The Undateable Undead: Part One
I recently finished A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Lured in by the promise of witchcraft, ensorcelled alchemical texts, and fantastical creatures overrunning a library, I couldn’t wait to get started. As I pressed the download button on my Nook with trembling fingers, I never suspected for one instant that I was opening myself up to an unhealthy, controlling relationship…with a vampire! [Insert ominous music here.] That’s right, this attractive and initially intriguing book turned out to be another Twilight-alike. I spent nearly 600 pages watching an allegedly intelligent, independent heroine become increasingly consumed by love in a world where love looks an awful lot like being manipulated, coerced, lied to, and plain old endangered.
I understand the allure of the vampire romance. What woman doesn’t want a forever-young (a.k.a. never-bald) super-powered studmuffin to pledge her his undying love, drive her around in a European sports car, and shower her with gifts and hot sex? Nothing is wrong with this scenario, until you add the fact that the aforementioned studmuffin (I can say that word, right? The 80s are cool again?) has a serious case of anemia, and taking iron pills just doesn’t do it for him. Also, so many of these relationships contain elements I’d consider unhealthy even without the vein-sucking.
On the flip side, not all vampires make bad lovers. Paen from Katie MacAlister’s 2006 novel Even Vampires Get the Blues sticks in my mind as a stand-up guy. Just as human males run the gamut from “decent people with morals and mature behavior who are capable of parenting a child” to “crybaby man-children with jealousy/trust/commitment/control issues who don’t even make good friend material,” vampire men must be evaluated on a case by case basis.
Need help spotting the difference between a blood-drinker and a life-drainer? This handy series will set you straight!
In this first installment, let’s take a look at the Big Three, the most common and dangerous warning signs in any human-vampire courtship. If any of the Big Three sound suspiciously familiar, it’s time to put that relationship in the ground. Consecrated ground, of course.
1. He wants to run your life.
It’s late. You want to talk, watch TV, or work out a plan to thwart the apocalypse (vampire-daters come from a variety of backgrounds). Does he inform you that actually, he can tell by your scent/pulse/pallor that you need to rest and will do so right now? When you protest, does he sternly command you? Throw a tantrum? Threaten to give you morphine/enthrall you/otherwise bend you to his will? Guilt trip you about your health because he thinks that just because he has heightened senses, he’s more in tune with your body than you are? Uh oh! Sounds like you’ve got a control freak on your hands.
Listen, I know he was born in the Dark Ages, but he’s had centuries to get over it and evolve with the rest of society. Remember when you were a teenager and fought with your parents all the time so you could assert your independence? Remember how they still wouldn’t let you do what you wanted to do? If you enjoyed that time immensely, here’s your chance to go through it all over again. You can argue with this guy until you’re blue in the face, but he will always count on his superior stamina and mind control abilities to wear you down. Before you know it, you’ll need his permission for every choice you make, and that means no more driving, missy–you could get hurt!
If he can’t understand that you are an adult with the ability to make educated decisions, move on. And if he tries that “But my species feel an intense uncontrollable need to protect our mates at all times” line on you, you tell him it doesn’t work coming from human men, and you’re not going to take it from him, either.
2. He wants to eat your face, the faces of your loved ones, or any faces at all.
When we say a human-human relationship is sucking the life out of a woman, we do not mean it literally. However, the basic conflict in the world of human-vampire relationships stems from the vampire’s need to drink blood for sustenance. Oddly, this conflict seems to only eroticize the idea for many women. Call it the nurturing instinct, call it an attraction to the idea of penetration, but don’t call it healthy. If the creature drawing nourishment from your body isn’t a human child, then it’s a parasite. Really, look it up!
I’m not blaming the vampire. He can’t help needing blood to live. I’m just saying he has access to sources that aren’t your jugular vein. If he’s happy with a diet of microwaved blood from the butcher… Well, that’s still gross, but at least he’s not a.) killing people, b.) risking your death, c.) stealing from a blood bank, which is NOT an honorable alternative, or d.) murdering fluffy bunnies with his fangs of death. Sure, you can argue that if he’s not drinking human blood at all, then he’s a morally upstanding vampire who’s trying to live right. However, if he needs to hunt, then he’s a predator, and that means you could wind up prey. If your vampire tells you that you can’t make sudden movements because he might instinctively pounce, run away! Well…walk away slowly without turning your back, but get out of there. Sure, he can’t help it, but if a friend told you she was staying in a relationship with a psychotic human who might randomly dismember her one day but that it’s all right because he can’t help it, wouldn’t you stage an intervention? Yeah, you would. Over Skype, because he might come home in a dismembering mood, and you do not want to be there for that.
Bottom line: If the way to his heart is through his stomach by way of the veins that are attached to your heart, just say no.
3. You have no future unless you also become a vampire…and he’s not into that idea.
Unless you’re like Batman and Catwoman, finding true love will probably make you want a commitment. When a vampire says “til death us do part” to his human bride, he’s really saying, “til you do drop dead of being old and wrinkly or I eat your face, because I’ll stay undead and beautiful forever.” Now, if you’re also from supernatural stock, like if you’re mostly human but 10% of you is fae-wolf-mer-bunny-girl, you may have a lifetime of 900-1500 years anyway, in which case you can probably put off worrying about his immortality. By the time it’s an issue, chances are that you’ll have eaten some magic sea weed that grants immortality, or medical science will have found a way to turn vampires back into humans. Either way, you crazy kids are gonna make it. Let’s look at your future if you’re plain ol’ homo sapiens, though.
Not every vampire will insist you become an otherworldly killing machine with him. Some vampires claim they would rather preserve their mates’ fragile human existence and allow them to enjoy the miracle of getting really old, but that’s suspicious. I used to work in a nursing home, and I will tell you that getting old SUCKS, and dying doesn’t look fun, either.
Also, if they’re as fanatically devoted to their women as they claim, they would want to keep said women, so a willingness to just wait out your natural life implies one of two things. Either he’s planning to off himself when hospice unplugs you in 70 years or so because he can’t bear the thought of life without you, a poor kind of logic when he could vampirize you and you could both live forever, or….
He’s not that devoted. He’s saying, “I don’t want you to suffer the life of a creature of the night.” He’s thinking, “Meh, I’ll hit that until she’s late 40s, maybe 50s if she gets some work done. Then it’s ten, maybe fifiteen years of playing bridge before I pack her off to a retirement home and find my next ‘soulmate.’ Not bad. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Plus, I freaking love bridge.”
If your vampire won’t take the plunge and make you his Queen of the Night, you need to rethink this situation. One simple way to test his devotion: When the evil overlord vampire council shows up, all unholier-than-thou about your interracial relationship, and insists your demon man takes things to the next level or they’ll do it for him, don’t hide behind him. Say, “Here’s my neck! Let’s do this thing!” If he quibbles, walk on. He’s not that into you. Better yet, don’t walk on. Go for eternal life, then go find Taye Diggs and make him yours, because some beauty needs to be preserved for eternity.
***Still not sure? Stay tuned for the next installment, because at Infinite Reads, we value your health and safety!***