This morning I stumbled across* Are You my Boyfriend?*, a picture book for grownups by Christina Bryza. It’s a super-sweet story, told in the style of a children’s book (like the classic Are You My Mother?), depicting the main character’s journey as she negotiates the modern dating world.
Our heronie meets the wealthy cad who tells her ‘I’m not your boyfriend. I’m emotionally unavailable,’ the married gay guys (‘neither man was her boyfriend’) and the artsy lad (‘I’m not your boyfriend’ he told her, ‘I’m more into my craft.’)
The book is meant to be positive because (SPOILER) the girl does meet her soulmate in the end, but, crucially, you never see her compromise or lose sense of herself on her journey ‘the main character gets shut down again and again and again. But she doesn’t take it personally; she just goes on. That’s a role model!’, explained Bryza in an interview with The Hairpin.
But the main reason it resonated quite so strongly with me is a bit more depressing. The repetitive nature of the book is meant to be a clever take on children's story telling, but it’s actually a pretty accurate take on the (my?) world of dating – we might get older, and the men might change, but the basic problems and questions we ask are still the same – ‘I don’t know if this is going anywhere,’ ‘he won’t tell me how he really feels,’ and of course ‘is he my boyfriend?'
In fact, this week I had texts from several friends asking 'but why doesn't he like me?' The same thing they were texting me ten years ago, basically. We might have proper jobs and gym memberships now, but our response and attitudes to relationships seem to be stuck on repeat, and the things we worry about seem child-like and basic.
Bryza’s book is the latest in a growing number of children’s-style books for adults (a trend the New York Times picked up on at the end of last year) – a sign that we’re all stuck in a perpetual state of arrested development? Maybe so. An entirely unrelated study out today reveals that one in six adults still love childhood pursuits including pretending to have superpowers(!), calling shotgun and playing pranks on friends. Yet another sign that we're the Peter Pan Generation?
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.