Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Metabuddies and High Expectations

If you read my blog, you probably already knew I love Shannon Hale. I blogged about my love for her work some time ago in my "books I love" tag, and here and there I've made references and mentions of her books. I've absolutely loved all of her alternate-world gentle female-friendly fantasy written for young people, so I figured it would be a great idea to go check out her adult work.

So I'm reading The Actor and the Housewife. It is the story of a young housewife, Becky, who accidentally meets an actor, Felix, and they become friends. Friends, you say? Indeed! They are both married people (Becky with four children, too; in fact, she is pregnant when she meets Felix), and despite both being heterosexual people of the genders that are "supposed to be" attracted to one another, they find their relationship developing into something other than romance.

I love that Shannon Hale has chosen this as the central issue of her book, and I love how it is carried out. I love that Felix has been trained by society to assume that any positive feelings he has about a woman must be romantic or sexual, and that's very true to life. As an aromantic asexual woman myself, ALL of my relationships with men have been some kind of friendship, and it's so sad to me that people don't take "friendship" seriously as a lasting, committed relationship of any kind. This book shows how it can be done--how friendships don't have to be "more," or rather, that they don't have to be romantic or sexual in order to be important and real. I loved that Felix did not know how to have a friend because of what society had taught him, and how Becky and Felix figured it out together.

And that's where I am at this point. I have not finished the book.

At one point, I teared up. Not because of anything in the book, though. It was because of how much more of the book I have yet to go, and therefore, how much possibility there is for the story to go somewhere I don't want it to and take this away from me.

I'll probably feel silly for saying that when I finish the book. Shannon Hale has never disappointed me. Never. I trust her and I think I'm in good hands as a reader. But I'm already worrying that pressure from publisher expectations or some other agenda might have demanded that she take the conflict in a more traditional direction, ultimately driving home the message that no, this kind of relationship cannot work. I'm worrying that this relationship might be shown to destroy one or both of their marriages, or that it might reinforce those thoughts everyone seems to have about men and women being friends. That message doesn't need to be reinforced. I'm worried, reading this book, that it's teasing me with these wonderful messages about the importance and permanence of friendship and then it's going to take it all away.

I don't know where it's going from here, but if it ends in a satisfactory way, I am going to send a copy to my friend Jessie.

Jessie is one of my dearest friends. We are so alike in so many ways, with so much in common it's weird that we aren't related and didn't grow up together. She is one of the only people on the planet with whom I have had extended, detailed discussions about how important friendship is and why this concept of romance automatically outranking all other kinds of relationships needs to die. She understands the concept of "metabuddies" as presented in Shannon Hale's book. We've both been hurt by people who think the romantic line must be crossed before we deserve priority attention in someone's life, and we both find it offensive when people tell us women cannot be "just friends" with men.

You know what else we don't like? That "just" in front of "friends."

So here I am, partway through a delicious book, cautiously trusting because this author has never yanked the rug out from under me, but slightly world-weary when it comes to messages about relationships that support my core philosophy.

I hope I'll be able to close this book's back cover with a sigh of satisfaction and go buy a copy for Jessie.


  1. Let me know what you think of the book once you're finished! I love Shannon Hale, and I'd totally give it a read. :)

    1. I'll probably blog about it when I finish. This is a bit of a cliffhanger blog post, isn't it?? :D

      I am giving myself 1 hour of reading time every day except Wednesdays, so this should be done very soon. I read decently fast.

    2. I read pretty quickly, too. Good idea to give yourself an hour of reading time. I don't even know if I can spare that hahah