In Defense of The HFN Ending
Updated: Oct 24, 2021
I joined Pinterest a few years ago. Yeah, I was probably way behind the curve on that one, but I finally did it, and then spent the next month retraining the algorithm to not show me ANYTHING wedding related. I could practically hear the gears of the internet groaning to comprehend my resistance. But-but-but... you're a female! You're over 30! And you're *gasp* unmarried! Surely you must be eating yourself up with dread at the prospect of never getting your very own "special day!" Most women have been planning for this event since they were in training bras, you're way behind!
Ha. Yeah. About that...
Sometimes I wonder how my Dad could have, in good conscience, spent my entire childhood drumming the words "don't get married until you can support yourself" into my head and then let me watch all those damn Disney movies. I mean... right? We were all raised on a steady diet of fairytales and happily ever afters, and society has long been steeped in the belief that if you're not married and building a family by 25, you've somehow failed at life. A HUGE fraction of romantic fiction only reinforces that assumption. But here's the thing: the decision-making center of your brain isn't even fully formed until you are 25. By the time we reach that age, we're only just growing into ourselves and figuring out who we are.
Honestly, I don't judge anyone for taking the plunge. As long as they aren't hurting anyone else, I say people should do whatever the hell makes them happy. But I think it's time to expand our definition of what "happy" looks like. Marriage is not the only pathway available to us anymore, nor should it be for our heroines. Not everyone wants the big white wedding, and I, for one, am tired of getting to the end of a book and thinking, "That was okay, but it would've been so much better if they hadn't slapped that hokey ending on there and wedged the two characters I spent the last 200+ pages falling in love with into such a narrow little box."
So why do we feel the need to wrap our romantic fiction up in a neat little matrimonial bow? To put it succinctly, love is universal and humans are pack animals. We all want to find our people, even if that belonging doesn't look the same. I'm not saying that happily ever after isn't out there, but how about a little realism? Rather than making ourselves (or our protagonists) insane by looking for validation in romantic relationships, why aren't we asking for portrayals of brave characters who are whole human beings, in all their complexities? After all, don't the most enduring loves come when we accept the risk, open our hearts completely, and love without reservation or expectations?