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I just bought a Nora Roberts novel.

I’ve never done that before. I’ve never bought anything remotely like it before. But the book I’m writing has some romance in it, and I’m trying to amp it up a bit. My awesome writing partners suggested that I read a romance novel, just to get some ideas. That way I can see how it’s done when it’s done to the extreme and then just tone it down for my novel.

The idea has been in the back of my head, but I’ve never been able to convince myself to actually take the step of buying one of these books.

So there I was: a quick trip to the Walgreens down the block for the usual crap that you run out to Walgreens to get. Standing in line behind that woman with too many coupons and a big burly guy buying Mountain Dew. And there it was: an entire stack of Nora Roberts novels.

Just do it, a voice in my head told me.

I looked around. You know, to see if anyone I knew was there. The coast was clear. I looked back at the pastel covers with couples in various states of approaching each other, and I just couldn’t do it. I inched forward in line as the coupon lady finished up.

Romance Novel

Come on, the voice said. You know it’s a good idea and what better time than now? What better time? How about at home, online, so no one witnesses the embarrassment? The deep shame of buying something so trashy and completely lacking in artistic merit?

But I looked at that stack of books again and the voice finally won out. I picked the top one, not bothering to read the back or see what I was getting. Just picking it up was bad enough. I quickly shoved it under my other purchases so no one could see it. I scanned the store again, but I was still clear: no one I knew was there.

Then – of course – a cute guy got in line behind me.

OK, that’s a lie. He actually wasn’t cute at all. But he was semi-hipster/cool-kid-esque and I knew without a doubt that he would judge me for my Nora Roberts book.

Especially because, in the presence of a mildly appealing member of the opposite sex, I was forced to come to terms with my appearance: maternity pants, nursing top with spit-up still drying on the shoulder, hair pulled back into a messy pony-tail, no make-up, dark circles from a month of interrupted sleep. All that was bad enough. If he saw me with a romance novel the damage would be complete.

I turned my back to the hipster and nudged the book deeper under my other stuff. But as I watched the burly guy finish paying for his Mountain Dew, I realized the jig was almost up. I was going to have to put that book down on the counter for all to see.

I scanned the store again, gave a backward glance to the hipster and then took a deep breath. Fuck it, the voice said, and I put that Nora Roberts novel right out there in the open.

As the cashier picked it up, it was on the tip of my tongue to say: “I swear I don’t usually read this, it’s just for research.” I mean, really, “I swear” was nearly out. And then I realized: Nora Roberts sells about a bajillion books. Chances were good the cashier actually loved Nora Roberts. And then I’d just be trashing her taste in books. I’d just be the snobby lady who thinks she’s better than everyone else. Hell, for all I knew, the hipster – who in my mind had taken on the persona of every literary person who would ever judge me for not having excellent taste in all manner of everything in my life – actually loved Nora Roberts. I mean, once I stopped to think about how many books Nora Roberts actually sells, I realized maybe I was the only one who didn’t like her. For the love of god, I’d never actually read one of these things, who was I to judge??

For a moment, I let myself get caught up in it all. I imagined everyone was on my side. I was almost – dare I say it – proud to be buying that book.

And then I made my fatal mistake. I glanced back at the hipster and he was staring straight at the book and I knew it was true: he was judging me.

And in that moment I had to face the truth. Because there I was: just an uncool mom with spit-up on my shirt buying romance novels at a f*cking Walgreens. This is my life.