Hi friends! Oh my gosh this blog post has been four years in the making. Ekaterine Xia first sent me a post in 2014 for APAHM and well, if you’re a “long time reader” you’ll know my life has been in shambles for pretty much this whole time but there was some extra going on then and ALBTALBS was pretty much on hiatus. And I do my utmost to avoid doing this sort of thing but – if there’s a someone else (which I think there might be but oh god for the life of me I don’t know/can’t remember) whose post I never scheduled or that I missed I am so very sorry. I’m sorry, please know I am truly deeply sorry, and it’s my fault.
… I already had this “conversation” with Ekaterine, so I wanted to share that. Anyway! This time WE’RE LIVE! Please give Ekaterine a warm welcome!
Circles and Cycles and Sometimes Spirals
Now, Romancelandia is still dealing with privilege, erasure, and people fighting against those who want to keep the too-narrow gates shut.
Still the same issues, the same fights, but there’s more awareness, so I want to talk about happy endings and how my definition has shifted over the years instead of beating that drum further. For now.
I started reading romance when I was seven in New York and really got into it when I was a tween in Taipei and Shanghai.
Chinese romance novels back then were very different from the romance novels I picked up on the sly while my mother was checking books out at the local library*. No cleavage. No bare chests. More agency. More women who could do anything from piloting starships, winning wars, ruling over empires, and did. With aplomb. All in acres and acres of vibrant silk. Who said heroines who fought couldn’t be feminine if they wanted to be? Not in the romance novels that I grew up with.
In the legend of Mulan that I read as a child, she was an accomplished weaver and a really good cook, who transitioned flawlessly to winning battles and setting arrows into the hearts of her opponents, who then settled back into bucolic bliss when she retired from the army. We’ll ignore the issues of PTSD, for the sake of my point. Heroines could and did have it all, if they wanted it.
Despite that, my ideas of a HEA stayed pretty static for a long time. It was a guy and a girl and eternal vows of devotion, preferably across reincarnations, good sex, and inevitably, babies. Then it was a guy and a guy or a girl and a girl, but still with the good sex, marriage, and babies. Not helped, I’m certain, by being labeled a spinster and the main topic of conversation at every single family gathering being whether or not my parents can manage to marry me off before they’re saddled with me forever.
Massive amounts of fun, by the way, when all your relatives know you write romance and yet you’re…you. Single you.
It’s been a few decades**, but lately I’ve been opening the doors to other sorts of HEA plot bunnies.
Maybe a happy ending can look like a long distance relationship, a home of one’s own, and freedom to decorate however one wants and eat whatever one likes for dinner while still being anchored to someone.
A happy ending might involve more than one person, with varying degrees of physical intimacy. Disliking physical contact doesn’t have to mean being alone forever. Having a low sex drive and being an intense introvert might mean being part of a poly group is the best of all worlds.
Being Asian-American and growing up straddling two worlds meant that I always had to twist to fit into books. It took me a long time to realize that didn’t need to be the case. Somehow, it took me longer still to realize that my ideas of what a happily ever after are don’t have to fit the conventional mold either.
My resolution for 2018 and onwards: break the box, pulverize it, and build castles on the shards of what people think you should do.
* Libraries in Taiwan had no fiction when I was a child. None. That wasn’t what they were for. It was a huge shock and very distressing after being used to American libraries.
** What can I say? I’m a slow learner.
I also want to note … that I’ll be posting the original post later this month … but in the meantime, thoughts? 😀 Have you noticed changes in your viewpoint in the past few years? Your reading? Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Ekaterine!