I need to continue my marriage counseling theme, because while I have thought of little else this last 24 hours but how to find acceptance within myself, there are other things I am going to have to deal with. Going to therapy means that you are seeking change in some way; even when you don’t realize that change is going to happen. I am one of those patients who believes that while things need to change, I would much rather the whole world change instead of little old me. I would rather everyone else have to do the work to get in line with me, rather than me have to do the work to get in line with everyone else. Change is frightening. It can be ultimately scarier than the that big, mean monster in the closet.
During my session with my husband, a comment was thrown out that frightens me. According to my husband, the fact that I read romance books gives him doubts or maybe just concerns about living up to the hype. This is actually a pretty common response to women who read romance novels, it is even spoken about in those romance novels. Authors everywhere talk about it. Generally, the advice is the men should read them and see what the book is truly about, instead of being upset about something they don’t know. I don’t believe I will ever see my husband reading one of my books. Although I bet he would enjoy some of the naughty parts.
I read constantly. Since I was given a nook, I think it has actually gotten worse. I don’t have to worry about the covers of the books anymore, or a stranger commenting on what I am reading. I read every morning, every night, and often for hours in between. I love to read. While I read a lot of romantic suspense, you can’t tell it by the covers. I also read erotica; but to me that is simply porn on a page. I don’t have to listen to the ridiculous and often fake noises from two people putting on a show. I enjoy it. It is my escape. It is my way of checking out.
The books that I read have happy ever afters. They have conflict resolution and no matter what happens the man is always some hero without real faults. There is no children having diarrhea or whining because they don’t get what they want. There is no farting, no burping, no rude noises of any kind. In total, it isn’t real. Nine times out of ten it is so fake that no one, least of all me, could ever mistake it for anything else.
I started reading romance novels when I was fifteen years old. I can actually remember the first book. It is a strong memory from that period of time because of all things, my mom. I was getting to the point at fifteen when my mother was literally having to buy book after book. She and her wallet couldn’t keep up. She had tried to demand that I read one non-fiction for every fiction, but still I was mowing down those pages like they were the finest chocolate. I had been curious about those romance novels on her bookshelves, and my mother finally let me have one. I didn’t know what to expect.
But to this day I can see my mom holding that book and insisting I listen to some pretty profound words. She told, in the most blunt and brutal terms imaginable, that the book I was about to read was fiction. She told me that sex wasn’t anywhere close to as pretty as it is in the books. She told me that it was sweaty and often full of really embarrassing noises. She told me that sometimes it could be a little painful, and little uncomfortable, and that if I believed for one second that the sex in the books was going to be exactly like the sex I would one day have, I was destined to be disappointed.
Those words have stayed with me my whole life. (When I saw Dirty Dancing for the first time, she gave the same speech). My mother never explained the bird and bees in terms of cute animals. She was absolutely blunt about the whole thing, but always truthful. I could ask my mother questions about sex and bodily functions, and she always told me. She never scared me, but she made me realize that there is a difference between fantasy and the truth. It is another reason that I love her. When I finally did start having sex, which was way past my teenage years, I may have had the words from the books in my head, but I was prepared to accept the reality. I went in with an open mind, and for the most part I have enjoyed that part of my life.
It is very frightening to me that I might have to give this up for my husband’s comfort. I don’t honestly know if I can. Not because I need to read about other people fantasies but because ultimately it is my escape. It is my way to get away from the day-to-day of my life, and live in a world of magic. It isn’t real, and like I always say, I know that. But it is finished after a couple hundred pages. I don’t have to wonder if they went on a trip after the story ended, or if the characters had children, fights, or ever moved. I don’t care. When the story ends, the characters literally end. There is comfort in that. And there is something comfortable about knowing the mystery will be solved, the killers will be caught, and the fights will be resolved. I don’t have to guess about that.
The other point I always know is that there is a large difference between fantasies and reality. I don’t want my fantasies to come true. I don’t want to know what really happens in that situation, I don’t want to know what I will really feel. It will ruin the fantasy, guaranteed. Knowing the truth about a fantasy is crushing. I don’t want to know.
I am completely empathic towards my husband on this issue. I can see where it would bother him. Just as much as the porn he watches sometimes bothers me. Knowing that he watching things he doesn’t do with me is hard. But there is a wall there; a break between what we believe and what we know. There is a separation that keeps us safe.
My books are my friends, as sad as that is. My books comfort me, and give me a place to visit when my life gets too real. While I imagine I am going to have to give up some of my reading to pay more attention to my family and my marriage, I don’t and can’t give it all up. I think it is like crack cocaine; I am seriously addicted to the feeling of freedom I get from reading the books. The sense of ending, the sense of resolution, the sense of knowing that the story ends. I will find a medium because I am determined to make this marriage work. But the idea of what I will lose frightens me.