Motherly wisdom. The defense of a genre (again). And, of course, some full frontal male nudity.
by Nicki Salcedo
I learned a lot from my mother when I was a kid. I still learn a lot from her, but my favorite memory and lesson occurred while watching the movie A Room with a View. I was maybe ten years old, and it was just my mom and me. At some point during the movie, several of the male characters decided to take a dip in a swimming hole. They all got completely buck naked, including the young actor Julian Sands and the not so young actor who played the part Reverend. They were naked men. I was an embarrassed ten year old girl. I always thought I was a cool kid, but I wasn’t. I was mortified. My mother, on the other hand, was not scandalized. I always considered her very reserved. That is until she said, “Why do they have to show the old guy?” She said it in a matter of fact way. She did not smile. Her comment surprised me as much as the nudity. My mom was making a joke about naked men? My mom thought naked men were okay? I learned two lessons.
- Humor goes a long way to make others feel comfortable
- There is nothing wrong with a naked man
I recently participated in a discussion with some women on the topic of a Disney book called Happily Ever After, a compilation of princess stories about love and friendship. These women were concerned that their daughters should not read stories where the focus is finding a prince. It was a lively discussion that happens with mothers everywhere. As a romance writer and reader, I found the topic particularly interesting.
One, the real intent of Disney stories (and romance novels in fact) is not to find romance at all. This is something any romance reader or writer knows. Cinderella was not looking for a prince, but an escape from an abusive matriarch. Belle wanted more than the ordinary and found herself in a situation where she had to save her father. Mulan went to war. Sleeping Beauty wanted an end to her isolation. She was devastated to find out that she had to be married (and to a prince no less). I’ve never seen a romance where the heroine wakes up one morning and says, “I’d like to fall in love today.” But now that I’ve said that, I feel that I have issued a challenge to myself to write that story. I suspect the last thing that character will find is love.
Two, in “man movies” there are inevitably ridiculous romance sub-plots that no one finds objectionable. The Lion King was also a love story. But I don’t recall hearing anyone being concerned that Simba fell in love with Nala. Any self respecting male would not fall in love while trying to avenge his father’s death! . . . . Or would he? Is romance just a by product of life? I would suggest yes. We cannot reject or deny its presence.
We all aren’t meant to like romance novels. We all aren’t meant to appreciate nudity. I was fifteen when I came back from my first trip to
As we near the end of May and our celebration of mothers, I thought La Pietà was a fitting tribute. I hope we can reflect on our mothers with the levity and soberness they deserve. I also hope my mom forgives my tribute to her in the section called Nudity!
Mommy Dearest, really
I’ve always read romance novels. I blame this on my mother who read avidly, but read so few romance novels. Around the same time that I watched A Room with a View, a friend of my mother brought over a box of Harlequin Romance novels. The books were for my mother and yet she didn’t read one. It wasn’t her thing, but I read every last book. Some might find it objectionable that my mother let me read those books at that age, but she did not worry about me. She trusted me as child. A lot of what I understand about love came from reading romance novels. I learned what I did and did not find acceptable behavior from both heroes and heroines. How many times have you read a book and just wanted to shout at the characters for being inane? For keeping their secrets too long? For the heroine choosing the wrong man, when the right man was right before her eyes? I’ve made many “notes to self” as I read the pages of a romance novels.
The irony is that my mother always wanted me to be more feminine. She wanted me to wear dresses. She thought it would be nice if I wore a little make-up. I'm sure she was more concerned that I was obsessed with being Sigourney Weaver in Alien. Reading romance novels was probably one of the more normal things I did as a kid.
I wish my girls liked to wear jeans, but they only want to wear dresses. Pink dresses. My girls want to be princesses. I let them be who they want to be. They will probably hate romance novels just to spite me! I'm not worried about that. What else can a mother do but be the gentle guiding voice that children ignore.
Now when my mother wants a book to read she asks me for suggestions. I am a book whisperer by the way. I blame her for this and all of my idiosyncrasies. Sometimes I pick a romance novel for her. Sometimes I pick something else. I try to choose the books wisely. After all, we haven’t spoken about naked men since I was ten.