Romance is the most popular and vibrant genre of fiction in the United States and many other parts of the world. A recent article in Newsweek, "Bad Dates in Baghdad", offers vivid insight into why love stories have such extraordinary power.
In war-torn Iraq, according to the article, "going out takes all the determination, ingenuity, and nerve a young couple can muster." One pair of lovers was dragged out of their car by AK-47-wielding religious vigilantes. Only by bluffing the gunmen into believing they were married did they escape without injury. If you want to have a romantic dinner, you're out of luck. Few restaurants stay open after dark because in doing so, they risk being blown up by fundamentalists who disapprove of the mingling of the sexes. Picnicking male and female college students in Basra were beaten with steel cables and rifles so violently that many were hospitalized. They had dared to dance and sing in a park.
Despite these deterrents, one Baghdad gift shop owner hires three extra employees to handle his busiest time of the year: Valentine's Day. Lovers flock to Baghdad's Jadriya Lake, "a heavily guarded pleasure garden". Newly available technology helps out Cupid via cell phones and Internet chat rooms; one student has two Internet girlfriends he's never actually met. Perhaps the most heart-rending comment though came from a young couple who took a vacation in Amman. What did they do that thrilled them the most? "We walked and walked and walked," something they wouldn't dare do in Iraq.
A young woman summed up the fraught situation by saying, "It's very difficult for a man and a women to have a relationship here. But you have to try." That sort of courage is the stuff of romance novels.
Can you imagine not being able to just take a walk with the person you love? I can't. It's something my husband and I have treasured doing since the days we first began dating. What simple pleasure do you most enjoy sharing with your loved one?