There’s a wave of derision that runs through Romancelandia once or twice a year directed at straight women who write about men falling in love because, or so the story goes, we don’t know what it’s like to be gay or male.
I’ve always figured men were people, much like me, some of them much more like me than many women are, and that falling in gay love probably feels much the same as falling in straight love. And as for the sex? Let’s just say it amuses me when gay men try to lecture straight women on what anal sex is “really” like, as if we can’t possibly know.
But there is one thing about me that might make you question whether I’m qualified to write in this genre: I don’t have a romantic bone in my body. I’ve never experienced love at first sight (lust at first sight, sure). I don’t believe in soulmates (I like Dan Savage’s take on this). I’ve never been married (and not just because no one ever asked).
I’m currently “engaged.” That’s what the Facebook profile I keep under my real name says. My boyfriend proposed to me a few years ago. He did this whole on-the-beach, in-front-of-my-family, with-a-diamond-ring thing that I absolutely hated. I said yes (after he pointed out that I hadn’t) because I love him and I understood he was doing what he thought he was supposed to do, but we’re not actually going to get married.
I don’t believe in happily ever after. I’m not ever going to be certain enough about someone that I can promise to stay with them for the rest of my life for better or worse. Worse can be pretty sucky. And I’ve watched enough people get divorced that I don’t understand how people can keep making that promise knowing they aren’t going to keep it. In the eight years my boyfriend and I have been together, I’ve seen people get married, get divorced, and get married all over again. Without any irony!
So it’s weird, maybe, that I write romance, that I read romance, that romance is where I go when I want to play pretend. I enjoy visiting a land where forever means forever and the sex is always good, where there are soulmates and happy endings, where relationships stay magical and fresh without any effort at all. But I’m only a visitor to that land.
That’s why I try to make sure my guys have some communication skills and some practice using them with each other—because knowing how to work through problems will go a lot farther in keeping two people together than bulging biceps or grey-green eyes.
And it’s also why I often wind a previous relationship into the current narrative. Finding “the perfect someone” only gets you through the first six months. What happened the last time this guy found a perfect someone? And how will this time be different?
And it’s maybe also why a lot of my books end with a happy-for-now, not a happy-ever-after. Happy for now is a little easier for this non-romantic to believe in. And happy for now is all we need. Happy for now is, in fact, the only true path to Happy Ever After.