This being the month of St. Valentine, I thought it would be nice to talk about love and romance. Since I am a writer of Historical Romances, I find the topic endlessly fascinating. I much prefer to write the interaction of my hero and heroine leading up to the sex scene, than the actual scene of their coupling. So many qualities are involved in their interactions---thoughfulness, kindness, a certain empathy. I want my characters to CARE about each other before they go to bed together.
So this blog entry is not going to be about sex, but about the many facets of love.
Quite often, reading "dating" columns in the newspaper, I'm struck by the shallowness of the men and women involved. "Oh," she will say,"I couldn't possibly date him seriously. Not someone who doesn't even like the Rolling Stones!" "If she can't come to football games with me, why should I keep seeing her?" he might say. That's self-absorption and narcissism of the first order! Can you only date your clone, for Heaven's sake?
Even more dismaying than that sort of superficial judgment is what it says about the maturity of the people involved. Since when does your partner have to fill EVERY nook and cranny of your life? And if he/she doesn't, you're disappointed and dump them? I sat through a lot of baseball games and cowboy/war movies with my husband, because I didn't mind, and he wanted my company. But I didn't drag him to too many foreign films (my cup of tea), because I preferred to share them with girlfriends who loved them as much as I did. (Your lover should be your friend---one of your best friends---but not your ONLY friend!)
And we had enough shared interests---and cultivated more through the years---to satisfy us both. Travel, opera, good theatre, dancing. And the raising of our four children together was a partnership that strengthened the bond of love between us.
Thoughtfulness, of course, is one of the cornerstones of love. And in such short supply in this day and age of ME FIRST. This past Valentine's Day, I heard more than one female complain about not getting flowers or candy or something for the occasion. And being furious at HIM! But I didn't hear anything about what SHE had done for him! We never cared that much about the occasion---sometimes there would be a gift,sometimes just a silly card. But just something to show we cared, even if it wasn't a "special" occasion.. One of my favorite gifts from my husband for Valentine's Day wasn't candy or flowers or dinner out. It came several years into my writing career. He gave me a huge unabridged dictionary. I cried. He couldn't have more clearly expressed his pride in my career with any other gift.
And I had fun with a silly "gift" when he was studying for the bar exam. I was going to my parents with the children for the week, while his "study buddy" came every day for them to go over their books. Before I left, I wrote about a dozen silly notes ("How are you doing?", "Get back to work!", "Love you a bunch---now study!". I left them all over the apartment. Three handkerchiefs down in his clothing drawer, taped on the fifth ice cream pop he'd take from the freezer, slipped into the heel of a pair of shoes, etc. And he knew that I loved him and cared.
All too often today, self-interest takes over. How can you have a relationship when you're only thinking of yourself? I am constantly struck by a sight I see when I'm going to work at my department store job, selling wedding dresses. A young couple, seeming to have a warm relationship, approaches the revolving door. (In my day, the gentleman knew to go through first, pushing the door so his female companion, behind him, wouldn't have to. Now, all too often, the guy lets HER go through, then scoots in behind her in the same space and lets her do all the pushing!
And one of the more astonishing things I experienced at my last job (also selling wedding dresses) was a young woman who wanted a particular dress. We had it in ivory, but to get it in white, which she really wanted, would mean the dress would come in AFTER her wedding date. So she pulled out her cell phone and called her groom and postponed the wedding for a month. And he agreed! When I expressed shock to a co-worker, she said, "What's the big deal if she wants the dress of her dreams?" When I said I thought it was an insult to choose a dress over her groom, she was genuinely bewildered. "But it was so SELFISH of her!" I said. And she replied, "Not if it 's the dress of her dreams!", as if a damn dress was the most important thing about the wedding and SHE was the only person who mattered.
A few odd final notes about love and romance;;;
Some years ago, my then-husband and I were at a very formal affair at the Plaza Hotel. Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the noted sex expert, admired my evening gown. "Very romantic," she said. "That's because I'm a romance writer," I responded. She asked about my pen name. "I have a few," I said, and told her Ena Halliday, Louisa Rawlings and Sylvia Halliday. She seemed at a loss for a moment, then brightened. "Well!" she exclaimed. "As long as your husband knows who he is getting into bed with!"
Another long-ago memory, maybe more sexy than romantic. When I began to write, I was trying to sell my first book. (Marielle, now reprinted by Diversion books : Marielle ). I sent it to a lawyer friend with publishing connections. He sent it on to an editor. Her reply (which I was clearly NOT intended to see!) stated that, though she found the book well-written, it involved a heroine who had been raped by the villain. (That was allowed in those days.) Consequently, she was frigid to the hero for much of the book. The editor thought someone would want to buy it (and someone did---Pocket Books launched their Tapestry line with Marielle, by Ena Halliday)., but she was passing on it because it wouldn't be a best-seller. "And," she added, "we both know that heroines of best-sellers are relentlessly orgasmic!"
I chuckled for days, and made sure that my next heroine fit the bill!
Finally, a REALLY distant memory! When I was in college, most greeting cards were of the Hallmark "sweet " and cloying variety. But there was a small company just starting out that was youthful, daring and funny. I sent this card to my then boyfriend (later my husband) on Valentine's Day.
There was a cartoonish drawing of an Old Master painting of Venus and Adonis. (Venus is the Roman goddess of love, Aphrodite is her Greek counterpart,)
The verse inside read:
Ponder yonder Aphrodite,
Ran around without her nightie.
The ways of love are ever old.
I too, for you, would risk a cold.