When Love Is Enough

I’ve always believed in love. I sighed into the pages of my mom’s stolen Mills & Boons as a kid and when I got older, I cursed Rhett Butler for not loving Scarlett enough. I wanted a man that loved me as deeply as Heathcliff loved Catherine and a connection like Romeo and Juliet had. That instantaneous, mind-blowing, all-consuming love. The kind that steals your breath and heart and changes your world completely.

I’ve always believed that I’d find it too. And I did. I found it when I was young, hopeful and at the cusp of becoming my own woman. It seems right that I fell in love as an 18 year old University student because our love could evolve and grow with us – together and more complete for it. I recently read a quote by Aristotle, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies” and I thought ‘Yes’! It made sense to me because I truly believe that we were born to love each other.

My husband drew a young woman all his life, having a penchant for scribbling. When we initially met, he still drew her. She was me. Not, we looked similar. She. Was. Me. My doppelganger. (I’ve seen the proof from early years too.) The romantic in me would like to believe that it is the soul’s cry for help. Ironically, he stopped drawing her shortly after we fell in love.

Unlike the standard romance, when we met, ‘it’ didn’t hit me then. I did not experience love at first sight (although I have no doubt that many do experience that too). Like Cher said, it’s in his kiss. When we first kissed it was as though the linchpin clicked into the wheel of my life and set things in motion. I knew then that we were meant to be together and if I walked away, nothing would be as good, as fulfilling, as strong or as bright as when we were together. Apparently he felt the same. 🙂

Imagine the agony when everything conspired to tear us apart. We were betrayed or abandoned by friends, harmed and were harmed by loved ones and persecuted without trial by all. Not only did people fail to understand how we could love each other coming from different racial, cultural, religous and socio-economic backgrounds, they also did not approve. Their disapproval was vehement, vocal, visual, physical and violently omnipresent. When we were forcibly separated, the pain I felt was so intense, it propelled me into a state of catatonic existence. Every day I didn’t spend with him was one that belonged to a blurry period in my life underlined by pain and longing. To this day, I can barely remember what I did during those two years. And honestly, I thank my psyche for allowing me the bliss of traumatic amnesia.

blog 15th anniversary

But all’s well that end’s well. Back then, I couldn’t understand why we had to go through what we had to. Was it the universe demanding balance? Did we need to go through such pain to be able to experience this intense love? Was it the time and a lack of understanding underlined by the recent hatred or ignorance created during apartheid – i.e. was what we went through post-apartheid ‘teething problems’? It no longer matters. Thankfully, we never took our gloves off. We fought hard and cleverly and we won. Since then, many bridges were mended and we’re still together 15 years later.

On our wedding day, I walked down the aisle to “Still The One” by Shania Twain. I thought the words were valid then. They’re more valid now:

Looks like we made it

Look how far we’ve come, my baby

I’m glad we didn’t listen, look at what we would be missing

They said, I bet, we’d never make it but just look at how far we’ve come, still together, still holding on…

You’re still the one I want.

And just as I was sure as a little girl that I would meet my true love one day, back then I was sure that whatever we had thrown at us, we would make it. I never had a single doubt that we’d survive. He didn’t either. For us, love was, is and always will be – Enough.

Happy 15th wedding anniversary, honey.  As the inscription on the inside of your wedding band says… Love Eternally, Aneesa

 

For the Love of Romance, Leave Us to Our Fabulous Sex Lives!

couple kissing in shower

Have you read a good romance lately? Did you recommend it to a friend or colleague only to have them say, “I don’t read such things” or “I read crime novels or autobiographies”? Of course, they say it with an immense sense of superiority as though they’re more present in the ‘real world’ and that there is something wrong with someone for enjoying a good ‘happy ever after’. It makes me want to regress to being a teenager, roll my eyes and reply, “whatever”. But I don’t. Until recently, I’ve smiled and nodded and changed the subject. On Facebook, I generally ignore the comments or provide a diplomatic response.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot, I’m neither referring to individuals who genuinely don’t have an interest in romance (much as some people prefer tea to coffee) nor those who prefer other genres and will only pick up a romance occasionally and if a friend coerces them to. I’m also not referring to people who don’t believe in romance. I respect that we all have pasts and can understand that some experiences don’t lend themselves to creating much belief in love. I am referring to the ‘heart haters’ – those individuals who believe that they have the right to judge the romance reader and writer.

