I’ve known a few people going through terrible times in life. Sometimes they’ve been young, sometimes they’ve been old. Very rarely have they been on the cusp of a romance.
Generally speaking, there’s something about illness that doesn’t lend itself to the dramatic. I think mostly it’s exhaustion. Who has the energy for the “do they like me” and other extremes of emotions when basic surviving is at stake?
Which is why romance films centered around sick people makes me sick. It’s definitely a Hollywood disease to to give romance a disproportionate role in someone’s life. Romance, according to the movies, is the thing that brings you back to life, renews your energy, gives you faith in beauty again, gives you hope, a future, etc, etc, etc. Romance has a exalted status in our society, it’s the high ideal we believe worth striving for. A sense of togetherness and communion that we think can only be achieved by a successful romance. It’s what gives life meaning and purpose: to be loved extravagantly by one other human. But it’s missing the point, and it’s a horrible standard by which to measure your own life.
It’s an especially poor standard to give sick people. Sure, they may have a supportive family, a loving family, a mother that dotes, a sister that sacrifices, a brother that entertains, a father that carries them, but do they have a boyfriend/girlfriend? They’re probably missing out if they don’t. At least that’s what I’ve learned from terminally ill romances.
Deifying romance is dangerous under the best of circumstances. Pitting illness against romantic love is abhorrent. It’s bad enough to be sick, let alone having to feel like your life is missing yet another component because you’re not dateable or marriageable because of something you can’t control.
Sure, romances for the terminally ill sounds like a nice idea in theory, the fluffy notion that “love strikes at any time!” And the staunch romanticism of “everyone should be loved!” Both of which are true axioms, but their placement in these situations only serves to add glamor to love and to signify that without it, you’re, well, without love.
But this is far from reality in many situations. Truth is that there can be advantages to being sick. It brings those who were close in closer and those who only wanted to pretend intimacy to go away all together. It makes moments with those you love that much sweeter. And it may be surprising to discover how many people you can love when you’re not caught in a romance movie trope. Which is why this trope is so very harmful. Instead of applauding the myriad of non-sexual relationships in someone’s life, relationships that are sweetened by loss and adversity, it creates a situation that drives home the point that meaning and purpose and happiness in life can only be found in a romantic situation. Souring an already sour situation.
Being ill is not easy, it’s not nice, it’s not good. And it’s not a fairy tale that needs to be sold with romance to support life having meaning. People are so much more than their illness or their romantic relationships.