T’is the season for football and basketball in our living room. Football was the game of choice in our early years of marriage and I was an avid fan then too. There was one game per week that usually included friends and good food, hosted at a home as the weather was frigid in the northern stadiums where we lived. The season was special because the season was only a few months from opening day to Superbowl. When I first discovered romance novels I became a more avid fan of that sport, and that’s how I explained the appeal to armchair athletes.
Sport followers like to watch two teams battle balls across specific tracts of land according to officiated rules. There are grid lines and turning points and fouls and the occasional touchdown. Romance readers like to watch the battle of the sexes across specific time frames in history, or on other planets. There are turning points and fouls, and touching can be a goal. From the opening kickoff to the final buzzer no other players take the field yet the drama is high with interceptions and fumbles, special plays and anticipation for the final score. From the opening pages of a romance the teams are clearly defined and we hope they are well matched to give us an entertaining game before the final score.
In recent years, basketball has become the sport of choice in our living room. It has a longer season, the ball is round, and the players wear less gear so that hairstyles and tattoos are visible. It’s a sexier sport as there is more skin on display and more touching. Tackles are not allowed. Instead there is more strategy, feints, and the action climbs with lots of baskets for both teams, and the high score can shift back-n-forth.
The husband of an erotic romance novelist once challenged me to explain how what she wrote differed from porn on paper. She was a novice at that time and he was proud of her but needed to be able to tell his buddies why her work deserved respect instead of snickers. He liked the sports analogy but it wasn’t enough. Here’s the analogy he liked: The objective of porn is the physical act of tab A into slot B no matter what other enhancements may be involved. Erotica (when done well) shows how the characters are able to take an emotional journey while exploring the tabs, slots, and enhancements. The objective of these stories is learning self love through physical intimacy in spite of the romance. He thanked me for that clarity and admitted he was proud to be a romance widower.
A few years ago the basket ball season was delayed until it was almost half over. When the teams returned to the courts I faced a concentrated level of sports widowhood because there would be no escape from the nightly games in my house. It’s an open floor plan with one large TV. Usually I could sit on one corner of our large couch reading while he sat at the other end watching a game. I could tune out the sounds except for his occasional outburst. But I could not do that every night for months and he wasn’t going to a sports bar to watch the games. That was when I began watching romantic comedies on DVD with headphones every night. At first I’d get them from the library but the selection is limited. Now I am building my personal collection of DVD’s and really appreciate how headphones enhance the visual experience of story and soundtrack.
I’ve never been a sports widow since then. However, for him to avoid being a romance widower during the entire basketball season, he takes me to the arena where we’ll meet friends and share a feast while getting fan crazy. It’s our latest version of an intimate happily ever after.