Sticks and Stones

It's been so long since someone insulted the romance genre to my face that when it happened yesterday, I'm pretty sure I visibly winced. Then I obsessed on the incident--although it doesn't really qualify as an incident--for the rest of the day. I finally let it go. Until I pondered this morning's blog topic. *g* It will be a short rant. Swear.

So there I was, knocking on the door of the photographer who'd taken my new publicity shots. He'd burned the proofs to a CD so I could take them home and view at my leisure. I needed to choose my top three or four favorites. Those are the ones he'd retouch (read: work magic) and I'd utilize for future promo.

Anyhoo, the photographer invited me in and introduced me to the young couple sitting in his office. I assumed they were there to talk about their wedding pictures as Greg (the photographer) had told me that morning that he was working on fifteen different wedding projects. We traded friendly greetings as Greg located my CD.

Greg: "Beth's here to pick up her publicity shots. She's an author. She writes romance novels."

The Groom: (big smile, loud voice) So, you write those trashy romance novels!

Here's where I'm pretty sure I visibly winced. I know I flushed. It felt like a personal insult on my writing. Which is stupid. He's never read my work. Probably never read a romance novel. Hence he wasn't qualified to have an opinion on the quality level or entertainment value of a (any) romance novel. Basically, he had a knee jerk reaction to the term 'romance novel'. He merely responded with one of the two most commonly related cliches. The other, of course, being bodice-ripper.

There was a pregenant pause as I wrestled with my response. It wasn't an intentional slight, I told myself, just a thoughtless quip. Greg looked uncomfortable. The bride looked uncomfortable. The groom looked clueless.

Me: (forcing a smile) "No, I don't write trash. I write about people falling in love."

The Groom: (still smiling, still loud) "What then? No Fabio on your cover?"

I resited the urge to suggest he get his head out of his butt and the 1980s. "Alas," I said, "I believe the man has retired from cover modeling." I then thanked Greg for the CD, apologized for interrupting their meeting and left.

I swear, the groom had no idea that he'd ticked me off, but I'm almost positive the bride sensed it and knew the reason. I'm kind of hoping that she pointed out his thoughtless 'quip'. "You intimated what that she writes trash."

Hello. Look the word up in the dictionary, dude.

This is why when someone asks what I write, I never respond "romance novels". The unenlightened will automatically think 'trashy romance' or 'bodice-ripper'. Antiquated cliches that I fear will never die. Many won't even mean it as derogatory. Those are just catch phrases that sadly got linked long ago. Romance Novel. Trashy. Bodice-ripper.

When someone asks what I write, I always say Romantic Fiction, and I never get one of those cliches in response. More proof that those cliches are often knee-jerk responses. I could go on and on about the validity of the genre I write and read (believe me, I went on and on in my head yesterday), but the point is, words only have the power that we allow them.

Growing up, my mom taught us kids that calling any one any name was wrong. If someone called us a name, she suggested we turn the other cheek, take the high road... she had her own arsenal of cliches. I chanted one of her faves as I walked out that door, leaving the insensitive groom behind. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

I'm thinking the one I should feel bad for is that bride. Her new husband isn't exactly Mr. Smooth.


Cynthia said…
Brava for not taking the bait of that jerk. I however, would have taken it hook, line, and sinker. Somewhere along the line in the past couple years I seem to have lost my internal edit button, or it's permanently stuck in the off position.

I only hope if I ever find myself in that situation I'll be witty and eloquent while leaving the stupid soul in smoking pile of ash.

Oh and I really sympathize with the obsessing about it all day. I would have too.
barb said…
I think I would have said "hmm...trash, that's an interesting way to describe someone's work." and left it at that. Then I would have laughed at what an ass he is. If you thought about it all day, he probably did too because I'm sure the Mrs. let him have it.
Beth Ciotta said…
Cynthia, you made me laugh. :) Love the thought of an internal edit button and the thought of you "leaving the stupid soul in smoking pile of ash." Heh.

I remember RWR ran an article once that featured what several well known romance authors said in response to insults by ignorant souls. Most of them were indeed witty and eloquent. Some of them witty and scathing. *g* I think it depends on the situation. In this instance, I didn't want to make the moment any more uncomfortable than it already was. The photographer is a friend of mine and these were his clients. Plus, as I said, I don't think the groom meant to insult me, he was just insensitive. Still... believe you me, in my head, I was ranting from a really tall soapbox. *g*
Beth Ciotta said…
Barb said: I think I would have said "hmm...trash, that's an interesting way to describe someone's work."

That, dear sister, is priceless and I can SO see you saying that... and pulling it off with style. :)
Julia Templeton said…
I think you handled the situation with class, Beth. You could have gone off on him, and yet you took the high road. And I know you're like me--your face tells what you're thinking, so I'm sure his bride let him know he'd insulted you.

Cyndi, I know what you mean about losing your internal edit button. *g*
Bob said…
Sounds like one of those experiences where I would have thought of the perfect comeback several hours later. Unfortunately, the lame-brained usually don't know that they are, so whatever you say will be lost on them. Unbelievable that there are still people like that in the world.
Anna Lucia said…

"Trashy novels? I dunno. Did you have a trashy wedding?"

Turn to bride. "Honey, if the last romance he read had Fabio on the cover, you're in deep trouble."

"Good grief," in tones of incredulous pity, "no-one with any brains calls romantic fiction trashy books any more. Where have you been?"

But actually, the best thing you can do is laugh, with a slightly pitying look on your face.... the best revenge is living well.

Be happy, be successful, write well.

Poor man. He'll never know what he's missing.
Beth Ciotta said…
Julie, I would bet money that my thoughts/feelings showed on my face. He caught me so off guard. And yes, I am really hoping that his wife clues him in on his bonehead behavior. A little 'think before you seak' would be nice.

Bob, like you, I'm one of those 'think-of-the-perfect-response-hours-later' people. *sigh* I also gree that there are certain people that, no matter how you make your point.... they wn't get it. :(
Beth Ciotta said…
"Trashy novels? I dunno. Did you have a trashy wedding?"

Heh-heh. A similar thought ran through my brain, Anna. I swear! As for your tip for the ultimate revenge... Beautiful!
Nancy Henderson said…
Sign! What a jerk!!!
Anonymous said…
Turn to bride. "Honey, if the last romance he read had Fabio on the cover, you're in deep trouble."

That one had me in stitches. Pretty much along the lines of what I would have said. :)
Jordan Summers said…
You're so nice. I would've either asked him what he did for a living or went into 'great' detail about what kinds of books I actually write. *ggg*
Anonymous said…
They probably went from the photographer's office, straight to the bookstore and bought any of your books that they could find. :)
Anonymous said…
Beth, just reading that,ticked me off. Where do these idiots come from? I feel sorry for his wife...You handled it with class...Rock on Beth!!!
Beth Ciotta said…
Love reading everyone's reaction to 'the incident'. Thanks for making me smile!
Anonymous said…
I'm with Jordan! You handled it with far more grace and restraint that I would have. Testicles, stapler, force. Need I say more? :D
Beth Ciotta said…
Alex, one word. OUCH! Oh, and, YIKES! ;)

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