But for a long time I really wanted to be.
…okay, you can extend “a long time” through last night, because come on, how adorable is Andrew Garfield’s “Spider-Man?”
(For those of you who realized I will not, in fact, be telling you a story about vacations in Montana: You’ve won a prize. It’s secret and you will find it within the next 24 hours. You might not like it. But hey, you try distributing prizes all over the place in the span of a day.)
I didn’t really want to be the girls from typical movies about high school and college. Cheerleader? Nah. Sorority girl? Nope. Mysterious new girl with a past? Closer, but still not really.
The women I was more interested in emulating were the hotties who held onto a hero. Because, let’s face it, you have to be an extraordinary woman to keep a superhero interested.
Here’s the thing, though: We always see these women through the lens of the super-dude crushing on them, and from the crusher’s perspective, a lady like this is pretty much perfect. Which makes becoming worthy of joining their ranks a tall task.
To be a superhero, you have to: a) Be born an alien or mutant, b) Get exposed to something dangerous or radioactive, or c) Have a ton of money.
Arguments? I mean, obviously that’s not *all* you have to do. You also have to have a motivation to fight evil, a moral obligation to do good, some kind of personal trauma or something to keep you going. I don’t envy a guy whose issues about losing his parents basically shatter every chance he has at being a happy, well-adjusted human being. Or–or! a woman in the same circumstances (although, what is Batgirl’s deal? Can someone clear her up for me?).
Anyway, being a hero means another couple of things. One, you have something to live or even to die for that’s not your romance. The fate of a city, or even just a lost puppy, lies in your hands! You have a purpose! Two, it’s basically guaranteed that someone attractive is going to find you and want to be with you, whatever the cost. Whatever your circumstance of hero-itude, you’re probably pretty attractive, and the mystery thing and the meeting-slash-saving-new-people thing combine to mean you’re almost definitely going to find someone.
Now, to be a love interest, you need to–well, let’s see.
1. You have to be hot. Obviously. But it’s nice if you’re girl-next-door-hot or doesn’t-realize-she’s-hot-hot. So it helps to be kind of oblivious, I guess. Come on, who doesn’t realize that they’re more attractive than average? That people fall over themselves to help you or even just be around you?
- Also, you have to be hot all the time. Like, when you’re lounging in your room after eleven p.m. getting ready to sleep alone surrounded by tasteful pillows. Do not even think about that ratty long t-shirt or about relaxing your gut or putting your hair in a Pebbles Flinstone ponytail. Keep up that posture, and no drooling when you sleep, either. Someone super could be watching.
2. You have to be nurturing. Someday–this is a GUARANTEE–your hero will be hurt and will crawl his way to you or land outside your window, and you need to play a really good Florence Nightingale to his wounded soldier. Also, this will strengthen your love and probably lead to some at-least-mildly-painful-on-his-part romantic times.
3. Obliviousness aside, you have to be smart. Let’s face it, really dumb ladies get boring, and a super-dude isn’t going to go all piney for a boring person. You should probably be a scientist or an award-winning journalist or a brilliant professor or something. But just remember not to let your work get in the way of your relationship, because, uh duh, being there for Supe-a-Dupe is way more important than finishing that research about fuel-effective technology. Unless you can implement it into his whatever-mobile.
4. Here’s the one that gets me the most: You have to be patient. You have to be OH-MY-GOD-SO-G-D-PATIENT. You have to make it through his awkward crush phase without getting frustrated. Luckily, if you’re Emma Stone, you can just ask the guy out yourself, and let’s be real, the awkward phase is pretty adorbs. But then you have to deal with postponed and cancelled dates, uncertain plans, uncertain futures, moments of self-reflective crisis in which your significant other decides that he can’t be with you for your own good–because, you know, that’s his choice to make, not a conversation you need to have–and then when he disappears or is presumed dead or whatever and you try to move on and get involved with someone perfectly nice but pretty ordinary, you have to be ready for your super-hunk to show back up, completely uproot your life, and let’s face it, make out with you again until you dump that guy you could never really love who knew you were holding something back from him.
- You also have to be okay with terrrrrrrrible communication. Like, this guy is probably going to be evasive from day one. And then keep things to himself–his survivor’s guilt, his PTSD, his growing obsession with a bad guy or with cheating death–and try to protect you from realities.
Being a SHLI must be EXHAUSTING.
The saddest part, though, is that you’ll always be a supporting character. Sure, you’re important to the story, but that’s because you’re important to your bf. Your chance of being kidnapped by a villain is basically 100%. Your chance of surviving that encounter is closer to 50%. Anything smart or daring that you do, any quirk you have, all you are only really matters in the context of how it can help Supey (you really can’t do the Spidey thing generically, can you). And, if you’re going to really be a proper SHLI, you have to be okay with that.
I can’t even tell you how many years I wanted to be a real life version of these women. Part of me still does. Because these are women you’d be nuts not to be nuts about. They’re women who the most powerful men in the world want to be with. And–SPOILER ALERT–that’s because neither these women nor superhero men exist.
(Also, can we talk about how weird it is that superhero women don’t ever–please correct me if I’m wrong–ever date non-superheroes? What, would they be too emasculated by it? Hard to feel like a real man when your woman is out saving the world and just wants you to provide moral support? No, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” does not count.)
Of course it’s tempting to be perfect. Or at least close enough to have someone really, really cool perceive me as perfect.
Except…you know, I don’t actually want to be perfect. I don’t want that pressure. I want to be able to have off-days. I want to be around people who smile and roll their eyes about my flaws instead of refusing to see that they exist. I want a chance to be driven, and to make mistakes, and then to do my best to fix them.
Heck, I want to be the hero of my story.
And I’m not saying that I want that at the expense of the other people in my life. We should all be able to feel like we’re our own heroes. I want to be Iron Man making a cameo in a Captain America movie when I’m hanging out with a friend, and Black Widow to my significant other’s Hawkeye when we make plans. (Note: If you have not seen “The Avengers,” run do not walk to somewhere you can find it.) I want to be part of the super-team. I don’t want sidekicks or butlers. Okay, I would take a butler.
Because my favorite thing about a superhero is not what he or she can do (i.e. fly, climb buildings, buy Tokyo). My favorite thing is figuring out who they are, what drives them, why they become what they become and how they keep going despite the horrors that come their way. The best superheroes are the ones with issues and hang-ups and weaknesses. That’s why so many people prefer Batman to Superman–after awhile, Superman turns into “where does THIS person find Kryptonite,” whereas Batman can get into all manner of trouble in all manner of ways.
Anyway. There’s nothing wrong with not having special powers or tons of cash. There’s nothing wrong with being a mundane in a world of supers. But in a world where fighting for justice is necessary–and this world is among those–I think it’s most fulfilling to be one of the crusaders, in any way you can. That’s what I want to be.
And in crusading, if you’re doing it right, you’re gonna have bad hair days.