by FAIROZA MANSOR
In the movie Notting Hill, Hugh Grant’s character William Thacker, a bookshop owner, and Anna Scott, a famous actress played by Julia Roberts, get together despite their vastly different backgrounds and social circles. In 50 First Dates, the skirt-chasing Henry Roth, played by Adam Sandler, turns into a devoted lover who persistently woos his amnesia-plagued girlfriend Lucy, portrayed by Drew Barrymore.
These romantic comedies have all the staple qualities of their genre —attractive stars playing characters who make swoon-worthy romantic gestures and narratives which lead to a blissful ending. It’s easy to get caught up in romance-related content in movies, books, television series and even songs, and then expect what you watch, read and hear to mirror reality.
And who can blame you for being drawn in? As Dr David Tian, Director and President of Aura Dating Academy in Singapore, tells DUET, “We are all influenced by what we see and hear, whether we know it or not.”
Power Of Mass Media
Dating expert Michelle Goh from SDN-accredited dating agency Complete Me, agrees. “Exposure to the type of romance portrayed in the mass media can shape singles’ notions of love and expectations of romance, shifting perceptions about what love is like and how to show it,” she says.
A 2009 study from the Department of Psychology at Heriot- Watt University in Edinburgh in the United Kingdom suggests that “individuals may actively observe media portrayals of behaviours in romantic relationships for insights into how they themselves could behave in their own relationships”. Another theory also suggests that even if viewers aren’t necessarily taking note of the things they see in movies, what they view over a long period of time will still shape what they perceive as normal, thanks to repeated themes and images.
One of the more common themes in the popular media, according to David, is the concept of “love at first sight”. When young people buy into this notion, they tend to get complacent and not work at starting a relationship or being in one, thinking it should be as easy as what they see or read. “But most movies only depict the honeymoon stage of a courtship, not the negotiation and communication that actually goes into a successful one,” he says. Adds Michelle, “For a real life relationship to work, you need to consistently remind yourself that as a rule, Hollywood depictions of love are far from realistic.”
Reel Versus Real
Photo credits hitmewithbrokenleave.deviantart.com
Movies, television shows and romance novels offer a sense of escapism. What these media rarely depict is what we face in real life — what happens after the supposed happily-ever-after? “But this is not to say you should rule out entertainment entirely,” says Violet Lim, CEO and Co-Founder of the Lunch Actually Group. “You just need to distinguish between fiction and real life.” To do this successfully, she advises singles to go out and meet ‘real’ people. “You need to realise that when you watch a movie or a TV show, you are just watching a snippet of what supposedly takes place. If a movie were to be made about a person’s entire life, it would be impossible for it to be so perfect,” she says.
David echoes her sentiments. “You draw the line between real life and movies by actually going out there and accumulating personal experiences in dating and romance. Experience is a good teacher,” he says.
“Some singles tend to compare their dates to the characters in movies and TV, and thus harbour higher expectations of them. When these expectations are not met, they become disappointed,” says Michelle.
By having such unrealistic expectations, you run the risk of pricing yourself out of the dating market entirely. To combat this, Violet suggests not having “superficial preferences” or setting too many “must-haves”. These criteria include a potential partner’s physical appearance, education, income level and whether they own property.
Michelle recounted the story of a client who complained that her date neither brought her to a posh restaurant on their first date nor surprised her with gifts. “These, in my opinion, are trivial concerns,” she says. Managing your expectations does not mean having absolutely none, however.
“Ask yourself what is important to you and what it is that you absolutely cannot compromise on,” says Violet. “Find someone who is compatible with you, shares the same values, and life goals and objectives. Why emulate the characters you see on screen or read from books when you can write your own love story?”
“For a real-life relationship to work, you need to consistently remind yourself that as a rule, Hollywood depictions of love are far from realistic.” ~ Michelle Goh
Reproduced with permission from April – June 2013 DUET, a magazine by SDN.
Here are some tips on getting the best out of a REAL date
1) Choose compatibility. Do not be tempted by short term pleasure and instant gratification like, she must be slim and pretty or he must be handsome and at least 1.75m tall and so on. All of these do not matter in the long run. Choose the right person and you will have no regrets.
2) Share a conversation. That text message can wait, the Facebook update can wait too. Find a common interest that can keep the two of you engaged and enjoy each other's company.
3) Make a GOOD impression. First impressions are made in minutes if not seconds. It is important that you make a lasting impression to your date. You can either make a good impression, bad impression, or worse… no impression. You do not need to hog the conversation, but you do need to speak up to get noticed.
4) Always be prepared for a first date with a 'cheat sheet'. Prepare some interesting icebreakers, openers or even topics that you can fall back on when your palms start to sweat.
5) Be kind and friendly. It is not necessary true that only with good looks will you get the date. If you have always felt like a plain Jane/average Joe most of your life, do not dismay. Often, it is about being kind, friendly and having a ready smile.
We tend to be so focused on 'what we think is the perfect one’; we miss out on THE perfect one. I hope that by reassessing your criteria and parameters, you too will find your perfect someone soon.
I Love Children thanks Violet Lim for her valuable input.