I have a new dog named Lili. She was a stray looking for a home, and in a sense, I was a stray looking for a dog. When we met it was love at first sight and Lili came to live with me. No regrets because she is a smart, funny, affectionate girl who loves her humans as much as they love her.
Sadly, some people have a preconceived notion about Lili. She’s mean. She’ll turn on you. Eat your face off. Kill your cat. Yep, she’s an American Pit Bull and her breed has been branded as a breed that should be killed. Why? Rumors. Innuendo. Bad press. Lili has gained a reputation for something she’s never done and never will. Some people see her for what she is—a sweet dog full of love. Others see her for what they expect her to be—mean and viscous. Much the way so many people expect romance novels to be boring or stupid.
I show antiques at the state fair every year, and the lady in charge of the antiques division is a well-educated biology teacher. When she asked me what I write, and I told her, she couldn’t contain the sour expression on her face. “I’ve never figured out why anybody would write that garbage let alone read it,” she said to me. I wanted to ask her why anyone would be so critical of another person’s career, or even their reading choices, but I didn’t because people like her don’t listen. They fix on a notion and will not wander away from it. She also went on to tell me that if I have any writing talent at all I should put it to good use and write something that will make a difference. When I told her romance novels do make a difference, she laughed at me. That’s right—she laughed out loud then walked away, smug in her knowledge that she was right.
Certainly, Mary, as I’m calling her, is entitled to her opinion. But when opinion crosses the line and turns into insult, that’s when someone needs to make an assessment of what they’re saying, and to whom. At a flea market recently, I encountered a woman who was making frilly seat covers for various model cars. They weren’t to my taste, but I’d never dream of approaching her and saying anything negative about what she has chosen to sell. Quite honestly, my mother taught me better. And, I’d never be the one to tell a pit bull owner all the bad things that have been reported about that breed. Yet, that has happened to me. “Do you really let that dog go around people?” one person asked. The answer is yes. She’s allowed to be around people, to sit on their laps if they want her, to lick their faces if that’s acceptable. And no, she would never eat the face she licks.
We have become so judgmental that simple, decent kindness is slipping away. My grandmother had a hat she wore to church. It was red, big and basically hideous. But no one ever said that to her. Instead, they were kind—told her she looked glowing or radiant, told her she brightened the room. Those were the kind things to say and they were so simple. They also made an old lady quite happy. Now, when I smile at strangers, which I do all the time, some are suspicious but more often than not my smile is returned with a smile. It’s a small thing, but I hope that someone, somewhere needs a simple smile to make then feel better. Maybe my smile will be the one they need.
So now, I get quizzical looks when I tell people I write romance novels, but my response is always much kinder than their intent. Same goes for my pittie. Insult my dog either directly or in a round-about way and I pop out my phone and show them all the cute pictures of her. In either case, kindness is free, and it’s a gift so few people remember to give these days. Those opportunities come to us in so many ways and it’s up to us how we use them. Personally, I believe life is too short to go around criticizing pit bulls and romance novels, but that’s just me. I’d much rather spend my life looking at the bright side. It’s a nice place to be.
My next book, HER SECRET MIRACLE, will be out in June. You’ll be able to find it in all the usual places.
As always, wishing you health and happiness (and puppies and romance novels.)