Writers of romance are breathless and flushed–there’s a new virus in town. Hearts racing, palms sweaty and lower lips bitten, they have to churn out mush through a pandemic.
Eyes must still meet eyes across a crowded room, banter has to fly, and when the time comes, the couple should remember to rip off their masks.
At no point should the panting on the page be mistaken for a medical condition.
Boy meets girl–but where? At the chemist’s hiding a cough or in the hospital fighting over the last oxygen cylinder? Should he shave, should she wear lipstick?
These are just a few thoughts that pop into the romance writer’s head at the grocery store. Of course, a hero or heroine or both may test positive, and you do sense a publishing opportunity in that, but balancing the crying with the cooing may get too much.
You don’t want to accidentally set off literary fiction.
Once upon a time you could pack off the kids to school and then call up your girlfriends, get your daily goss and glug coffee.
When chatty domestic help arrived, you stared hard at the computer screen, pretending to work. You escaped to exotic locales, where beautiful people did nothing else but be beautiful.
They spoke in complete sentences, their thoughts logical and well-analysed, their grammar and punctuation in place.
You seated the man and woman across dining tables in Venice or Paris, and had them say terse and tender things to each other by turn.
You lay them side by side on beach towels and bedspreads around the world, and occasionally propped them up against a wall.
All you heard then was husky baritones and high-pitched moans. Now it is the death threat delivered by one family member to another.
Romance writers, like their non-romance-writer sisters, are no domestic goddesses, and feel the absence of paid help as keenly as anyone else.
Sexual tension between characters is tough to record while doing the dishes. A minute to oneself cannot be squandered away researching glam locations for imaginary people to make out in.
You begin to think monks and nuns are on to something.
A keen awareness of your offspring starting their own circus company on your desk only wants you to pen an ode to birth control.
It doesn’t help that the current man in your life is the garbage guy. You await his arrival with bated breath; the sound of his vehicle has you rush to the gate with dry waste in one hand and wet waste in the other, segregated just as he likes.
There is a lot of eye contact, as one tries to communicate without taking off the mask. Your desperate attempt at small talk is met with typical male monosyllabic indifference on his part.
When he tells you off about the wrong waste in the wrong basket, the chemistry is electric.
Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end. Remember when you had the house all to yourself?
Drink in hand, you happily keyed in dirty talk between two strangers because you had the time and you were in the mood.
But now… Now try typing in erotic encounters between rapid instructions to spouse on laundry. How you wish you could handcuff him to the washing machine and leave him there!
‘I want you,’ you whisper, ‘I must have you,’ to that online pizza you dare not order.