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Love etc

Who would date a man these days?

Julia Roberts in Notting Hill (1999)

“Men are trash,” says Kat Rosenfield in UnHerd, at least according to most “single, educated, liberal, youngish women”. Wanting to be loved by a man now represents an embarrassing shortcoming; dating them is an “exercise in futility”, like choosing the least-bad option from a menu on which everything is a little bit suspect. And this “swamp of heteropessimism” has spread to romcom books and films. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, it was perfectly reasonable to have “a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her”. But this would be unthinkable with the “current vogue for being ashamed” of wanting a happy ending.

I recently read Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel Romantic Comedy, about a late-night comedy writer who ends up dating an ultra-hot pop star. Compared to a Richard Curtis storyline, it’s awfully glum: the main character talks about resubscribing to hook-up apps and scouting out guys who “probably wouldn’t kill me if we went back to my apartment”. It’s the same worldview as the “professional, liberal, millennial target reader”: men will inevitably disappoint you; it’s just a matter of when or how. And if a man will invariably be unmasked as a liar, cheater “or (worst of all) a Republican”, how can they be a love interest? It’s a dim view of romance.