I Thought About Dying in Your Arms Tonight

The trouble with vacations is that they give you way too much time to think. I just came back from a vacation that I spent sitting around reading books, eating things that were frighteningly orange, making lists, and having an existential meltdown.

Long story short, I’m graduating in May with no idea what to do with my life and it recently occurred me that eventually I’m going to be old and decrepit. (I’m fun!) How easy would it be to get stuck in some job I feel apathetic towards and waste decades of life? SO EASY, is the answer to that. I know this is absurd and that it doesn’t matter what I pick because I can change my mind. I keep telling myself that, but it isn’t working. The only thing I’m sure I’ll be when I graduate is the kind of obnoxiously pretentious person who claims to have existential crises. The point of this story is that I’ve had a relapse of the second-to-worst kind.

Pre-war Bayer heroin bottle, originally contai...

This is the worst kind.

In January, I swore off of romance novels. No more, I said to myself. I said, Self, you’ve got to stop wasting time and money on these. You could do something real with your life! So I put down romance novels forever and started doing useful, important things like figuring out which kind of shampoo works best for me (Thermasilk), or counting how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (I forgot I hate Tootsie Pops).

For a while, I didn’t even miss romance novels. I didn’t miss them all the way up until I was staring at a cobwebby bookshelf, looking for anything other than a book involving a mysterious detective whose number one suspect is a sexy anthropologist with a motive for murder. (I could write blurbs when I graduate. Does anyone know how to break into blurbing?) And there it was, in the corner of the bookshelf, calling to me: a romance featuring an amputee army nurse who falls in love with a cowboy-doctor I call Dr. Cowboy. That sentence is not made-up. Go ahead and reread it. I’ll be right here.

Possible Reasons You’ve Never Read a Romance Novel

a) You have a Y chromosome and it never even occurred to you.

b) You’re one of those people who only reads Literature, with a capital L and an emphasis on snobby. In that case, stop reading blogs. The Internet is definitely not your cup of tea.

c) You don’t like to read. Fair enough, but please remember that every time you say that a librarian dies. Here’s a picture, so you don’t feel left out.

It’s me, pretending to be the librarian you killed.

d) You were illiterate until very recently. Congratulations! Think of all the important things you can read now, like “FIRE EXIT” and “RESTROOM” and “IF YOU DON’T STOP WALKING NOW, YOU’LL FALL INTO A PIT OF DEADLY SNAKES”. I think you’ve taken steps to make your life much easier.

e) You’re someone who rejects formula fiction, in which case nice job. Someday I’ll be like you.

Why No One Should Like Romance Novels

a) They’re ridiculous, and every single person who reads them knows how silly they are. I was walking through a drugstore the other day when I saw one with a cover featuring a man in a business suit holding two babies.

The only way to explain that image is imagining a romance publisher sitting down with some estrogen and saying, “So, Gen– can I call you Gen? What are some things that make your heart pee in happiness, Gen? Christmastime? Horses? Pectoral muscles? How about a businessman with a strong chin, holding infants?”

Estrogen probably said, “Whoa there, big shifter. That’s going a little far,” but it was too late.

b) Their marketing is precise and a little offensive, but there really is a romance novel for every taste. Do you like science fiction?There are time-travelling romance novels. Do you like supernatural stories? There are books out there that… I can’t even… Just look. Are you a NASCAR fan? I swear on all that is holy that Harlequin has an officially-licensed NASCAR series described as “the rush of the professional circuit; the thrill of falling in love”.

I like my women like I like my cars: fast and full of gas.

c) There are so many synonyms for various body parts that you can never be totally sure what you’re reading, or that the author knows how anatomy works. In the book I was just reading, the hero’s irises widened in surprise. I don’t know how he learned to do that, but I’m impressed.

d) Once you’ve read one, you can reliably predict them all. There’s a beautiful woman who doesn’t know how pretty she is. She has spunk (not to be confused with a personality), and she’s been hurt before. She meets a handsome, insufferable man who is surprisingly muscular with a superhero chin and eyes that flash a lot. She hates him, but is inexplicably attracted to him. Before they can get a little married or whatever, the plot arrives and the two are driven apart. Through a series of misunderstandings, they are each led to believe that the other doesn’t care for them. Finally the misunderstandings are cleared up by some cleverness on the part of the woman and some brute force on the part of her lover, and they are once again brought together to live happily ever after. Also, now she’s preggers.

e) Everyone is beautiful and nothing hurts. Old people are fading beauties. Children are adorable. Pets are even cuter. Villains (who are pretty much always male) want to get with the heroine and are almost as handsome as the hero, but their eyes are colder and their clothes aren’t as classy. Men are tall and women have pert noses. I don’t know what a pert nose is, but through some kind of romance novel eugenics, every female has one.

f) Nicolas Sparks is the worst. Just… the worst.

