What a Blow to Da Ego

I was talking about the new Batman movie with a couple of co-workers of mine—the ones who don’t suck and don’t make cracks about me eating dog for lunch—when the subject of Christian Bale came up. One guy couldn’t remember what movies he’d been in, so I reeled a few titles off: Empire of the Sun, Swing Kids, American Psycho, The Machinist. And then I remembered he was in Little Women, so I blurted out “Oh, and he was Laurie in Little Women.”

Blank stares.

“You know, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott? Beloved classic?”

More blank stares. I realized these guys had never heard of Little Women, which was weird, because we’re talking two guys who are quite well-read; this was the first title I’d thrown at them that they’d never heard of. I said, “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of Little Women. It’s one of my favorite books!”

And my buddy Brian said “Yeah, but you read romance novels for fun.” In sort of the same tone someone might say, “Yeah, but you think puffy paint sweaters are haut couture.”

So yeah. OUCH.

Feeling a bit nonplussed, because the implication here was “Don’t trust Candy, she reads stupid books,” I said, “I read lots of things for fun. God’s sake, I read veterinary textbooks for fun. Enzymes. Enterocytes. Vitamin A synthesis.”

And the other guy piped up and said “That actually sounds more interesting than romance novels.”

Yeah, TAKE THAT, romance novels! We have word from the trenches, from two Average American Guys: Romance Novels: A Lot Less Interesting than Veterinary Textbooks.

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Maureen says:

    Even my husband has heard of Little Women.  When referring to our teenage daughter and her friends he tells people they are just like that classic novel, Little Bitches.

  2. 2
    Faux Jay says:

    Stupid question alert: what are ‘puffy paint sweaters’?

  3. 3
    Arethusa says:

    I’m clueless on what those are as well but wow, how on earth could they know about “Little Women”?

    Bizarre.

    And that guy was totally bullshitting about Veterinary textbooks being more interesting than romance novels. Right?

  4. 4
    Candy says:

    Oh, you poor babies. How have you gone all your lives without knowing about Puffy Paint Sweaters?

    I tried to Google some images, but was unsuccessful. But puffy paint is this stuff that you can squeeze out of a bottle that basically stays, well, puffy, and dries out puffy. Here’s some puffy paint baby’s clothing.

  5. 5
    Candy says:

    Oh, hey, a pretty elaborate puffy paint jacket.

    Most puffy paint sweaters don’t feature these sorts of graphics. Kittens, puppies, teddy bears, frolicking unicorns, flowers and rainbows are much more common.

  6. 6
    HelenKay says:

    Oh, come on.  Did these weenies not go to high school?  Who hasn’t heard of Little Women?  Maybe they didn’t read it, but I refuse to believe whatever school systems spit them out, thus making them society’s problems, didn’t have an English class reading list.

  7. 7
    Candy says:

    I’m telling you: It’s the girl cooties.

    It’s OK—even expected—for girls to have read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Treasure Island, but it’s not expected for boys to have read Anne of Green Gables or Little Women.

    I mean, it’s telling that of all the men I know, my gay brother is the only one I know who’s read the latter two.

  8. 8

    This from the same Average American Male who thinks Pamela Anderson is attractive?

    I challenge them both to read A Long Fatal Love Chase and four romance novels of Candy’s choosing, and then sneer at us ladies who dig the romance fiction.

  9. 9
    Doug Hoffman says:

    Hey, I’ve read Pride and Prejudice twice, as well as Ethan Frome and Silas Marner. See? There’s a reason you made me an honorary bitch.

    My recommendation: bring in the steamiest romance novel you own and read those boors the relevant passage(s). Watch ‘em squirm and cross their legs. Then let us know which book/passage you chose.

  10. 10
    Stephen says:

    I have to confess not having actually read Little Women, but I know the story from having watched a BBC adaptation at a formative age (this was the 1970 version with Dr Who as Mr March). I am not sure that every man should have read the book, but I would have thought that knowing about it would be a fundamental element of cultural literacy even on this side of the Atlantic, let alone on your side.

