So there I was, reading the NYTimes today, and I inadvertently discover a really good response to those people who want to denigrate what I do. It was in an article about Bryan Bennett, who came in second place in the World Rock Paper Scissors Championship, of all things.
The pertinent paragraph was this: "Mr. Bennett is enjoying his 15 minutes, though he says not everyone is totally taken with his achievement. 'You get some people who refuse to play, think it's stupid,' he said. 'If they want to make fun of me, fine. Make yourself feel better. I could care less.'"
I think one reason romance writers tend to get hot under the collar when people disparage our genre is that the censure seems to go beyond the writing itself. You like romance? You must be (a) stupid and (b) hard up for love and (c) if you like the erotic stuff? You're really beyond the pale. In other words, it feels like people are casting aspersions on not just our reading taste, but our intelligence and morality, and looking down upon us from a very high (and arrogant) horse.
Yet often when people cast aspersions, especially about something of which they're ignorant (i.e. people who criticize romance without having read one), it's not so much about the aspersion-inciting thing as it is about the people doing the casting. It's about their need to feel superior, to feel better about themselves. You can toss romance sales stats and examples at them all day long, but they will not budge from that high horse because they need to be there. It's a self-esteem thing.
So the next time somebody denigrates my genre to my face? I'll give 'em a big ol' "I'm rubber and you're glue and what you say bounces off me and sticks to you" smile.
And ask them if they feel better.