die.’
‘I knew you’d like it,’ Penelope replied.
Now it’s possible that I just have very odd tastes, but it strikes me that the best and most interesting romances are those in which someone’s behaving like a complete fool. Partly because that makes it seem more genuine (why would anyone choose to behave like that?) but also partly because it well and truly destroys that horrible thing in any book, the Perfect Romantic Partner.
You know. The hero or heroine is just quietly going about their business, and someone flounces onto the stage. Maybe someone sassy and redheaded. Maybe someone with a strong jaw and muscular thighs. The important thing is, they have no real life beyond being the Main Character’s ideal person, and no issues that aren’t superficial obstacles which will be easily overcome, and no personality to speak of that isn’t tailormade for the Main Character’s own traits. Also, the Main Character is usually no sooner in the Perfect Partner’s presence than immediate irrational attraction overwhelms them. Which is a very easy way out, particularly since the loud sizzle of the Main Character’s loins distracts from how very little the two actually talk.
Whereas if the Partner is initially actually off-putting (and I mean genuinely off-putting, not ‘oh, their fiery temperament annoys me almost as much as it inflames me!’) then you have to go on a journey with the Main Character, in which the Partner changes, the Main Character changes, and their perceptions of each other change too. And they have to learn to communicate, which means lots of lovely talking. The Really Really Imperfect Partner has to be an interesting character in their own right to win audience and Main Character over, and this way, going every step of the way instead of hearing the sudden soulmate sizzle, the audience is much more invested in the romance.
One of the very first Imperfect Partners I met was in Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover. The heroine Laura is in a room with Sorry. He’s handsome and blond and secretive. She thinks she’s going to get her first kiss. Instead, he goes for a clumsy boob grab, Laura has a fit, and I said ‘Awesome! Awesome!’ without really knowing why I thought it was so awesome. Same with Darcy’s first proposal in Pride and Prejudice, which I find absolutely impossible to read without going ‘Oh my God, you dork. You’re insulting her as you ask her to marry you. I can’t look. I don’t believe this.’ Other examples of Really Imperfect Partners (though in this case it’s just a Potential Partner) Valefor in Flora Segunda, who manages to be both nerdy, sinister, pitiful and yet, you know, um. Alluring. *coughs* Much more interesting than muscular thighs.
So is the Really Really Imperfect Partner going too far? Can you recommend me other books (Books, not manga or anime! Or j-drama!) with Really Really Imperfect Partners? Will I ever shut up now I have a laptop again? (Probably not, you guys. Expect many more posts, embarrassingly soon.)
Let me know. (And by the way, she did pick Dorkface. I was so happy.)