My mother used to say things like, “Indiana strawberries are the best strawberries in the world.”
And yet she had not traveled very far or very wide.
I once thought this was her particular brand of crazy (or one of them).
But I’ve had a rethink.
And now I’ve decided, I love this about her. These grandiose statements. This bottom-line mentality. I don’t even care she might be wrong (in my estimation only, the taste is for the taster).
There’s a strength to it. A confidence. An underlying meaning to it that I missed, but now it’s so clear to me, it just makes me love her all the more. And she was that kind of woman. Years after she’s gone, I’m still finding reasons to love her more.
You see, a friend of hers from days of yore once told me he’d asked her some question like, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” And he told me Mom answered, “There’s nothing like running barefoot over Indiana dirt.”
He thought this was crazy. She lived her whole life in Indiana. She didn’t want to sail the seas or stay at the Ritz?
No, she didn’t. And she knew this about herself.
So Indiana strawberries, to her, were the best strawberries in the world.
And even if she’d sailed the seas or stayed at the Ritz, she’d probably not change her mind.
Like mother, like daughter, I am prone to making grandiose statements. Great, exaggerated claims about just about anything I fancy.
I’ll make one now.
I’ve had enough with defending the romance genre.
I’m announcing it to all and sundry (or anyone reading Frolic, for which I have written a piece defending the romance genre) that I’m done with that nonsense.
I have written many an article, spoken at many a conference, read or heard many eloquent and/or fed up things written or said by colleagues with my fist pumping, my blood boiling and my mind thinking, “You got that right, sister! Preach it!”
This epiphany came when recently, as one does, I got caught in a web of following articles about an author who writes love stories (NOT romance!) who I will refer to as The Love Story (NOT Romance!) Author Who Will Not Be Named.
I do not name him because I fear any reprisals. If he knew me, which he doesn’t, or read this article, he probably wouldn’t care less what I said or what I thought of his shenanigans. I just don’t feel like giving him another mention.
And you know, back in the day, I got ticked because he was very clear he didn’t want to be known as a romance novelist. He was very clear he writes love stories (you know, like Shakespeare and Ernest Hemingway [natch]—his claim, not mine). And I got myself all wound up this guy was so adamant about not being construed as a contributor to my favorite genre. That he was a man, a man who had widespread success, fame, and practically had to do nothing but think of a book and it’d get made into a movie. And I convinced myself this was because he was a guy writing romance, so for some reason, his books were considered more valued than those written by women.
So I’m reading about The Love Story (NOT Romance!) Author Who Will Not Be Named and his latest tomfooleries (and by the by, his latest “tomfooleries” aren’t “tomfooleries,” this guy is a jerk, but that’s a different subject) and eventually, I start thinking two things:
- Why am I wasting time on this guy?
- Why do I put so much energy (read: anger) in defending something that doesn’t need defended? Especially when, for the most part, I’m defending it to the likes of this guy?
I like romance. I like to write it. I like to read it. I like to watch movies and TV shows about it. I will glom onto any hint of romance in any kind of story, and that’ll be my favorite part (and thus, watching Game of Thrones was agonizing – though, watching Gentleman Jack had me in happy tears).
You don’t respect this?
I don’t care.
You think because I like this, I live alone with my cat with my head in a fantasyworld?
Well, I do, to all counts. I mean, I get out of my fantastyworld to pay bills and go see comedians, or baseball games or movies, or I shop because I’m addicted to fashion [I digress]. So what? My cat is awesome. My home is awesome. My fantasyworlds are AWESOME.
You don’t think women should read “impossible” stories that make them think they’re worthy of being loved? That teach them that they should expect sexual gratification when they engage in that act? That share with them that they can be themselves, just who they are, and collect good, kind, supportive people in their lives? That is varied and diverse and promotes the idea of free-thinking, where they can find themselves somewhere, in some book, and see the beauty in however they are or however they’ve chosen to be?
You’re very wrong, and that isn’t your ideas about what strawberries taste best, you’re just plain wrong.
But what do I care?
Romance is the biggest genre in the business. It has the best fans. It’s women-centric any way you look at it. It is a force to be reckoned with (read: a threat to some) and it is because it’s just awesome.
It’s the biggest, fattest, juiciest, most succulent strawberry out there, and there are a great many of us who know that, dig that and partake of that as often as we can.
And if you don’t think it is, I don’t care. If you want to denigrate it, go ahead.
I don’t need your acknowledgement. I don’t need your respect.
I don’t need you, faceless stranger, or person who says ridiculous things to me, to condone an important part of my life that serves to make up who I am.
Because if you turn your nose up at what I love, if you cast aspersions on it for whatever your reasons, you don’t have mine.
Respect, that is.
Straight up, that Love Story (NOT Romance!) Author Who Will Not Be Named, for a variety of reasons, one of which is his adamant refusal to be aligned with the best thing going in publishing (but mostly, it’s because he’s a serious jerk) doesn’t really deserve to be a part of it.
And I’m totally down with that.
You can be over there. That’s all right. It’s a good place for you.
I’ll be over here, eating the biggest, fattest, juiciest, most succulent strawberry out there.