Here it is, early January, and everybody is dieting. Or maybe everybody has already fallen off their diets, which were sworn to on New Year’s Day while nursing a holiday hangover. Too much partying. Too much buying of gifts. Too much decking the halls.
The period after New Year’s Eve has become a traditional trough during which Americans go on food diets, spending diets, and all sorts of other diets. In effect, it’s the new Lent, which traditionally is a period when the religiously observant give up some luxury for 40 days. Like Lent, it starts with a big party that mimics Mardi Gras (New Year’s Eve) and ends with another big party that has absolutely zip to do with Easter (the Super Bowl). New Year’s Day kicks off a period of remorse that is completely nonreligious but every bit as sincerely meant as Lent. But, alas, it doesn’t last long enough to undo the damage done in the holiday season. Plus, this is not the right season to diet, since scientists have discovered a natural craving for carbohydrates that increases in the winter. Whether this is due to colder temperatures or less sunshine, I don’t recall. But basically this means that the deck is stacked against us; our own bodies are fighting our new resolutions.
Meanwhile, romance heroines are not dieting. They aren’t trying to get a year’s worth of exercise into the one month between party season and the next big party. In the idealized America where romance characters live, January is the time for being snowed in at a vacation cabin with a hunky backwoodsman or an embittered loner who needs the love of a good woman. It’s the time for snow angels and snowball fights that end in make-out sessions. It’s days of healthy skiing and then romantic evenings having hot chocolate and flirting in front of a resort lounge’s roaring fire. In between, there might be some blizzards and some rescuing of lost skiers and wandering hikers.
Why are romance heroines having such a good time, while the rest of us are looking at the scale with dismay or shuddering over our credit card bills? It’s not that they’re smarter than the rest of us. In fact, lots of heroines first lose all they own in bad divorces, and then drive their cars into ditches in the snow while looking for the rundown cottage that’s their last possible shelter. They have bad days and even bad life turns like the rest of us. But then they meet the handsome sheriff outside that small Montana town, and he’s going to make it all better. The worst day for a romance heroine probably happens on the first page or in the first chapter of the story, and from then on, things start looking up. And in January, I am very glad that someone is having a good time. And isn’t on a diet, either. Because curling up in front of my television and watching the National Weight Loss Challenge or the Biggest Loser and drinking my nonfat hot cocoa sweetened with sugar substitute isn’t as much fun as reading about a woman who finds her soul mate. Curling up with a good romance is very fulfilling. And there are no calories involved.