Thursday, April 2, 2009

Romance Novels: The Shame of Discovery

No, no, I'm very serious.

I mentioned earlier that I'd just finished a book and had to pick up another one recently. My mama sent me a care package with a novel from Lisa Kleypas tucked inside and I was thrilled. (I'm a big fan and originally got her hooked on the Wallflower series.)

But carting around a romance novel, even one with a cover as inconspicous as this:

It has its drawbacks. (Yes, that's the actual title I'm reading.)

I work in a building full of engineers and suited, professional types. Even the women I tend to work with run marathons, organize "Save the Belugas" rallies and recycle obsessively. None of them really read romance. I can tell. How? I just can.

So when my 190 pound handbag falls open on my desk (I work in a cubicle farm, sigh.) and this scripty, gold swirly cover falls out, I get hell from a couple folks. (And I work so hard to keep my reading habits under wraps...with the same level of secrecy as when I spirit a post-it note pad or two out of the office storerooms at the end of the day. SERIOUS contraband!)

"Is that a romance novel?" (Ummm...yes. I'm doing research.)

"You actually read those?" (Well, only when conducting major academic research. I swear.)

"Those have sex scenes in there, don't they?" (Well, duh.)

"So that's what you're reading when I see you in the lunch room? You're reading a nookie scene, aren't you?" (Oh bother.)

At what point did our reading choices become our most heavily guarded secrets? Right up there
plastic surgery or a failing marriage, it amuses me to see the "hands" people show when it comes to being spotted with their reading material. (True story: A girl a few cubicles down carries around a guide to Alaska bear hunting. She's a vegetarian. A botanist. A single vegetarian botanist. Catch my drift?)

And I can't say that it ends with romance novels. I was six months pregnant with lil' man and reading "Monster Nation" when a good friend of ours (an older man) cried out in disbelief: "How can you read that stuff? That's terrible for the baby!"

Ha! If he only knew... but from that moment on, I held the book with the cover (featuring a crushed baby doll skull lying the dirt of some desert wasteland) neatly against my lap, lest any more "cover judgers" berate me and my parenting skills.

Bonus question: would it have been more appropriate if I'd been reading one of those nookie scenes?

Just wonderin'.

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