This popped up in my feed today:
“No,” I said, immediately and out loud.
I remember by whom, when, where, and why I was earnestly exhorted to “be soft. Be soft. Be soft.”
His name was Joe, a much-older friend/teacher. It was a Monday in November and it was dark and raining and I was 18. I was sitting in his car in the parking lot of Merrill Hall at BYU, after he had brought me home from class. I was upset that I couldn’t seem to get what I wanted (a date).
“Be soft,” he said. But I’d had soft beaten out of me long before then and I was pretty sure I’d never be able to become soft, so I silently rejected his advice as an impossibility. I didn’t know it then (nor did he), but I was angry. There’s just no dealing with anger when you don’t know that’s what it is. And why do people find women’s anger so frightening?
I understood what he was trying to tell me: Attractive women aren’t hard. They certainly aren’t cynical, sarcastic, and wary. They are not angry. If you want a date–a husband, you can’t be those things. Men don’t find those things attractive.
Be soft, he said then.
I don’t know how, I said.
Be soft, Vonnegut says today.
No, I say.
8 thoughts on “No.”
Not only no, but HELL now
I kinda had this moment of wonder. I wasn’t mad about it because I didn’t even remember it until I saw that quote. And a couple of friends and I had been talking about women’s anger, and it occurred to me that women’s anger may be more frightening than women’s sexuality. I’m not sure. It’s a hypothesis. Looking back now, I know that there were a lot of other things wrong with me then that being soft would have made worse. So all in all, I took the wiser route instinctively.
But I was never MAD about THAT incident because of the person giving me the advice. He was (still is) so kind and so gentle and sweet. From anybody else… Oy.
Ah, yes. We don’t just have issues, we have subscriptions. (Thank you, http://www.someecards.com)
On the fearsomeness of Womb-man: Our sexuality and anger are naught but the two sides of the same coin. (“If They can bleed like that, and still live, what else might They be able to do–and do to Us?”)
And yet, radical feminism undermines itself in its high-handed assumption of a universal mandate and the lip-service it gives to “diversity.” The intra-sex struggle for dominance can be as virulent as the inter-sex war can be violent: Hell hath no fury like that of the power-hungry scorned.
Hi, Christine, and welcome to the blog. Thank you so much for your comment.
I really just can’t help but agree with you on all points.
Glad to have found my way here, Moriah. Thanks for letting me in. Now for a few off-topic notions:
Love your “Obligatory Author Bio.” (Our respective Imaginary Friends must inhabit neighboring planets in the Parallel Universe.) But I’m saddened that the cover of “Magdalene” was revised. I understand why it happened, but the old cover spoke to me, in a way that no amount of flesh-flashing photography can do. (Ah, well, that’s just me.) And I’m looking forward to getting into your Archives, especially the kind of posts that never made it into “Stuff of Romance” at Dawning of a Brighter Day.
(I’ll try to stay on topic in the future.)
That breaks my heart, too. I was hoping to revise the covers in keeping with IT, but Adam (the Magdalene artist) wasn’t available and…other things. Had to go the DIY route. I think I acted in too much haste, though, because I honestly think it may have been a mistake to market them as romance when nobody (it seems) thinks of them that way. I’m the one who’s been insisting because I see myself as a romance writer. And now I’ve changed the covers to reflect how I see them and…well. I don’t know.
Do you have a print copy? I can send you one (signed, if you want) if you’ll email me your snail mail.
1) I wrote a lot of crap on this blog in the early days because I was trying to build an audience. I had to dig for something to say and then I ran out of even that. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t speak when I have nothing to say, but you don’t build an audience that way. AND things changed from then to now, as things insist on doing, so what I said back in the day may not be relevant now.
What is still relevant, in my mind, is that romance has gone off the rails. It’s more confining now than it ever has been and continues to tighten up, so that what we get is bland.
I had enough arrogance to think if the romance reading community gave me a chance, I could broaden its boundaries again. But no.
2) I was not soft on AML once, in response to a passive-aggressive post, and my comment was deleted. So I don’t go there anymore. By and large we Mormons like soft, in our women AND men. But I said no. 😉
No such thing. 😉
Whoa. Let me be sure I’m understanding this: A print copy of Magdalene, in the old cover, signed? Cool! I’ll zap you that address. Thank you, very much!
Are you in need of a colorful doorstop? I can supply a signed copy of Irish Firebrands that performs well in that role.
1a.) I’ve had a little time to poke around in your attic, and despite your caveat emptor, the posts there may be dusty, but I don’t think they’re particularly crapulent. Of course, coming from a certifiable anorak, that may not be a desirable endorsement. Besides, what do I know? I only had the consummate gall to produce a tome that gleefully tackles every trope in romantic melodrama, when I’d only ever read three Victoria Holts, forty years ago. (My lifelong escapist literature has been a matched hardcover set of sixty Zane Grey westerns, but many of them have strong romantic subplots, so maybe that’s where Irish Firebrands came from.) Anyhow, on the basis of my bizarre authorial adventure, I suppose it stands to reason that I liked your speculations about “the longest-running sexual fantasy” and “the groveling.” That they still work with readers (whatever their straight, GLBT or shape-shifted incarnation) indicates to me there’s something about them that’s anciently culturally ingrained (if not actually neuropsychologically hardwired).
1b.) I hear you about audience-building. As an anorak I enjoy bending unsuspecting ears with my eccentricities, but I’m a card-carrying introvert, too. So, there’s a lot about having a “presence” on “a platform” that feels like being just another funny duck quacking in the wilderness. (More about that in 1c.)
1c.) Re: Going off the rails and broadening boundaries. Still chewing on those. Would like to get a few more beakfuls from your buffet, if you don’t mind turning over the boards and rocks again. (I grew up with a duck named Drusilla.)
2.) Ahhuh. Gotcha.
Yes, please! 😀
You know what? I am never surprised to find that any particular fresh, exciting book is written by someone ignorant of the genre s/he was attempting to mimic, send up, pay homage to. They don’t know “the rules” and so they go where their imagination takes them.
You know what? I’ve given up trying to explain, justify, talk about this preference. Too many people scream too loudly and I’m too old and tired to say anything except, “Fuck you. I like it,” which apparently a whole bunch of other readers do too because it’s the trope-gift that keeps on giving.
Re introverts. I think the people who do best at this self-publishing thing are people who are extroverts and natural marketers. Notice how FEW people those are. I suspect most artists are introverts.