Friday, July 22

In Defense of Young Heroines

Okay, not this young!
This week, both Liz and Nan posed the question: Why aren’t there more heroines “of a certain age?” There were a lot of great comments and some excellent points made about a need for more Baby Boomer romance, especially in light of the fact that many romance readers are well past our 20s and 30s.
 
So why aren’t romance heroines more reflective of their target market demographics? I have a (no doubt very unpopular) theory about that.

First, let’s set aside talk about historical romance, which almost necessitates a young heroine (when you’re considered over-the-hill at 21, that skews things a bit ;-) But other genres could very well lend themselves to older heroines, right? They could include older heroines who have lived and loved and learned, just like we have, and have survived to tell about it. They could include heroines who don’t have to deal with the tedious drama of being young. Who know who they are and what they want in life because they’ve earned the right to be that secure.

My question is: Don’t we already have those heroines?

Isn’t age just a number? By saying we need older, wiser heroines, you assume everyone in their forties has it all figured out. And that no one in their 20s does. Maybe it’s me—I admit I often feel like a hot mess of a 16-year old trapped in a 40*cough*cough*-year old’s body—but I don’t write my heroines to reflect what I was like back in my 20s and 30s (Dear God, those would be boooooring, tediously insecure heroines!). My heroines--all two of them so far--blossom from where I am now: a slightly older, mature, wizened, worldly woman. Sure, they struggle with the age-old question of “what they want to be when they grow up.” But so am I. My heroines are my way of reliving “then,” knowing what I know now.

I bring to my characters the little bit of worldliness and maturity I’ve been able to piece together over the years. Hopefully, that makes them better at being “young” than I was. And, hopefully that also makes them people even older readers can identify with.

In addition, I write heroines in their mid-twenties because I write hot sex that tends to be a little more gymnastic that what I can personally handle at my age. I don’t want to write about aching joints and bodily noises and having to sneak sex in between parenting responsibilities… which is what I have to deal with in real life. Romance (and the sex that goes with it) is an escape for me. I want to watch young, beautiful people getting’ it on in my media entertainment, and I similarly want to read about beautiful bodies doing the nasty in my books. Again, maybe it’s just me, but as much as my hubby tells me I’m beautiful and sexy, he doesn’t see me like I do. However, in the head of a heroine, I can set that self-doubt aside and feel what it’s like to be beautiful ('cuz, even with all their flaws and insecurities, my heroines are always prettier, skinnier, and sexier than I’ve ever been or will ever be).

While I’m lost in the POV of my heroine, I get to live vicariously through her. I get to experience danger, adventure, travel in space and interact with aliens, and make love to a smokin’ hot hero who loves me unconditionally, doesn’t ever stink of sweaty ass and lawnmower fumes, and never nags me about the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. And I get to do it without worrying about favoring my bad hip, any rolls of fat getting in the way, or if there is any left-over toilet paper shrapnel “down there.”

If I wanted real life all the time, I would just live in mine.

So, while I understand the desire to see heroines who appear to be more like us older women. I felt the need to offer up these (hopefully valid) reasons why there may still be such an emphasis on younger (in age alone) ones. Let me know your thoughts. And don’t be afraid to disagree. Just be gentle… I have a bad hip. J

9 comments:

  1. I agree. It can be the life we don't have. As much as our heroines have issues, they don't have the saggy breasts and the myriad of mid-life med checks we have to do. While their is a wisdom and freedom from conformity when we age, I miss that girl who could work a full-time job, go to school full time and go out and party all night afterwards. I'm excited if I can stay up past 11.

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    1. LOL! you crazy girl staying up to all hours of the night! ;-)

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  2. I like heroines of all ages...most of mine fall between the ages of 26 and 32, and I think that's because (at least in my personal experience) that age range is when we starting deciding who and what we want in our lives. Those are some big (and fun and scary and heartbreaking) things to write about. Not that older heroines don't have big moments, of course. :D

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    1. I'm not trying to deny the beauty of romance at any age. And I'm getting ready to write a story about a 3,000 year-old space vampire... Does that count? ;-)

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  3. East Coast HottieJuly 22, 2016 at 11:58 AM

    Life after 40 CAN be sexy and the heroine can have a figure to die for ( with a few stretch marks) and she has learned a lot and has wisdom. The best years ARE after 40. In every area! Don't be afraid to portray an older woman as the hot, smart, sexy and wise woman she is! There is a lot of freedom after 40, 50 60, etc.

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    1. And YOU are most definitely a good example of this truth!

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  4. I absolutely agree with every single thing you said. Admittedly, that's not my preferred heroine, but holy crap, there are a gazillion readers out there who DO prefer exactly that. I always want someone I can identify with, but not everyone does. What I do want is for no demographic to be ignored, because there's room for everyone. I think (Am I being gentle? I keep forgetting your hip. It's my knees...) the ones you're talking about have their share of the pie already. I don't want them to have to give up any--I just want them to scootch over and share.

    Oh, and, yeah, we do have freedom in our dotage that we didn't have then. Amen. :-)

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    1. I don't disagree that their is quite a wealth of young whipper snapper romance out there. And it is sad that the big publishers prefer to trail behind a safe trend or only dip their toes into something new rather than forge a brave path where things like this are concerned.

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  5. Great points all, Ava! Thanks for the contrasting viewpoint. I won't argue with you, but I think we're both right!

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