Everybody knows the point of writing a romance novel is to keep it sexy. But as I was going through my evening routine last night, I got to thinking… There really is a whole bunch of stuff we leave to the imagination, and with good reason.
Nobody suffers gastrointestinal discomfort in romance novels. Our characters don’t face the sudden urge to pee that sends them out of bed and fleeing for their lives to the bathroom. They don’t have to worry about foot odor or chafing or rashes. It’s rare we see our heroine going through the motions of shaving her legs or waxing her eyebrows, because she doesn’t have to. She doesn’t agonize over her man seeing that little pimple on her shoulder, because that pimple doesn’t exist. Our heroines are always runway perfect, even when they have bad breath and bed head. Hell, even their bad breath is somehow adorable. It’s part of the charm of being a fictional character, I suppose.
We all know the truth, but refuse to admit it: no woman wakes up gorgeous. Yes, there are some women who get up ultra-early with the specific intention of making certain their husbands/boyfriends/whatever never see them without makeup, but most of us just aren’t that person. We write our heroines that way because we’re writing to the romantic, to the illusion of perfection. As artists we’re taking creative liberties with reality, filtering out the unnecessary and unsavory, to give the reader a condensed, sexier version of life.
And since we’re selling fantasies, chances are our hero and heroine are going to appeal to most everyone. I like to write my characters with somewhat vague descriptions so my readers can superimpose the faces they want on them. Of course a few things are always going to happen: we will assume our hero is packing heat like Ron Jeremy and our heroine has huge knockers because those things are the fantasy. But this is where the real-life itty-bitty-titty-committee has the advantage… Us well-endowed girls always suffer from the curse of boob sweat. It’s a real thing, and it can be enough to make us run for the shower at the first thought of personal contact. But even if the chick in the book is packing triple-D hooters, she’s still going to be ready to get it on without a second thought…
Because boob sweat isn’t sexy. Neither is the act of getting the bra strong enough to contain them off. We leave those details out, again, to present the beauty without the reality. It’s much more fun to witness our hero sliding the bra strap off the girl’s shoulder and kissing the spot where it was. That’s a pretty image. Utilitarian bras are not.
Random: Have you ever noticed how nobody talks about the horrible things corsets do to the body when the heroines wear them? Those things hurt like a mother.
But in some ways the glossing over of real life almost feels like cheating. I mean, you can’t play in the Olympic games if you don’t train, right? Half the fun of the mating ritual is the pre-game. The anticipation. The tension. The hope that your hard work will pay off. I suppose there are worse things than filtering relationships though rose-colored glass though. Considering the luxuries of Western civilization we take for granted, we can’t really complain about our bushy eyebrows, can we?