Sunday, February 07, 2010
Courtney Milan: For this post, TJ asked me to provide a biography explaining why I was "smart." I balked. First, anytime anyone ever declares themselves smart, all I can think of is Homer Simpson dancing around, declaring, "I am so smart!" while his house caught fire behind him. Second, I don't think biography ever proves someone is smart. You can have PhDs from every Ivy League school out there and still not be smart, and there are some extremely intelligent people who have never graduated from anything.
Smart isn't a piece of paper. It isn't even several hundred pieces of paper bound according to university rules into a dissertation. You judge smart by how someone acts, what they do, how they make decisions--not by whether they've managed to grab themselves a handful of degrees.
I know this, because I do actually have that handful of degrees, and they didn't stop me from being stupid. For years of my adult life, I shelved my growing collection of romance books spine-in on my shelves so my "smart" friends wouldn't realize I was reading them. I spent money on hefty volumes I didn't want to read, just so they would provide protective coloration when I walked up to the bookstore counter. If someone caught me reading one, I would make excuses--"oh, I just want to see what the masses enjoy."
And these days, I'm so embarrassed to admit that's what I did, because you know what? That was pretty stupid of me. It was stupid to care what other people thought of my reading habits. It was stupid to spend money on books I didn't want to read, just so I could get the ones I really enjoyed. How smart was it to spend so much effort hiding who I was?
That's why I can say unequivocally, smart women read romance. The act of grabbing a romance is socially subversive. It says, "Bookstore clerk, I don't care what you think of my reading tastes." The act of openly displaying one of Those Covers on the subway is one of social defiance: "I don't care whether you think I'm stupid." Reading romance says, "I am not going to bother kowtowing to your foolish preconceptions about me." Reading romance says, "I care about relationships, community, and love, and it is not stupid to think that those things are important."
Bio: Courtney Milan, while not herself smart [Ed. note: sorry for the interruption, but just wanted to remind you she wrote this herself. I think she's brilliant], still managed to bamboozle people into publishing her first book, Proof by Seduction, about a Cambridge-educated scientific lord, and the much, much smarter woman who brings him to his knees. Courtney lives with her dog (who outsmarts her on a daily basis) and her husband (who tries but can never quite manage it). She has a bunch of diplomas moldering in her basement, which happen to be covered with Latin words that declare her smart. The romance novels on her keeper shelf are a lot more fun.