I’m not one for commercial holidays, but the approach of Valentine’s Day has got me thinking about love, and why I write about it.
I love romance, but it took me a long time to admit it. I discovered romance novels when I was in middle school. In grade 7, I was devouring books like a starved crow, and soon I had picked away at everything in my small school library, leaving nothing but bent paperback carcasses. So I turned my attention to the public library across the street. Finding many repeats, I eventually slunk into the adult section in search of new stories. Once I read my first romance, I was done. I was hooked on the idea of love. That there could be someone out there that sees all of you – and not only accepts it, but embraces and cherishes it. I knew that these “bodice rippers” (as one old man put it while I read in a doctor’s waiting room) were inappropriate for my age and I tried to hide them from my parents. But in the words of my late father “Yeah, right!” They knew what I was reading – but I guess they figured out what I now know – they kept me out of trouble.
Instead of seeking the attention from the opposite sex, that little rush from flirting with the boy who sat across from me in French class, I spent my evenings reading about MEN. Wonderful men. Exciting men. Men who could build fences, save lives and make a woman turn to a sweltering puddle with one passionate kiss. How could a pre-pubescent boy with a cracking voice and blemished skin compete? Well, he simply couldn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew that these men were creative fiction with all their chiseled perfection coated in saccharine endearments. I grew up in a family of men (read: mostly boys). I have 3 older brothers who never filtered themselves when talking about their conquests at Saturday night’s party just because their 13-year-old sister was present. I got that men could be dogs. So I fell in love with fictional characters, and I was good with that. It was safer.
Today, I stay away from formulaic romances. I don’t want predictable, cliché and cheesy. But I still love a good book that has a love story at its center. And I’m no longer ashamed to admit it. I know some consider romance “low-brow” and not for the intellectual. I don’t read books to prove how smart I am. I read them as an escape – a fantasy. There is nothing greater to me than to be transported into other worlds, all without having to leave the comfort of my couch and the soft crackle of the logs in my fireplace. It is pure pleasure.
I feel that love is at the center of life’s journey. The pursuit of that person who understands you; all of your imperfections, your quirks, your stretchmarks, and still looks at you like you are a gift – who accepts you for you. Love is a driving force in my life, and that’s why it’s a central theme in my writing. I feel that the greatest success in life is to achieve true love – not necessarily romantic love, but love that means finding solace in meaningful relationships with others.
A Person Can Have Many Layers – Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker & Spider Man
I don’t look at my house, handbag, or my car and think, “Wow J.R., you’ve made it.” No, that is what I think when I look at my husband. Not because he’s the best looking, the tallest, or the sexiest. No. Because he is my onion. He is a layered human being, with a tremendous heart, who is non-judgmental of others and puts his family before all things; before money and the outer veneer of success, he recognizes that his greatest success is to have a happy, stable family. To some he may look like a boring suit, but to me he is an adventurer, looking for that next place to explore and experience; to enjoy a great meal and savor that next great wine. To some he may simply be a nice guy, but his kindness runs deeper than the surface. He has a quiet intellect, always listening to others, seeking to learn, to understand. He recognizes that we all have something to offer. Every single day he tells me how sexy he finds me, even when I’m sick, unshowered, and cleaning soiled sheets (yes, maybe has a dash of crazy – but hey, I’m not complaining).
To find that great, requited, unselfish and non-judgmental love is the most precious and joyful thing that a person can find. Happy Valentines Day to my onion.
Update: Today, Kristen Lamb posted an interesting commentary on her blog, ‘Is Romance Devolving?‘. It’s an interesting post that looks at how abusive relationships are romanticized. I especially love her compare and contrast between Johnny in Dirty Dancing and Christian Grey in 50 Shades.
I like to write about men who are Onions. xoxo