Why Everyone Needs Something Like a Romance Novel In Their Life

a) You know everything will end happily and there’s never any ambiguity. The world of romance novels is black and white.

b) You don’t have to think. Maybe you watch a television show with a laugh track. It’s the exact same thing. You watch it, and when you’re cued to laugh, you do. You don’t have to think about the joke, you don’t have to interpret the characters’ actions. You just sit there and let it happen and your dumb brain stops overanalyzing for 20 minutes or so.

c) It’s kind of nice to be able to predict the future, especially when your own is causing you to flail around helplessly while other people stare at you in confusion and terror.

d) You have to be able to laugh at yourself. I know romance novels are stupid. I know they’re mindless. But if I can’t laugh at myself in the middle of graduation-induced panic, I can’t laugh at anything. If you can’t find something funny in life, it’ll kill you. I guess it’ll kill you anyway, so you might as well go out chuckling.

On a completely unrelated note, does anyone know any single, rich old men?


  1. gojulesgo

    haha Totally agree about Nicholas Sparks! I used to fight the innate desire to read romance novels, but at some point in my late teens I accepted the guilty pleasure fiend in me. (And life got a lot better after that, believe you me.)

    As far as the future, I know it’s tempting to put a lot of pressure on yourself, but you’re right, you can always change your mind. I’d bet money (if I had any) you have a very bright future ahead (I feel like I need “The More You Know” PSA logo and jingle to flash across your screen now)!

    • Stephanie

      I sang the jingle and played a clip of the logo on YouTube, so it was almost the same thing. I’m really happy you said that, actually, because no matter how many times I say it, it sounds stupid. But the second someone else says it, it’s brilliant.


  2. Dan Bain

    Love it! Someone reviewed my humor book lately, and said some fantastic things about it, but started off with: “I was out of romance novels, so when I ran across A Nay for Effort I decided to give it a go.” I can think of more glowing endorsements….

    • Stephanie

      I like the title of your book a lot. I assure you, it takes a pretty good book to turn a romance novel enthusiast away from that genre, so I bet they really meant it.

  3. Lorna's Voice

    Bravo! I used to read romance novels and swore off of them for all of the reasons you mention. This post was a hoot–from the pictures to the writing. you, my dear, have a gift for making people laugh!

    Maybe try your hand at a spoof romance novella…

    • Stephanie

      Hey, I can spoof! I’m a spoof machine! I’d spoof all day if I could. (I don’t think I’ve ever actually spoofed anything. I just really like that word.) Thank you for continuing to read. Your comments are some of my favorites!

  4. Catherine Meyers

    Hello Stephanie,

    My name is Catherine, I’ve been reading your blog, I’m impressed by the quality of it’s presentation and layout and the direct way you write about lifestyle and entertainment with a nice sense of humor, interesting and fun articles here.

    That is why I would love to add your blog in the blog directory for which I’m the admin. It’s a high web traffic, Page Rank 5 blog directory named Blogdire, http://www.blogdire.com, it’s visit count grows exponentially every day and has high quality gained by listing great blogs like yours, because it does not have advertisement nor pop-ups.

    Having your blog listed in my directory, will definitely improve it’s page rank in search engines, (like Google), and you will have many visits to leave nice comments and feedback, and of course, more people to enjoy your blog and share your interests.

    In exchange of becoming part of the directory, all I ask is a simple link to my site, I can assure you, the operation is extremely simple and there is no money involved.

    Let me know if you are interested and what you think.

    Kind regards,


    • Stephanie

      Hi Cathy! Thanks for considering Listful Thinking. I can definitely include your directory in my blogroll, so the link should be up within a few minutes.

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