I watched The Birds recently.  I’ve never seen it before (I’m not much into old movies) but I thought it was maybe time I saw it, for my own edification.  I mean, it can’t hurt to watch what’s considered a classic, right?

Well, one part in particular caught my attention.  The heroine (whose name escapes me… clearly I wasn’t THAT into it) follows the hero home (a man with whom she had a brief conversation with in a shop… where she LIED about who she was), sneaks into the hero’s house and leaves a bird as a gift for his sister (who she knows even less than the hero).  The heroine also pumps local inhabitants for information about the hero and his family.

My first thought?  Ew.  Creepy stalker.  Forget the damned birds, Hitchcock had the makings of a scary movie right there.   No doubt that part of the story was meant as some nod to feminism or something.  On further consideration, though, I know I’ve read scenes like this in romance novels and was perfectly willing to suspend disbelief that the recipient of such actions would be romantically inclined towards the ‘stalker’.

In real life, though?  This would be, hands down, a romantic deal breaker.  But I am a lot more forgiving in my fiction, and I’m not even sure it’s necessarily because of the ‘fantasy’ element.  I’ve read more than one sexy hero who smoked, and the smoking itself was sexy in the story.  Real life, though?  Another deal breaker.  Several years ago, my husband wanted to take up cigar smoking.  I told him I refused to have kids with someone who smoked.  So he didn’t.  The irony of us later deciding not to have children is not lost on me.  Nevertheless, I think I surprised him by taking such a hard stance, because I’m a fairly laid back sort of person.

What about cheating?  Now, I see more of this in gay romance than I have in straight… at least, where the cheater is forgiven and taken back.  Personally, I think that it has more to do with long-established reader expectations in straight romance than anything else.  Regardless, cheaters can be forgiven and the relationship can go on.  I don’t know if I would consider this a deal breaker, because I’ve never truly faced the situation.  I like to think I could be reasonable if I was in love with the person and it was a one-time physical thing, but I can’t be sure.  Can a relationship truly survive that fractured trust?  I’ve seen it strongly affect friends’ subsequent relationships, long after breaking up with a cheater.

So, I’ve covered smoking, stalking and cheating.  What about other elements like voyeurism, gambling, drug addiction, abuse, alcoholism?  I’ve seen them all in fiction, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the patience in real life to accept these in my relationship.  And I’m reasonably sure no one actually fantasizes about having a partner with these issues, so what is it that makes these compelling?  Why are these not reading deal breakers?

Those tortured heroes?  Super sexy in books.  In real life?  No way.  I like my men with minimum baggage, fully sane and capable of being responsible members of society.  Of course, that may be because I’m loaded with baggage and not entirely sane.  Thankfully I’m still a responsible member of society.  😉

I believe the reason we read about tortured characters and seemingly impossible relationships is hope.  Hope that if people with all these problems can find love and happiness, well, we’ve all got a chance, too.