The suppositions made by them are that romance readers are sadly disillusioned or are overcompensating for a lack of sex, love and / or dating in their lives. I even came across an article that refuted a statement that women who read romance novels “can become dangerously unbalanced”. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/01/claim-romantic-novels-unbalance-readers) In the same article, a crime writer is cited as stating, “”My plea to romance writers: please stop writing. You are destroying marriages, the fabric of society, and the entire cosmos”. Really? Judge much? Okay here, I think regression is appropriate and an eye roll is absolutely deserving and maybe a good shaking or two. The irony is that the statement made by this crime-writer is soaked with the very melodrama us romance writers and readers are often attributed with. (And I think he is just jealous because romance novels sell more than any other genre.)

Thankfully, there are enough people out there who have the kutzpah, the tenacity, to challenge the fabricators of such dribble. I found another interesting article on the demographics of romance readers (http://www.lifescript.com/life/timeout/chill/romance_novels_who_reads_them_who_buys_them.aspx) and quite a few more on how romance can spice up one’s sex life, most notably, Teach Me Tonight (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html).

So here are the judgmental assumptions made about romance readers, facts I’ve found and of course, my take on things:

Assumption – Romance readers are sad and alone.

Fact – The majority of romance readers are married or in a committed relationship.

My take – I know many romance writers, being one myself, and even more romance readers. Most of them are not only in relationships but also in happy, supportive relationships. Who knows… maybe the hope and positive outcomes inherent within romance novels creates a mind-set more open to love and overcoming the challenges relationships present. Now I have what I refer to as a ‘gatvol’ stage. The direct translation of that Afrikaans word is ‘ass-full’ (LOL) and means, “I’ve had enough’. I’ve reached that stage where I no longer can ignore the disdain from others when mentioning romance and so I’ve begun asking them about their own relationships. I’ve found that those who don’t read romance novels have mostly been hurt in the past, are divorced or generally don’t believe in love. Essentially, a romance is about the belief that the human spirit can and will overcome the difficulties life presents it with and that this is only strengthened by love. I personally find it sad that others have lost that hope.

Myth – Romance readers are old and unattractive.

Fact – The age of romance readers ranges between 25 and 54. Romance readers are not predisposed to look a certain way.

My take – Most of my readers fall within that age range although there are a few older and younger too. As to whether or not we are an attractive bunch? Well, I beg to differ. We are all shapes, sizes, colors, and features. Given that most of us are married or in committed relationships, someone obviously found us attractive enough to ‘put a ring on it’.

Myth – Reading romances creates unrealistic expectations of sex

Fact – “Most of the study participants (75.5%) reported that reading romance novels has had an impact on their sex lives. This occurred in several ways, including making participants more likely to engage in sexual activity and by making them more likely to try new sexual activities.” (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html)

My take – Many readers I know have reported an especially hot experience between the sheets after reading a romance novel. As a writer, I know that many of my colleagues and I feel particularly frisky after writing a sex scene and our partners certainly do not complain when we expend that energy in the bedroom. We also *clears throat* do extensive research for our novels. Does that sound like we have unfulfilled sexual relationships? Moreover, the fact that we don’t complain obviously means that our expectations were met. I’ve even heard of many women who use what they’ve read in romance novels in the bedroom. If it is legal and consensual then surely that’s okay? What puzzles me is why on earth folk want to know what goes on in the bedroom of romance readers? Are they projecting? In other words, are the ‘heart haters’ actually the ones who are unhappy with their sex lives? Are they threatened? I know what I think… I’ll let you make up your own mind about that.

The fact that I found most interesting was that romance readers use the novels as a means of relaxation and escapism from life’s daily stress. The last time I checked, that is one the primary reasons why most people read. I know that I treat myself after every deadline to a long bath and a good romance novel. In fact, that is precisely why I read and write romance – I want to enable others to escape into the worlds I create and have a moment of bliss, shed a tear or two in commiseration and to feel happy that all turned out okay at the end. So my plea to all heart haters is to give it a try and if you insist on ridiculing us, then leave us to our fabulous sex lives! Now I’m off to think dirty thoughts, write them and then…

Body chocolate.