Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reactions to Romance Readers

I was incredibly excited to be accepted as one of the new members of DIK. Three days of everyone having to listen to me? Awesome! But really I was nervous as heck too. I can barely manage to keep up my own blog sometimes. What on earth possessed me to sign up for this?!

For a while I had no idea what to post about. But then something happened to me recently that got me thinking. A friend of mine who didn’t know I read romance discovered I have a blog. The whole encounter went a little something like this:

Me: Um, yea, so I have a blog.

Friend: Cool! So what do you blog about?

Me: Mostly romance novels. I write reviews, talk about the genre, that sort of thing.

Friend: *skeptical look* You read romance novels?

Me: *getting ready to defend the genre* Yea I do. Have a problem with that?

Friend: No, but it’s… you.

Me: *confused, and slightly indignant* What’s that supposed to mean?

Friend: Nothing… except you’re like the least romantic person I know.

Me: *getting grumpy* Am not.

Friend: You hate romantic gestures.

Me: They’re overrated.

Friend: You hate being tied down.

Me: I’m not at a good point in my life for a relationship. (It’s true!)

Friend: You think men are interchangeable.

Me: Ouch?

Well, at least I have some street cred as a player, I guess.

The point of the anecdote is that for some reason being a romance reader comes with a lot of assumptions. Apparently my friend thought that since I read romance I should like flowers and candlelit dinners and would be looking for “the One”, when really I’d probably be annoyed by those things.

I’ve gotten a lot of interesting reactions when people find out I read romance, so I’ve started sorting them into categories. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

1. The new prude. Oh, you read those kinds of books? I’m sure you can all imagine the person I am describing. They wrinkle their nose slightly in disgust. I think this can mostly be attributed to the “bodice ripper” covers of the eighties: Fabio’s hair streaming in the wind, shirts unbuttoned, and a dress mysteriously falling off. They would never be caught dead reading “porn for women”. Yes, I read those kinds of books. Books with sex in them. Shocking! Have a problem with it?

2. The literary snob. I always find these the most annoying. They’re the most easy to spot. Their bookshelves are lined with Shakespeare, Homer, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche. If it doesn’t have a Cliff Notes written for it, they won’t read it. I usually find that the literary snob is the quickest to make assumptions and judgments about romance readers as a whole. We’re less educated. We’re bored housewives. We live alone with our twelve cats. Clearly if only I had read Kafka instead of Kleypas I would have been saved!

3. The closet reader. You read romance too! Every now and again you meet someone who reads romance, but hasn’t quite “come out of the closet” about it (usually because of the new prudes or literary snobs). They’re happy to finally meet someone else who reads romance too.

4. The avid reader. They probably were never in the closet, and are happy to meet another reader. They hound you about your favorite authors, ask you if you have a blog, and are already arranging a book swap.

5. The shocked friend. This one is a bit of a wild card. It’s usually a friend or family member who has known you for a while, but just didn’t know you read romance. Their reaction could be anything really. Like my interaction above.

What was the most WTF reaction you’ve ever gotten? Prude, snob, shocked friend? Something I couldn’t even imagine? Love to know!

When I’m not fretting about what to post on DIK, I’m occasionally posting on my blog, The Romance Girl’s Guide to Fiction.


Bridget Locke said...

Ha! Nice list! Sadly I know WAY too many people who are in the judgmental category. To them I just roll my eyes and walk away.

I could never understand the people who don't like to read. That's so weird to me! My brother & SIL are in that category and it makes me feel sorry for my nephews. Thankfully, they've got me and my mom to convert them. lol

Stephanie said...

Great post!!!! I write romance, so I've gotten all those reactions. I used to be hesitant about sharing what genre I wrote but after a while, I decided I was being stupid and showed my pride instead. I still sometimes feel the condescending eyes of the literati, but oh well! We're a 4 billion dollar a year industry. Can't argue with that!

Estella said...

I got a shocked reaction from my daughter when she saw me reading a Claire Thompson Erotic BDSM book.

My god, Mom. You're too old to read this type of book!

I don't think I'll ever be to old to read any kind of book I want.

The Romance Girl said...

Bridget- I've never understood that either! My life would feel so empty without my books :( I think a lot of people get turn off to reading because it's a required activity in school, and that does take a lot of the fun out.

Stephanie- The numbers are definitely on our side.

Estella- That's too funny! Really, what does age have to do with enjoying a good book?

Kris said...

I love your descriptions of the reactions, DL. So very true.

The reactions I tend to get are The Literary Snob and The Shocked Friend... usually combined. Actually I usually have a lot of fun wit it because it ends up in an argument and me shocking the hell out of them. * reminiscing* Aww, good times. :DDD

Artemis said...

It's the reaction from my 30 year old daughter that cracks me up. MOM! You're reading THAT! I embarrass the h*ll out of her. And, of course, I ask if she wants to borrow it. At which I watch her turn several shades of red. LOL!

Tracy said...

I get the "stunned into speechlessnes" person. Like they can't believe that anyone with an iota of intelligence would read romance.

I guess that falls under shocked friend. Lol

Great post D.L.

Renee said...

Great post!

My favorite reaction is my friend who made the hushed confession that she "sometimes" "might occasionally" pick up a romance novel. Once in a while.

I responded to her whispered confession with an excited, "Awesome!" And then asked her about the authors she liked.

Anonymous said...

To Stephanie - you hit the nail on the head. Be proud you read (or write) romance, and life is much easier - and more interesting.

I may simplify things too much, but though I've seen many reactions to the topic of romance novels, I've found they can be grouped into two very broad categories: readers who enjoy books that include romance (namely SEX), and those that don't. And you never know which group a person will fall into.

Case in point - I attended a meeting of my local DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) board, and the subject of my writing came up. Now, you must understand that the average age of a DAR member is well north of 65 (I bring that average DOWN, just so you know!). Granted, I'm guilty of stereotyping, but I expected the group to murmur a little, then move on to other business. Instead, the question I received first was "Is there sex in your book?" When I replied yes, they replied "Well, it must be good then!" Let's just say that wasn't the reaction I was expecting!

That being said, I've also had the "That's nice" well as that uncomfortable stare and silence...but hey, we're all different. Maybe I've been lucky, but it's been my experience that there's better than a fifty-fifty chance that I'll get a smile and warm reception when I mention my love of romance novels. So I'm with Stephanie - proud!

So whether you read or write romance, share your love with pride. You never know if the person next to you loves it too!

Anonymous said...

GREAT POST!! i love to read all kinds of romance books and i dont pay any mind to those who look at me and say you shouldnt be reading that since your a mom.

The Romance Girl said...

From the sound of what everyone is saying it sounds like literary snobs are very easy to shock. It sounds like a very fun game is in the making ;)

robindejarnett- not at all what I expected from DAR either!

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