I lived a transitory, small-apartment life for a number of years, and my romance keepers lived in the spare room of my mother’s house. Now I’m living for the first time in my own home, and it’s showed me something I didn’t know about myself: I’m still not completely sure how public I want my romance reading to be.
In my small apartments, book shelving was entirely dictated by space. Sometimes, there was room in the bedroom, sometimes in the main room, but I never had an apartment in which I could choose. Now that I have a whole house, I have a plethora of choices, but each has their own problems.
I could put the books in the living room, but between my re-reading and the fact that many of them were purchased secondhand, my romances are ugly paperbacks with shattered spines. My nonfiction hardcovers and museum books are much more attractive.
The family room is where kids hang out. Do I really want a kid going home and asking Mommy and Daddy what a “scandalous mistress” is, or why the books at Aunty Caroline’s house have half-naked men on the covers? I think it’s healthy for kids to sneak peeks at romance – I certainly have fond memories of midnight readings when I slept over at one friend’s house – but the nature of sneaking is that you have to be old enough to know what romances are and to seek them out on your own. It’s a built-in defense against traumatizing someone too young. Putting the books on the shelves in the playroom next to Charlotte’s Web is definitely not sneaking.
Keeping inappropriate books away from children is a valid concern, and yes, I want my living room to look nice, but honestly, those are excuses. I’m actually worried about being judged for what I have on display. That’s probably shallow, and certainly a bit neurotic, but that’s what I’ve found out about myself.
I’m not in the romance closet. I don’t deny or hide my romance reading when it comes up in conversation. Still, in conversations, I have control over what aspects of romance reading I disclose. I can end the sentence “I love romance! Have you read…” differently based on the context and audience. To students, I give a mild YA novel, like Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss or Eva Ibbotson’s A Countess Below Stairs. To friends, I might recommend something funny and sexy, like Charlie All Night by Jennifer Crusie. With close female friends, late at night, and maybe after a few glasses of wine, I could discreetly reference Emma Holly. But with shelves, you don’t have that kind of filter. Everybody can see everything. The question is, do I care? Well, more than I thought.
So what should I do? Shelve books in the living room? Family room? Cave in and hide them in the bedroom? Shelve some books in public rooms but more explicit books elsewhere? Where to I draw the line for “explicit” – does a risque title or a raunchy cover image count, or does it have to have “burning” level content? If I don’t choose soon, I’ll either have to keep everything in boxes forever or never invite anybody to my house ever again. Possibly both.
Where do you all keep your romances? How did you decide? Or is this not something anybody else worries about?