Merry Little Meet Cute, and the importance of size in romance

Authors Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone talk about their new book, Merry Little Meet Cute, stripping the word 'fat' of its pejorative meaning, and the importance of self-acceptance and body positivity. 

Fat isn’t the word you think it is. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be.

The truth is that fat is a word that can be neutral; it’s a word that doesn’t have to be a pejorative or an insult, but simply an adjective like tall or short or blond. It’s the negative valence that we’ve given to the word that’s the problem, not the word itself. The words we use to insult others simply speak to our own insecurities. The problem does not lie with fat people, but instead those who still consider the word fat to be a slur.

As two authors who have used our own work to become more at home and confident in our own bodies, we have found that one of the most powerful places to explore how we can reshape a word like fat is inside the bodice-ripping pages of a romance novel. Or in our case, a fluffy blush-worthy Christmas rom-com—or as we prefer: a raunch-com. 

41ebe816e70cbe75319d377689424c057a237401.jpgFor writers and readers alike, romance is where desire, agency, and self-knowledge indelibly connect with the physical. It’s through physical expressions of affection and connection that characters in a romance give each other dignity and the gift of being seen, and for fat characters, the gift of being seen with dignity is still a transgressive and novel notion.

It’s also inside a romance novel where a character can be assured of one central, defining fact, and that’s that they deserve a happily ever after. This is the promise made to every main character in a romance and this promise is so necessary to the structure of the story that it’s included in the definition of the genre, but historically and recently, publishing has typically favored happily ever afters for some people over others—characters who are white, straight, thin, and able-bodied. Promising enduring joy and hope to a fat character is a powerful thing, especially when that character is freed from narratives about weight-loss and body transformations being required for happiness.

A Merry Little Meet Cute is about Bee, a plus size adult film star who finds herself semi-accidentally cast in a squeaky-clean holiday movie. There are lots of potential roadblocks a character like that could face—many of them centering around her body. However, we set out to write a heroine who wasn’t at the beginning of her journey with her body, but already at a place of joy and self-advocacy. The only friction our heroine Bee faces regarding her body comes from outside voices, and in the world of our forever-Christmas town, Christmas Notch, those voices are quickly addressed or rebuked. We think one of the most important (and most fun!) elements of writing a romance is getting to build a world where sometimes the best things happen, where suffering isn’t a fundamental ingredient of a character’s journey.

We also wanted to write a hero who is unabashedly appreciative of Bee’s body; who desires her as a physical and emotional and intellectual whole—a hero whose yearning for Bee isn’t in spite of anything. Fat bodies are so often fetishized, and we strode to interrupt the idea that sex and desire require fetish when the desiree is a fat person and the desirer is not.

This is a dynamic Bee is intimately familiar with, because as a fat sex worker, she’s had to navigate the space between taking visible sexual joy in her body and being objectified, a space that’s complicated by the nature of being an adult content creator, where the content is meant to be consumed by strangers. This is why, in addition to working with more traditionally structured adult film studios, Bee uses a fictional platform called ClosedDoors (think a very saucy iteration of OnlyFans). ClosedDoors is creator-driven, and it gives Bee agency over the lens her body is viewed through. This agency allows Bee to fully define her sex work and her body on her own terms, and it puts the power and control of her choices around her sex work firmly in her hands. We wanted to interrupt the idea that all sex work is degrading or exploitative, and we also wanted to challenge the notion that fat sex workers can only be seen as objects and not as the subjects in their own stories and choices. Bee Hobbes—or Bianca von Honey, as she’s known to her fans—has built a career for herself doing what she loves and doing it the way she loves it. Bee is unabashedly sexy and fat, and she owns it. The pages of a romance novel are wonderful place to expand on the movement of sex positivity at large, especially since sex positivity isn’t truly positive until it’s accessible for anybody who desires it. 

The romance genre is often discounted or belittled, but at its heart, it is a place where authors and readers can build a world where happiness, connection—and of course, great sex—is available for everyone, regardless of background, identity, or size. And we’re excited to be writing in a time when, more than ever, romance is opening its shelves to underrepresented characters and perspectives. We hope A Merry Little Meet Cute adds to that movement by showing a character like Bee Hobbes getting the dizzyingly joyful, silly, and spicy happily ever after we all deserve, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned for certain, it’s this: epic love stories come in all shapes and sizes.

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