I'm in the middle of reading Dead End Dating by Kimberly Raye. It's as light and airy as a good soufflé, and just about as filling. But one needs a good dessert every now and then, and I'm enjoying this sweet diversion. Ms. Raye has created an interesting world. One's outward appearance and social and economic status can be trumped by one's ability to procreate; male and female desirability is rated according to their fertility. This matrix would’ve put me at the edge of the dating pool. But because I wasn’t born a vampire, it doesn't matter. Of course, I'm not a made vampire either, or even a werevamp, so I don't fit into Ms. Raye's world at all, more's the pity. But here's the thing about the world of Dead End Dating (DED): it's just like ours, except that it includes creatures of the night. Which allows me to think about eternity in terms I can understand—and which make me shudder. In the novel, our protagonist, Lil, must deal with parental expectations, financial realities, adult responsibilities, family obligations and the stigma of being single. Lil tries to buck the system by remaining aggressively unattached and attempting to make her own way in the world through innovative entrepreneurship. But her choice of commerce belies the militancy of her stance concerning the need for a life partner—which in this world is called—frighteningly—an "eternity mate." Lil runs a dating service for lonely heart vampires. Yup. She's a vampire Yenta (for those of you who don't speak Yiddish, that means "matchmaker"--like the one in Fiddler on the Roof). Just what the vampire world needed.
And while this novel indulges my taste for escapist fiction— it's certainly doing the trick of distracting me from my errant children (who are grounded this week and banned from their electronic devices, including phones) and the confounding dashboard on my new car (which I had to get because I totaled my old car last week—don't ask), there is an unsettling undercurrent pulling me toward dangerous waters as I metaphorically turn the pages on my Kindle.
The problem is a mixed message on a number of different levels. In the born vampire world of DED, there is no such thing as love, and finding an eternity mate is all about propagating the species. Individuals with the best chance of making baby vampires are supposed to get together and take – or make as the case may be –one for the team. Very clinical. And yet, apparently, these practical pairings are expected to go the distance—which in this case can last hundreds of years, if not more.
Contrast that with Lil's perspective, which is a little paradoxical. She claims to be a modern vamp—who happens to be 500 years old. She is a ‘fish and bicycle’ kinda gal. But, simultaneously, she's holding out for true love—fertility ratings be damned. And, her clients are the antithesis of her claim that women need a man as much as fish need bicycles.
So which is it? Do women need men or not? Should we hold out for true love or settle for compatibility? This is not a facetious question—there is a lot to be said for compatibility especially over the long, long haul. Everyone always says passion fades—but a similar approach to neatness, eating, sleeping, money and sex, among other things, makes a lifetime together pleasant as well as pleasurable. In the DED world, compatibility is gauged in terms of fecundity and virility, but it presents a good thought exercise for our world nonetheless.
Seems to me that the answer is simple—which doesn't make acting on it easy. Women don't need men to be complete their lives. There is no shame or tragedy in being single—particularly when it is by choice and not circumstance. We women can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never forget that we don't need a man (isn't that how it goes? No, well maybe it should). And for those of us who choose men with whom we had passion but not lasting love, that's okay too. Passion is fun and life affirming. Which is awesome and not everyone gets to experience such passion.
In the same way, some of us choose a more steady, less exciting path. Also an excellent choice, and many of these pairings are able to run the marathon and not just the sprint because of the even keel of both boats (yes, I'm shamelessly mixing metaphors, I know). Again, not everyone gets to make this choice, and not all of us would choose it, given the chance.
Some of us, among those who desire to partner for life, are lucky enough to have it all—passion and compatibility. Lucky us. But from where I'm sitting, this is not an everyday occurrence, and should not be expected. Because while most of us grow up thinking we will eventually marry and perhaps reproduce, some of us come to believe that the idea of an eternity mate inspires thoughts of Meatloaf. Not the dinner entree, but the musician who sings "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." Poor Meatloaf is praying for the end of time, so he can end his time with his mate. Eternity can feel like forever, especially with the wrong partner.
Let’s hope Lil does her job well, even if not for herself. Because in her world, the dashboard light is on for an awfully long time – as is the one in my new car… which I hope to have figured out how to turn off shortly.