Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Leaky sinks and romance

Romance often begins by a splashing waterfall and ends over a leaky sink.

The ubiquitous Anonymous said that, and I have to agree. Yes, I'm a romance novelist, and yes, I believe in Happily Ever Afters, but this marriage business is hard work. Take it from me. Or no, take it from The Husband, who has suffered many, many indignities from me over the past 20 years. (Don't worry. He's repaid them all in full.)

The marriage started out all rainbows and puppies, as all marriages should. But pretty soon, I was letting him see my washed-out hosiery as it dripped-dried over the tub, and he was belching at the table without bothering to even say, "Not bad manners, just good vittles."

(Okay, so for the first year, he was probably belching from the indigestion he garnered from my poor cooking. I'm letting the belching slide.)

That is not to say that I don't love The Husband, and I surely hope he still loves me -- in spite of my bad cooking and my messy house and the fact that I tend to get welded to a laptop at an alarmingly frequent rate.

But romance ... ah, romance. We have traded it in (pretty much) for a good working-in-tandem partnership that makes sure all the big bases are covered.

And you know? I know what that's worth. It's priceless. Give me a man who will call me up and remind me to pick up the dry cleaning or totally understands my propensity to forget mailing off bills -- yes, give me that over a Romeo who will whisper sweet nothings and let the errands slide. I'm a pragmatic sort of gal.

I didn't realize that my preferences really slid to this even in literature. I want my relationships gritty. Real. Honest. I'm currently reading a perfectly lovely book (whose title will go unnamed because I don't want to slam the author). The problem? The love interest is just too perfect. Too romantic. Too understanding. In my head, I'm thinking, "OK, when's the other shoe going to drop?"

And of course with my comic-book-violence imagination, I'm thinking, "He'll turn out to be a cross-dressing ladies' man with three wives."

The hero hasn't revealed any size XXX negligees in his closet, and it doesn't look like he will. I think it's safe to say that this is a "perfect" gentleman.

Still, too much perfect romance in a novel, at least to me, is like too much cotton candy. Eventually? As my wonderful Aunt Lou used to say, "Well, now, after awhile, ya just get a bait of it."*

What do you think? What's the perfect balance of real man vs. Perfect Man in a romance novel?

Bait - south Georgia slang that means enough, a surfeit, up to your gullet.


Piedmont Writer said...

I totally LOVE that picture!!

I'll take a leaky sink over a whispered sweet nothing anyday.

And you're right, perfect men in books should not be written. It gives those of us without, something to aspire to and there are no such beings in the real world.

Men belch and fart and have stinky feet and beard stubble. Just like we have non-shaved legs and bad morning breath and flannel nightgowns and undyed hair.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We'd like to think our beloved just stepped out of a fairy tale but that's always the case. Great post.

Tawna Fenske said...

Yeah, sorry...I've gotta disagree on the romance thing (which doesn't mean you're wrong and I'm right, or I'm wrong and you're right, since it takes all kinds of preferences to make the world go 'round!)

But personally, I'm a big fan of keeping romance alive and not allowing the mundane (or icky) things in life to take it over. We've always had a strict "no going to the bathroom in front of each other" rule, something we've held to for 16+ years of knowing each other and 13 years of marriage. While I don't expect love notes and flowers to be left around the house for me, I would be very sad if my husband didn't call in the middle of his workday on occasion just to say, "I was thinking about you -- I really love you."

I know lots of people enjoy having comfortable marriages without the need for passionate trysts on the dining room table, but I am not one of them.

Er, now none of you will ever eat dinner at my house.


Crystal said...

I'm sorry. But I don't want a leaky sink. I want my sink fixed AND I want the romance kept alive.

We pee together (Sorry Tawna, but we have four kids, on a busy day, sometimes it's our only privacy LOL), we sneak away for walks alone together, we pile up on the couch with the whole crew, animals too and watch movies.

THAT is reality. That may not always be storybook romantic, but come on, what's more real than looking past a pile of heads to the one you're madly in love with and meeting eyes and falling all over again, really? Even if five minutes later you have to make everyone get up so someone can go to the bathroom. It's real.

I don't want to read romances that aren't. And I don't.

Posey said...

I want both. I find it's not too much to ask for him to help me find every single thing I misplace, and have a passionate tryst in an inappropriate place from time to time. It doesn't mean he is perfect, far from it, as I am too. I do agree on that point, no hero in a book should be perfect.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm okay with reading some slurpy romances, but the realistic ones are the ones that will bring tears to my eyes.

The most romantic thing my husband has ever said to me came just recently, when he said, "I'm proud of our marriage." 17 years, going strong, next month. :)

Patty Blount said...

What a vivid image... waterfalls and leaky sinks (which came out of my fingers as "linky" the first time I typed it...)

Anyhow... I will soon hit 25 years of wedded...not-quite-bliss (November 2nd, to be exact).

He doesn't bring me flowers. He doesn't even buy me cards. He can't remember to flush a freakin' toilet.

But he holds my hand when the phone rings and I panic (my entire family, it seems, has cancer... when a phone rings in my house, it is not good news). When my ten-year-old car does something strange, he's out there fixing it the next day.

Is it perfect? Hell, no. I'd love (LOVE!) if he'd take me in his arms, look deep into my eyes and tell me something cheesy instead of "Did you know your ears aren't even?"

I do now.

But you have given me a great idea for the sequel to a 2007 WIP I plan to resurrect.

Cynthia Reese said...

Anne, don't you know? It's how The Husband and I really look! Thanks for getting what I am trying to say. The real hero prince is the one who is THERE and puts in the hours when the fun is over.

Tawna, I know, I know, you tell me that I can have both, and that all I have to do is give my guy a shop vac. Hmmh. But I guess people need to hear "I love you" in their own languages, and for me, romance is there when I wake up from a nightmare and he pats my shoulder until I go to sleep, instead of him thinking, "Huh, wonder if I could con her into some nookie?"

And as long as I get to sanitize the dining room table, I'll eat with you. Your food sounds way too good to get picky over cleanliness when I can solve THAT problem with a jug of Clorox. ;-)

Crystal, ROFLMBO thinking of how the rare few moments of MY privacy are when I shut the bathroom door. And I do mean RARE and FEW, b/c that closed door is a red alert signal that Mommy can be bugged by The Husband and The Kiddo.

Posey, a man that can easily be both .. ahh, if you have found him, he's nearly extinct. (Or maybe he just hasn't reproduced enough to make it a successful evolutionary mutation??)

Susan, your husband ROCKS! That would bring tears to my eyes, if The Husband ever said something like that to me. Which he has, in his own sort of way. Just not so blunt and open and absolutely can't miss.

Congrats, Patty, on your big day! I hope he has something special planned! (Me? I'd take my car being washed and the oil changed in it, but as Tawna has already pointed out, some women might not consider that the height of romance!)