Romance writers are familiar with the concept of the TSTL (too stupid to live) heroine. You know her. She’s the one who rushes into the fray with only a can opener and a bottle of Gatorade. She hasn’t a clue and therefore the hero or some other character must continually rescue her from herself and other dangers.
Most readers are not too fond of the TSTL heroine unless she manages to redeem herself (or she’s Stephanie Plum–sorry, I couldn’t help myself), but since they’re only fictional folk, there’s not too much damage done, except to the psyches of the young girls who admire them.
But I was tooling around the blogosphere today and I happened on an article at the Women in Crime site talking about gullible real-life women who risk much to be with men who mistreat or kill them. Case in point: Sandra Boss and her daughter who was duped by a supposed Rockefeller, a man with no social security card, no job or history of having one, no real family. How the hell did this guy fool a supposedly smart woman duped into sharing their lives and their fortunes with reprobate men.
A big part of the equation is that these men don’t want you to know. They go to great lengths to preserve their con. This is their whole life and when it starts to unravel, they usually do one of two things–kill to cover their tracks or disappear. Luckily for little Reigh Rockefeller (now Boss) her dad chose the latter route even if he took her with him.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that there is something lacking in these women that these men pick up on and exploit. I would agree with that. When you consider that many of these type of love stories begin with the same formula: a whirlwind courtship followed by a quick marriage. Then the woman finds herself separated either emotionally or physically from her family and friends. It’s the same way many abusers and other predators behave: separate the weak one from the herd.
Another part of the equation is the pervasive sentiment that we women are still not complete without a man. We spout crazy statistics like we are more likely to get hit by lightning than to find that man after a certain age. Like a demented game of muscial chairs women are afraid to be the one left without a place to call their own. So, many close their eyes to signals anyone else would see. They don’t want to admit, until perhaps too late, that their (possibly) one shot at love isn’t who or what they claim to be.
But I think it’s also true that some folks take the fantasy of the romance novel and the movie theatre too literally. Some guy sweeps into their life and rather than being suspicious about why some man with millions wants ordinary ol’ you, you swoon. It’s not like Cinderella stories never happen, but more than likely the heroine ends up in divorce court trying to salvage some bit of her life, in a shallow grave–or, perhaps, my next novel. We’ll have to wait and see.