    I’ve actually read Anne of Green Gables, and most of Jane Austen (alert – there is a new BBC Radio dramatisation of Northanger Abbey starting tomorrow (Sunday) – you can catch it on the web).

    It’s the youth of today, you know.  Too much time playing with their ipods and listening to their PSPs.

    Excuse me, I have to go and sharpen my knives before having a go at Frederica Merrivale.

  11. 11
    Robin says:

    You just forgot those two magical words, Candy:  Winona Ryder.

  12. 12

    It’s the whole “chick book” thing.  Women will read suspense, horror, sf, westerns, and that’s OK, but if a man reads _romance_ then suddenly his masculinity is suspect. 

    I once had an army friend say, after swearing me to secrecy, that when he was stationed in Germany in the 70’s the guys in his barracks devoured romance novels.  Thought they were extremely hot, but would have shot anyone who let their secret out.

  13. 13
    MMcA says:

    So, when they watched the episode of Friends where Joey reads Little Women were they totally perplexed? Did they miss the ‘Beth dies???’ joke completely?

    Laurie still seems a wet name for a boy. I prefer Dan – I’d have been prepared to forgive him without making him die heroically first.

  14. 14

    At school, certain guys would obtain romance novels but only read certain (a-hem) sections. Since these were usually fairly tame category romances, they tended to prefer some of the more well-thumbed passages in Clan of the Cave Bear, freely obtainable in the school library. Jean M. Auel has a weighty legacy. Go Jondalar!

  15. 15
    Alyssa says:

    Get them a veterinary textbook for Christmas.

  16. 16
    Arethusa says:

    Oh Dear. You know what. I think I made a puffy paint shirt waaaaaay back in the time before the before time. Maybe. You did not hear this from me.

  17. 17
    Kiran says:

    Maybe they’ve heard of the sequel? It’s aptly titled, Little Men.

  18. 18
    Alison S says:

    How can I not comment on this thread? I AM a vet. I’ve read, oo, lots of veterinary textbooks. I have to say that, in my experience, recapping my first-year lecture on the comparative anatomy of the penis is a popular topic at dinner parties (dogs have bones in them, cats have spikes on them, rams have a little tube on the end that spins round and round when they come, etc), but otherwise… let’s hear it for the romance novel.

  19. 19
    Susan K says:

    When my oldest son was 12 I took him to see the Winona Ryder/Gabriel Byrne movie version of Little Women.  At the end I asked if he thought it was boring because nothing happened, no car chases or things blowing up.  He looked at me like I was crazy and said “What do you mean, nothing happened?  Beth died, there was the Civil War, people got married and had babies—lots of stuff happened.”  This was one of those rare moments when I thought maybe I hadn’t totally screwed up motherhood.

  20. 20
    Maman says:

    What is it with men and romance novels… They like sex but they don’t want to read about it? 

    We watch their stupid football games.  Would it kill them to read one of our romance novels?  I think not!

  21. 21
    Samantha says:

    Whoa – can you run that part about the ram’s penis by again?
    Just, you know, research for my next shape-shifter erotica novel.
    Ahem.

  22. 22
    Kerry says:

    I can vouch for the fascination that ensues upon describing the os penis (or baculum) in various male mammals.  Men tend to go glassy-eyed; women begin to wonder why primates are so lacking :) 

    And you know, Candy’s point about what girls read is an excellent one.  I’m trying to think back on the books (or parts thereof) my teachers read—Tom Sawyer and Where The Red Fern Grows were definitely included; Little Women was definitely not.  And the pattern continued—as my reading level advanced, teachers recommended the grand old men of science fiction (Asimov, Heinlein) along with Jack London and Kipling; where were the women??

  23. 23
    Valeen says:

    I’m new here – just going to pop in with a comment on some older posts.

    To have not SEEN Little Women is one thing but to never have heard of it?

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