I was at the park with my four-year-old daughter, otherwise known as E, while my older child was at school. While I was there another mother was there with an approximately same-aged daughter and our daughters started to play. This mother looked like she had been imported from a Gap commercial. Or Utah. She was wearing pressed khakis for heaven sake. E wants to play soccer in the fall so I decided I might as well learn to converse with the elder of the soccer species. And for awhile it went alright. Until we got into writing. She asked what I do so I told her about my job at Disney. Then she asked if I have any hobbies. The rest of the conversation went like this.
Me: Yes. I like to scrapbook, I like swing dancing, all dancing really. And I write.
S.M.: Write? Like papers for a class?
Me: No, I graduated a long time ago. I write stories.
S.M.: Oh, you’re a journalist!
Me: No. I used to be a journalist. I didn’t like it. There were too many rules. I write books.
S.M.: (She takes a long time to answer this, as though she has to take some time to recall what a book is. After her blond eyebrows go up and down enough times to convince me that this constitutes her typical display of range of emotion she says,) Oh, like a biography or something.
Me: No. I don’t even read biographies, let alone write them. I write fiction.
S.M.: (She finally smiles at me) Have you ever had a book on Oprah’s book club.
Me: (I don’t bother to give her my opinion of lit fic or Oprah’s wildly romance free book club.) I write romantic suspense and series mysteries.
S.M.: What’s a series mystery?
Me: Like Jill Churchill. (No expression from her) Uh, Stephanie Plum Mysteries. (A slightly wrinkled nose) Agatha Christie?
S.M.: Oh, I read one of those in middle school.
Me: It’s sort of like that. (except not at all)
S.M.: So you also write romances?
Me: Yes. Romantic suspense.
S.M.: Like…where the pirates rips her dress.
Me: I don’t really do pirates. Or dress ripping. (I don’t even bother, at this point, trying to explain the changed landscape of romance to her)
S.M.: So what do you write about?
Me: Mostly murder, to be honest.
S.M.: (Glancing at her daughter) Murder?
Me: I’m not a murderer. I just write about it.
S.M.: Of course. (laughing nervously)
Me: I also write about human relationships. You know, love.
S.M.: Love and murder? That’s…different.
Me: You should read a romantic suspense (I venture into this territory, deciding I will start her with something soft.) Try a Harlequin Intrigue. Later, if you like it, I would recommend Erica Spindler.
S.M.: (Avoiding looking in my eyes) Maybe I will.
Me: (Avoiding laughter) Okay. Well, you do that.
S.M. calls her daughter, who has a very trendy name, just as I would have expected. They flee the park in desperation that I may either try to kill them and/or rip their bodices.
Me: (to E) Do you want a Happy Meal?
Mother and daughter off to eat carcinogens. Nothing like a day at the park.