I've Turned into a Monster

Jul 04, 2023 by Karen Janowsky
It's happened. I am not ashamed. 

Picture this: an ocean of (thankfully) clean laundry. Waves of sundresses billow in the wake of an opening door. A hard current of t-shirts--blue, pink, white, green, and purple --threatens to pull you into the depths. You decide to wade in anyway, tripping over the flotsam of sneakers and strappy sandals. You start and suppress a shocked shout as sharp claws sink into your calves and feet, scraping you as fabric undulates around you. Wait--that last part is three cats playing in the closet. The good news is at least the mess is contained once you wrangle the cats from the closet. Out of sight, out of mind until you run out of clean underwear and have to swim through the stuff you never bothered to sort and put away.

But more perils await throughout the house. Okay sure, I can think of a million things I'd rather be doing than housework, and I have been known to dump the clean basket of laundry on my closet floor and sort through for whatever I need rather than take the extra five or ten minutes to put stuff away. I have a habit of kicking my shoes off in the living room or my office and leaving them there. A rainbow of sticky notes covers my desk, and I'm not sure what some of my brief notes even mean. I still think people who can neatly fold fitted sheets practice dark magic. You get the idea.  

Recently, I discovered Amazon's "Collections" feature, where I could group my books by genre. Finally, I can organize my stuff without ever leaving my reading chair! After a couple of days wandering around that rabbit hole, I have my books categorized into a few different groups, including literary fiction, writing guides, memoir/biography, yoga/meditation, mystery, and romance. 

When I was in grad school, I scoffed at romance novels. My life thus far had been school, school, school, and I rarely had time to read for fun. Even when I read fiction that hadn't been assigned by an instructor, my choices were along the lines of whatever classic or modern canonical literature I felt I needed to buttress my knowledge. Without ever having read popular romances, I, along with a lot of other people, decided they were predictable, cliched, and not worth anyone's time. 

That was then. 

My largest virtual book stack by far is romance novels, primarily rom-coms. I started reading them when I was pregnant and on bed rest. As an anxiety-ridden soon-to-be parent, I needed assurances that happily ever afters weren't so farfetched. Then it occurred to me that I've always been a closet romance fan; I just hadn't been exposed to a lot of really awesome writers of the genre yet aside from Jane Austen. Even as a kid, my Barbies and Kens paired off as besties or married couples. I was raised in the seventies. I grew up on Cinderella and Snow White. I sobbed happy tears at Disney's The Little Mermaid. It wasn't until the nineties that I came to understand there are as many variations on happily ever after as there are human beings in this big world. I love a good love story. If I'm honest with myself, I always have. I often stay up til three to finish a rom-com even though I know it will end happily. I can't stand to leave the hero and heroine sad or angry for the night. As an aside, I am STOKED for the Barbie movie.

As I wrote Dear Prudence and Her Name Was Lola (which is with an editor now), I read a lot of contemporary romances. Then I found some authors I loved and read everything of theirs I could find. Then I scoured the "If you like, then try" lists when I ran out of their books. Then I started following romance Bookstagrammers. I now have a backlog of TBR romances on my Kindle. If they were actual, physical books, they'd rival my overflowing clean laundry baskets in terms of taking up space.  

I also try to stay up-to-date on current events, and the world seems like a scarier and scarier place. There are random shootings, natural disasters, and wars that feel like they're right outside my door. Breathing the wrong air can send you to the hospital or the grave. It's easy for me to spiral into a mess of worry. But at least my fantasy life is now sorted, and I can find which worlds I want to enter much more easily. If I can take control of my virtual book collection, maybe sorting out other things won't be as daunting. 

Maybe then my laundry will get put away and I'll finally find my lavender sneakers again.