On any typical night when I get home from work and finish my dinner, I like to dedicate a portion of my free time to saving far-away civilizations from alien invasions in epic space battles.
When I get back to work, my editor worries about my lack of outside social life. This is because he doesn’t understand the essential, life-saving work I do outside my day job.
See, I make a pretty good space captain. I’ve never lost a significant battle, I conduct myself with expert grace in all social situations — if I’m involved, justice and honor and human rights and all unbeatably good things always win out in the end. And even though I’m psychologically co-dependent with the semi-sentient pet who goes everywhere with me in his specially-designed custom space suit, no one ever questions my competence, or my career choice.
Of course, none of these things happen in reality — they just happen in the books I read.
In real life, a couple of weeks ago, I attended a research conference to present some historical work I completed with a grant from Brigham Young University. The conference’s organizers, for no particular reason, had assigned another girl and me to a room near the back of the convention center. As you might expect, we had a lot of time to sit and talk about our research.
My new friend’s research involved reading, psychology and wish-fulfillment. In particular, she found that women who become intensely attached to characters in romance novels — think the Team Edward business with the Twilight series — also exhibit a strong need for close, constant romantic relationships in their own lives. Think Romeo and Juliet. Think people who are in love with the idea of being in love.
When they find that their real-life relationships don’t live up to their own expectations, they turn to wish-fulfilling fiction to meet their needs.
Since few attendees at the conference made it back to our room to interrupt our conversation, we started to discuss the implications of her research in greater depth. So what did it say about my own psychology if, say, I were mildly obsessed with the female space captain from David Weber’s Honorverse series?
Well, she said, given that I had gone into journalism and ended up covering civic meetings and other such affairs for a newspaper, I probably just wanted more adventure in my life.
Let’s go with that, because having unrealistic expectations of the world is a far simpler issue than having unrealistic expectation of one’s self.