SIORR: Episode 2: Is this toxic or is this cute?

Aanu Jide-Ojo
5 min readJan 4, 2021

I remember when I started reading romcoms, in secondary school then, really reading the good stuff if you know what I mean. If you read romcoms at the time, you probably started with Mills & Boons, then if you wanted historical romance, you’d read Zebra, if you wanted contemporary that was short and sweet, you’d go for Harlequin or Silhouette, by their publisher you’d know them. Depending on the genre, you’d probably see a shirtless man carrying a red haired woman on the cover.

Anyway in these books, you’d find a description of the men like “he was dark, broody, passionate, angry, with a temper, when he gets this way, there is no stopping him” then I’ll read it and say awwww. Right now I just want to scream BOUNDARIES, ANGER MANAGEMENT CLASSES, THERAPY. People, why do we romanticize this? So in today’s episode, we will be asking, “is this toxic or is this cute?”

The first time I felt enraged about how toxic relationships, was when I read the most unbelievable plot ever!!! Long story short, this high powered real estate agent got a call that her sister who lived in a small town, was missing, this was a town she left because it was super small, super judgemental and basically, there wasn’t anything going on there. Anyway, she had to go back to look for her sister. There she met “goody two shoes” , who was the idyllic nursery school teacher type. You know the type that helps dogs cross the road, has candy in her pocket for any child she sees, randomly checks in on older people, basically if there’s any trouble, she’s two seconds away from coming to save the day. (listen, this is all cute and everything but if this was an episode of criminal minds, you’ll find that she’s also the one that creates these disasters, because when you look at the people she’s friends with, they are all dependents, so is she nice or does she need to be needed? Food for thought?)

Back to the story,

As you can imagine, Ms Goody Two Shoes starts a personal search, finds the sister, becomes the temporary hero, Ms City Girl feels so grateful and they hit it off.

This would be great except,

(1) the sister refuses to get stay at home help, so she goes on this tiny emotional blackmail that compels City Girl to stay, disrupting her job.

(2) Goody Two Shoes starts this campaign to sell the most tiny, dreary town to City Girl, you know how righteous small towners get? Occasionally throwing passive aggressive jabs at her, like “so we’re not good enough for you right?” “you’re too big for us”, “we are a family, yes we don’t have fancy stuff but we know the name of everyone that lives here” FUCK THAT, I’VE LIVED IN MY ESTATE FOR A WHILE AND I DON’T KNOW THE NAMES OF MY NEIGHBOURS, THEY HAVE BEEN FINE SO FAR!!!

(3) They start a fling, catch feelings making it harder and harder for her to return, cue in Small Town girl’s mummy issue, by this I mean, you are trying to leave me, just like my mom left me.

(4) At the end of the book, the sister deliberately makes herself unavailable, triggering city girls’s fear and she returns to the small town. They give a ladida speech sprinkled by Ms Goody Two Shoes’ mummy issues and, I kid you not, she quit her job and actually moved there permanently.

See when I read this, I was shaking the book to see if there were any pages missing, ok I didn’t do that. But I was LIVID, how did it go through the editing process, vetting process, publishing house?

Now, my issue with this isn’t the toxicity on its own, I believe that “you don’t need to be good to be in love”, I’ll say more on this in another episode. But if at any point it showed that this was a toxic character, if City Girl had said “I understand you’re not comfortable with strangers, but I have to work, is there a compromise here?”, if Two Shoes “I have issues with my mom, but I’m working on it”, City Girl had said “I love my job and I shouldn’t be made to defend it or apologise for it”, if any of these things happened, even if she made the same choice, I wouldn’t have minded.

But none of this happened, instead they piled on the unhealthy like a sandwich of butter and bread and bacon and cheese while trying to sell us this idea that they were watching their cholesterol. It was frustrating to see someone be so manipulated into a quote and unquote “grand gesture” and what we are supposed to call it cute? Naaa this is toxic as fuck!

Anyway, I’m done ranting about this book, here are lowkey toxic situations that we allow in books and maybe in our lives…

  1. The she’s-rich-super-successful-but-I-won’t-hold-it-against-her-cos-she’s-humble scenario (see, if your date insists on looking for humility with you, run! You need someone that will make room for you and all of your success as opposed to insisting on you downsizing to suit their small mindedness)
  2. The my-parent-did-this-to-me-so-I-need-you-to-make-up-for-it scenario (parents are tricky, it requires conscious, intentional work to navigate the trauma they pass down, if this isn’t done, you get to be the toxic one, so therapy my love, therapy)
  3. The super-rich-person-that-is-invasive-and-controlling-because-they-love-you scenario cue in 50 shades of grey, it’s funny how a lot of people focused on the BDSM culture there, rather than the “I just bought the organisation you work simply because I can” part. And when she confronted him about it, he called it “a good investment”. Hmmmm, Mr Man, and your name is Christian. This gaslighting is ungodly.
  4. Ooohhhh, The I-have-anger-issues-and-I-can’t-help-it-because-I-love-you scenario. I mean, I love you too, but you know what else I love, relaxation therapy, breathing exercises, mindfulness, socratic questioning, look it up and do that.
  5. Hmmm what other toxic traits are there … I can’t come up with any now.

So leave a voice note below to share more toxic situations you have read in the past, or what you think, or if you disagree, really just about anything, I just want to hear your voice. You can also send a dm on instagram or twitter @helloaanu. Talk to you next week, bye!

Listen to the episode here: