As told by Katie

Kristina Wyman's picture
Kaitlyn Akers

I have many fictional character boyfriends.

Don’t reread that line, you read it right the first time. I have many fictional character boyfriends and I love them all for various reasons. But it sounds a little ridiculous, right? Because in the world we all live in, we should only be dating one person.

Let me explain before you think I’m absolutely crazy. I don’t actually have a boyfriend but I do have a love-hate relationship with books and their characters. They have been my go-to activity since I was able to read, and I still love reading to this very day.

But since I was little, I always loved fantasy fiction novels, mostly because the events in the book could never actually happen (like aliens living next door and falling in love with a human). I couldn’t give it a base of reality and I loved it. I loved being in the lives of characters, feeling what they feel as they go through turmoil and loving the happy moments.

I especially love the extreme cases in which a story takes me by surprise and I end up crying over it and not talking to my best friend for a few hours (you know who you are).

As I started to read closer into books, I realized that the guy always saved the girl, which is fine; it sounds good in some plot lines.

I can’t say I’m not guilty of it, because as a writer it sells to publishers when the girl needs the help. As I’m finishing up my first novel, I realized that my main character always needed the guy’s help and was puzzled with how to change it, because it was normal for that to happen in most books, right?

Why does the woman in books always need to be saved by the man?

After a prolonged period of time that I’m not proud of, I figured it out. It’s not because it sells well to publishers, it’s because ever since we were kids, we were fed the lies that the woman has to always be saved by the man.

My finger is pointing at you, Disney, because every movie I watched as a kid that Disney produced was about a woman not being able to survive the plot without the man coming to help her in some way.

And sure, it was cute as a child to watch the plot play out and everyone lived happily ever after. And don’t mistake me; I still love watching movies when the woman and man can find love and peace.

That’s not what I’m frustrated with, because no matter what world we live in, there is always going to be that plot line in some way, shape or form. After a while, I came to accept that certain aspect of writing was not going to change, and those books that didn’t follow that plot line were a diamond in the rough.

I’m frustrated with the fact that these women, who are portrayed on TV by stick thin actresses (even in Disney movies), and these men, who have abnormally large muscles (still looking at you, Disney), are what kids are looking up to in our society.

I’m not perfect; I do it too. There are times where I sit down to watch some of my favorite shows and think, wow, they are so beautiful, why can’t I be like them? And I’ll look at a magazine and see a great photo and think, I wish I was that photogenic.

Do you see the problem here? As a junior in college, I still battle with the need to try to be perfect by society’s standards. But if we are going to go down that road, let me tell you right now that ‘society’s standards’ of ‘perfection’ and ‘beauty’ are all social constructions.

We, as a society, decided that being stick thin is beautiful. We decided that starving ourselves to be ‘pretty’ is acceptable. We decided that taking steroids to bulk up is how to live. We decided that we won’t be accepted by our fellow classmates if we don’t look like the mirror image of someone else.

As a society, this is what we built our standards of beauty on, and now as a society, we live by it religiously.

It’s sickening that somewhere in the world a little 12-year-old is crying in his or her room because he or she doesn’t look like their idol. Or that he or she are being picked on because they are ‘fat’ by society’s standards.

My hope is that one day children won’t be crying because they believe they are fat. But in order for that to happen, it starts with those who they idolize. So here is my promise to those men and women who believe that they don’t belong:
I promise to not expect guys to look like football players, as long as you don’t expect me to look like a Victoria Secret model.

I promise to not expect for guys to be like the fictional characters in books, as long as you don’t expect me to throw myself at you with a bat of the eye.

And I promise to write my characters different in my story because change has to start somewhere, right?

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