I write romance novels.
Most of you know that. Normally, romance novelists evoke various reactions, such as the raised eyebrow, the wonder regarding those sex scenes, or the disdain of cliché writing. The basic theory most believe is that romance writers know all about romance.
When I was dating my husband, his best friend warned him away from me. “Don’t date her, man,” he said, shaking his head. “She’ll expect roses and pretty words and you’ll never live up to her expectations. She writes romance for God’s sake. Get rid of her before it’s too late.”
Of course, he ate those words when he gave his best man speech at our wedding.
But the philosophy was certainly interesting to me. I had different views on romance. When I was younger and single, I voraciously read every Silhouette and Harlequin book I could get my hands on. I was dazzled by the intense experience of that first kiss, the endless possibilities stretched ahead, the push/pull of attraction between a new couple excited me. I loved men who opened doors and talked about their feelings and whose touch could put me in a frenzy. I trembled at the thought of alpha males and dated my share of brooding, starved artistis. As I matured, I started looking for more values I cherished in a mate, such as respect for my individuality, a sense of humor, and interests that matched my own. Romance was courting, and great sex; meeting friends and family and not being able to keep our hands off of one another. It was drinking all night and eating cheeseburgers at 5:00am at the local diner.
There were some traits about my husband I was disappointed in. We danced horribly together. I would watch couples glide on the dance floor, melded as one, sharing whispers of endearments and I would get jealous. My husband and I bumped along a few steps, he looked awkward and ready to be anywhere but in my arms, and usually had nothing to say while we danced.
He always walked ahead of me, which I always thought of as rude. He says I walk too slow for him. So I trot along behind him like a lost puppy while other couples stroll in the moonlight hand in hand. He is not affectionate in public, and even in our home, prefers to stay on his own couch, on his own side of the bed, and will drop me like a hot potato at a wedding, choosing the company of his buddies over me. But all of that was negotiable, and not enough for a deal breaker, so we fell in love and made a commitment to each other.
When my husband and I got married, later in life than most, we delved immediately into the domestic bliss of baby and house. Our lives veered off course rather quickly, and my views of romance went with it. I found myself steeped in baby books, and became fascinated with anything to do with motherhood. Romance morphed into appreciation for a cooked meal, an extra sleeping shift, or the occasional night out with a girlfriend. My husband and I lost a bit of each other through this journey in order to gain the necessity of partnering to take care of a new life. We became a tag team, close friends, and fell asleep exhausted at the end of the day. Romance to me, at that time, was no sex. Just sleep.
Since the boys are now 3 and 5, I surprised him with a cruise for his fortieth birthday. I wanted to re-connect and be able to finish a conversation without young children interrupting. I was deathly afraid of missing the kids, so I booked a five night cruise and made plans for both sets of grandparents to watch them in shifts for the week.
The cruise was simply amazing. Even the flight to Florida was relaxing. I watched what I wanted, listened to music on my Ipod, and drank coffee. On the ship, we passed masses of families with young children while we happily skipped past, not needing to take care of anyone but ourselves. The sense of freedom was exhilarating. We ate five star dinners every night and drank cocktails all day long. We gambled in the casino, watched live shows, and did Karaoke. We watched bellyflopping contests and danced in the nightclub to seventies music without feeling silly and without needing alcohol for courage. We had sex in the middle of the day. We went horseback riding on the beach of Grand Caymans, drove mini jeeps through the jungles of Cozumel, and snorkeled on the coral reef hand in hand.
I re-discovered romance with my husband. Catching a glimpse of our old selves, we cherished the experiences and talked again like adults. The main highlight of the trip came in the Caymans. We were in a jewelry store which specialized in diamonds called the Crown of Light. The salesperson put one on my finger and the way it sparkled and caught the light made me literally gasp in wonder. I had never seen anything as beautiful as this ring. When the salesperson asked me if I wanted it, I laughed aloud and said it was impossible. She said nothing was impossible. I snickered and turned to my husband, who I assumed would pry the ring off my finger in three seconds and march me out the door before I got any of my impulsive ideas. And boy, am I impulsive. I am the type to spend all of our savings on a trip instead of the kids college fund and hope for the best.
Ray shrugged his shoulders and glanced down at the ring. “Do you love it?” he asked.
Wordlessly, I nodded my head.
“Then let’s talk price.”
My mouth hung open. I had a small fortune on my finger. “We can’t,” I said.
“Do you love it?” he asked again.
“Then let’s see what we can do.” Matter of factly, he spoke with the store manager, who came to an agreement and then broke open a bottle of champagne. We drank three glasses and walked out with the Crown of Light on my finger. When I asked him why on earth he did this, he said simply, “Because I love you.”
God, that is romance. The ups and downs and middles. We may have sucked at ballroom dancing, and he still drops me at weddings, but my partner in this lifetime is a different kind of hero than the ones I write about. And that’s fine for me.
This one is for you, honey.