I had been doing so well on giving up pleasure reading. I thought I had it out of my system. My turkey was cold.
During the first two weeks of the year, I’d read only one book, Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos, and that was for the staff book group. That doesn’t count, right?
It’s not like I was looking forward to group’s next selection, a romance.
Let’s us have a few words about why I don’t like romance novels. There are myriad reasons why I do not read romances, but here’s the real deal breaker: I don’t want to read about people falling in love. I mean, fine, if the two characters in a novel I’m reading happen to fall in love, I won’t fuss too much, as long as they’re otherwise occupied with solving murders or thwarting terrorists or scourging the earth from the plague of zombies. I can deal with that.
But I do not want their attraction, and inevitable resolution, to be the focus of the book. I just don’t. It’s not what I want to read.
Whyever not? Various reasons, I guess, but if I were forced to pick just one reason why I don’t like to read about people falling in love, I’d say it’s because it’s not realistic. Ridding the world of zombies, now—that I can sink my teeth into. That makes sense to me. Romance… romance I just don’t get.
Am I revealing too much about my psyche here? I see more truth in apocalyptic zombie wars than I do in everyday fallings-in-love. Hum.
Romance novels just don’t reflect real life, not in my experience. For one thing, they always involve attractive hetero couples. What about the ugly folks? What about the queers? (Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain,” featuring two gay cowboys—now that’s a good romance. Except that it’s actually a tragedy. Maybe that’s why I like it.) What about third parties, or being in love with two people at once, or being only moderately satisfied with a romantic partner? That’s what real romance is like.
“But romances are fantasies, really,” you might protest. If I want a fantasy I want dwarves and dragons and elves, by God.
And then there’s the sex. In almost any romance you read, except for the chaste Regency types, the two smitten attractive heteros get into bed and have fantastic sex and multiple orgasms.
Let’s be realistic. The first bout of sex between any two (or more) people is probably going to be a letdown. Impassioned, maybe, but not that great when you get into the mechanics of it. And the woman—let me explain this for my male readers, who may be slow to figure this out—the woman is not going to have an orgasm the first time.
“Yes she will!” I imagine you macho types protesting. “Women are always satisfied with me!”
No. Sorry. They’re faking. Women’s orgasms are a tricky, tricky thing, and you’re just not going to figure out how they work the first time you’re with any particular woman. After the relationship progresses a bit, perhaps, but not on the first go-round.
“Now wait just a durn minute,” some of you women may be saying. “I always have orgasms. It’s easy.”
I will say this gently: I despise you and your kind.
…That wasn’t very gentle, was it.
All right. Without encroaching into territory that will make everyone blush, let me try to set forth a few truths:
- Men can almost always achieve an orgasm. This is horribly unfair.
- A few women can almost always achieve an orgasm. This is horribly unfair.
- Most women cannot achieve orgasm easily—and generally speaking, it won’t happen the first time they sleep with someone. It takes dedicated work between two (or more) people, over the course of time, to get her bits to respond enthusiastically.
I hope my sex education has enlightened everyone. I also hope that I’ve made my point about why romance novels irritate the hell out of me. They depict people enjoying earth-shattering sex the first time they sleep together, just because they happen to be in love. Love is all well and good, but it’s not sufficient for satisfying sex. Patience and dedication, that’s the ticket.
Funny how that lesson never comes across in porn flicks. Hence my objection to porn. If people enjoy watching others folks have sex on the telly or on the computer screen or on the glossy pages of a magazine, fine by me. But I truly object to the falsehoods that typical pornography revels in. Real people don’t look like that and real sex doesn’t happen like that.
If you’re capable of separating the porn you watch from the bed you make, bully for you. Most people aren’t capable, though. What’s worse, kids these days are learning about sex from online porn. And then they grow up to learn about sex from romance novels.
Which makes it really, really, really embarrassing that I fell off the reading wagon with a romance novel.
I read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight under duress, as I said, in anticipation of the next meeting of the staff book group. Persepolis anticipated that I would hate it. I anticipated that I would hate it.
She neglected to tell me it was a vampire romance.
Goodbye, feminist objections to unrealistic romance novels! Goodbye, aesthetic objections to uninspired writing!
Shall I mention that the werewolves don’t show up until the second book in the series? I read Twilight for the book group, a moderately justifiable course of action. It was for work.
Then the next night I read New Moon, the sequel. Not justifiable at all. But… but werewolves! And vampires! Fighting each other!
Tonight…? Well, I can proudly say that I did not read the third book in the series, though perhaps I should note that all the copies at the library are checked out. Not that I, uh, looked that up. And it’s not like I placed a hold on it. Except that I did.
But I didn’t read it tonight. Instead, I read a book about personal finance.
Four books! That’s four books this year, and while two of those were excusable, two of those were completely for personal enrichment.
I didn’t mean to read a book tonight, I really didn’t. But I was fretting over money today. I do this a lot, you know—fret over money. I understand it’s a popular pastime. Lots of people fret over money.
I was worrying about immediate money concerns (“Ack! Eighty-six dollars for a bra!”) and long-term money concerns (“Argh! Car loan! Student debt!”) and what-if concerns (“What if I’m never able to buy a house?”) and distant money concerns (“I don’t retire for another forty years, but should I be worried now? What about social security?”).
I can’t even recall what triggered it. I spend a lot of time worrying about money, but today’s anxiety was unusually acute. So I checked out a library book about controlling debt, and learned two things:
- I really ought to start socking away money for retirement, present debts be damned, and
- I’m never going to buy a house.
“You need a second income,” said a coworker for whom I don’t have a pseudonym, but here’s a hint: She has a lovely English accent.
Right. A second income. Sign me up.
I shouldn’t be whining, though. I have a roof over my head and I know where my next meal is c
oming from, thanks to my new refrigerator. (Former fridge died, right after I’d stocked it with $47.50 worth of perishables. Speaking of immediate money concerns.) I don’t work at Wal-Mart.
Oh crap I just remembered. It’s been five books this year. I wasn’t recalling Alan Moore’s graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, because I’d been sneaking it in bits and pieces, sort of like a dieter who sneaks an oreo now and again. Just one little chapter here or there isn’t really cheating.
Right! No more books from now on, I mean it! (Except for the third vampires-n-werewolves romance, I simply have to know what happens next.)
In parting, I would post a picture of my new hair, but I’m already in my jammies and my face is stressed from a day of worrying about money and feeling guilty about not writing the manuscript. Next time, though, I’ll see what I can manage. And it shouldn’t be too long to wait, since I will be writing furiously and my only conceivable option for a break will be to post something here. Right? Right.