Monday, February 6, 2017

Is perception reality? In this case I hope not

Have you ever noticed that you can often tell the age of an author by the slang that she uses or I should say, misuses?  I was reading a romance book about a rancher in Texas who was supposedly in his mid twenties.  He was expecting a woman at his house for dinner so when he got home off the range he took off his boots and, since he didn't want to greet her in his socks, put on his Romeo slippers. Romeo slippers?  I immediately thought of him slipping into this romantic, seductive personality. Kind of like 'leave my ranching self at the door and put on my Romeo slippers, baby, and I'm in the mood'.  Not so. Thru the wonder that reading a book on Kindle is, I was able to immediately google Romeo slippers only to find that they are just normal everyday slippers. Sigh. So, wait, in what weird universe does a guy in his twenties have a special name for his slippers? And not just a guy, I remind you, but a rancher in Texas! I've known lots of guys in their twenties, both now and back when, and I can state with some assurance that not one of them would have the slightest clue about what Romeo slippers are. Chances are pretty good they don't even own a pair of slippers, Romeo or otherwise. Nor would they care in the least about welcoming a woman into their home in their socks. Unless of course there were holes in the socks, but probably not even then.

This got me thinking about not only how misused slang can show an author's age, but how characterizing older women in certain ways can do the same thing. I read a lot of books, many of them romances, because as the great Nora Roberts once opined, romance books are the only ones where you can be assured the woman will be the focus of the story and not just a convenient accessory. In many of those books (not all, but many), anyone over the age of 50 who is single is seen as past the age where she can expect a romance of her own. If she isn't a widow still mired in 30 year old grief, she is a divorcee, or perhaps a spinster (yes, some authors still use that word) who wears a bedazzled velour sweatsuit and sports blue hair (due to an "hilarious" mishap with a home dye job). Most of my friends are over 60 and I doubt any of them own a velour sweatsuit, bedazzled or otherwise, and not a single one of them has blue hair. I was reading a book last night and came to the laugh out loud phrase describing an older friend of the heroine as "over 40 but still attractive" like there was an expiry date on her looks that she was rapidly approaching. Mind you these are books written by women for women.

I'm wondering if characterizing older women as clearly past their prime at 50 is a matter of the author not knowing anyone that age, or knowing a lot of them that age that clearly fit that profile, or if they are merely playing to their readership, establishing a kinship by creating an exclusive club that they are members of but that older women are not. Perhaps it is simple a case of authors in their 20s thinking as I did in my youth that women in their 50s and beyond have zero left to contribute and less than zero desire to do so. If so, then I would suppose that as the authors age, so will their consideration of a woman's possible expiry date.  Until one day, when they get to their 60s and pick up a book where the woman their age is knitting in a corner, blue hair and all, while the young heroine gets to have all the fun. I can just imagine them reading that and saying WHAT?

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