In Which Our Heroine Has a Just-Hate Relationship With Love-Hate Relationships

2 October 2005

Every reader has the right and the wrong buttons to push. My grandmother, for example, doesn't want to read war stories. She lived through one as a fairly young girl, lost her brother in it, and doesn't particularly care to relive the whole thing. She can recognize well-written war stories with compelling characters, characters she would otherwise enjoy spending 300 or so pages with. But she just doesn't want to read them.

I have recently noticed another of mine in this category, and that is the romantic relationship where the characters start out hating each other and gradually come to realize that their passionate feelings for each other are of a different order entirely. The worst example of this lately had my brain using Rick Moranis's falsetto from when he was Dark Helmet playing with the Princess Vespa action figure: "No, no, go away, I hate you! And yet...I find you strangely attractive." I snorted in a most ladylike fashion and set the book down, never to pick it up again.

I have been assured that some people really do react this way, that some people really do perform the classic love-hate relationship in three acts, in their actual lives. I don't get it, though. Starting when I was in kindergarten, the little boy I had the crush on was not my archnemesis but my best friend. I disliked my archnemesis for a reason: he was mean to me and to my friends, and I say that with a straight face in retrospect. He was genuinely mean by adult standards. Racially-inspired teasing? Trying to convince kids that their parents didn't love them? Mean. If he hadn't been mean, I wouldn't have disliked him. Even at the age of 5, I didn't just go around disliking people for no reason. And all the reasons I liked my best friend seemed like pretty good reasons to like him like him, as we said in grade school.

I never grew out of this, and I'm glad I didn't.

So when I run across characters in a book who are behaving that way, either I agree with their reasons for disliking each other ("you're right, he is pretty full of himself, and a sexist") and then find the reasons for transitioning unconvincing ("I don't care if he just wanted to protect you, you're the most powerful sorceress in three centuries -- get a man who respects you and will work with you, or stay single"), or else I find the initial reasons unconvincing and then am annoyed with the characters for disliking each other for no reason. If my friends behaved like that towards each other, I would not find it cute and make cooing noises about getting them together. I would tell them to grow the hell up, and if that didn't work, I would stop inviting them to do things. There's enough genuine nastiness in the world without manufacturing it for fun.

Ah well. Other than that, I've been posting pictures of London: here, here, here, and here. That takes us up through...Monday. The second day we were there. Umm. But Monday was a landmark-heavy day. After this there'll be better pictures and more people in them.

Also, the dog is annoyed by our hand-mixer (I made banana bread, driving her absolutely batty), and I am annoyed by our leaf-burning neighbors. I'm probably much closer to calling the police on them today than I am most days. It's illegal every day, but I'm not dysosmic every day. Well, I am every day lately. But still: strong smells are tending to migrate to other strong smells and then back again, and it is not what we commonly think of as fun. At all. So if they don't stop soon, well, I'll be asking nicely and then rather more firmly. It's been going on all day, and it's likely to continue on clear weekends for the rest of the fall. It really could be better.

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