When I was going through puberty, I used to devour romance novels for the titillation factor. But over time I came to realize that a lot of these books were pretty formulaic. Also, I begin to notice that a lot of the messages that they send did not appeal to me.
I did not want it put into my head that the only way to be happy is if you’re coupled up. And since I wasn’t part of a couple, these books often had me crying hormonal teenaged tears and feeling lonely and inadequate. Who needs that?
I also don’t believe that someone who is treating you abominably will automatically be reformed and start loving you properly. Bad boys can rarely be tamed, and no one should get into a relationship under the assumption that the other person will change. If you don’t like what you see now, you’re definitely not going to like what you see 20 years from now. I also don’t believe that some man is going to come along and rescue me and solve all my problems. Women don’t need those messages. They need to learn how to be agents of their own life success, whether they are in a couple or choose to go it alone. And while finding love is wonderful, it doesn’t have to be one’s primary goal in life. It’s OK to have other goals.
And by the way, no one has the right to rip your bodice. No one gets to take possession of you. Healthy relationships should be based on teamwork and equality, not violence and/or domination.
So yeah, I stopped reading romance novels about 40 years ago. Maybe they have gotten better as feminism has taken a tenuous hold, but I doubt it. Why would publishers mess with what seems to be a successful formula? Many of us, it seems, embrace indoctrination.
The only book I’ve read during that time that comes close to that genre is the soft-porn, misguided, erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. I read it to see what all the fuss was about. I quickly realized that this was the most poorly written book on the face of the planet. I’m sorry, but titillation is not worth putting up with crappy writing. There are just too many other stories out there that can ring your bell without insulting your intelligence.
Given my disdain for romance novels, when I started my little free library, I made a firm decision that no romance novels would ever be in it. Full stop. This is not censorship. I’m not telling anyone not to read these books, and heaven knows there are plenty of sources for them to obtain such things. But I am the curator of my library, and I decide what stays and what goes.
And then one day I met one of my patrons. I had seen her stop by frequently, but she rarely took a book. She said to me, wistfully, “I sure wish you had more lady books.”
I apologized to her even as my heart sank, and then I went inside to have a long think. Ultimately, I decided that my main goal was to encourage reading and literacy. There’s no denying that the romance genre is quite popular. I suppose it wouldn’t kill me if the odd romance novel made it into my collection every once in a while.
Make no mistake, I still curate my library. There are some books you will never see in there. If a book promotes hate, it goes straight into the garbage. Likewise, books that give false information, and contradict science, such as those written for the anti-vax crowd, will find no home in my library. There’s plenty of easily obtainable false information on the internet. There is no need for me to perpetuate it. I also tend to avoid books that promote one religion over another.
But now I hold on to about every 10th “lady book” that crosses my path. (The rest go to Goodwill. I’d give them directly to that patron, except she is not on any type of social media, and I don’t feel comfortable exchanging phone numbers with her.) Every now and again I hold my nose and put one of these books in my library, because some people actually enjoy them. I may not agree with the social construct that these books promote, but I’ve found that many readers of these books will read nothing else.
If it’s a choice between romance or not reading at all, then I guess I’ll choose romance. Reluctantly. And I have to admit that they do fly off the shelves.
Before any of you fire off an indignant response to this post that defends romance novels, attempts to change my mind about them, or expresses how insulted you feel by my judgment, please know that I genuinely believe you can read anything you want. The fact that these books are not my cup of tea, and probably never will be again, is not an indictment of your taste. To each his or her own. I know perfectly well that I’m a snob on this particular subject. Hence the title of this post. Namaste.
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