I was talking to a friend the other day. Like me, she is a psychologist and novelist. We were talking about the very broad genre of romance novels. This genre encompasses everything from my novels to 50 Shades of something or other and everything in between. What is interesting to both of us is the sheer number of romance novels, and even more interesting is the number of these novels with shirtless men on the cover. Time and time again I noticed the novels with the most risqué covers were published using pen names and often by authors who mention their cats, not their significant other in their bio. Cats are great, don’t get me wrong, but husbands are better. I am sure there are some who would disagree, but for the sake of this argument let’s assume I am right. The problem with having a husband though means having a real, living, breathing person with all their wonderful quirks and imperfections in your house and in your life.
We are all far from perfect. We all know this, and yet we frequently believe that we are perfect and everyone around us should be just like us. This creates intolerance and selfishness, because we believe others are there to benefit us and at times out right serve us. This is reinforced by cultures of pornography and erotica, and it makes sharing life with another human being really difficult. A fantasy can never match the real thing, and yet many people have reversed that. They have lived in a world of fantasy for so long that they have given up on having the real, true experiences. To be clear, I love romance novels. I write romance novels (with some twists), but at the end of the day, it is the relationships in my real life that matter most, not those I make up in my head. I need to be a mother, wife, and friend first and an author and reader second. And I need to be mindful of what I read and write to ensure it is not harming my real relationships and my real self. What I allow into my life will, inevitably, shape it. My hope is that my life is shaped into something beautiful and real, not a mirage of something beautiful and real. That is my hope for all those I care about. That is my hope for each of you.
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p.s. I took the picture in a park in China. I believe it meant don’t pick the flowers, but I like their phrasing much better.