This novel, written by E. M. Forster in 1908, follows a young woman during Edwardian era England as she grows up, finds true love, and most importantly, finds self-empowerment in a highly repressive period of history.
Among other themes, it’s a story about a woman learning to be brave. About choosing personal desires over social norms. About a woman making space for herself, for one of the first times in history.
It’s novels like these that remind me to be thankful for my own room with a view.
But what room is it, with what view? I barely maintain a constant room, or even a constant view.
Like Lucy Honeychurch, I love travel, and I travel a lot. In 2012, I launched a trip-without-end in South America. I’m fortunate to be able to do it, that women have the chance and choice to do this in my country. But there was still the underbelly of tradition there: when will you come home to settle down? When will you have time for kids? If you don’t have kids now, you’ll miss your chance!
Those questions were, for me, rhetorical at best. I couldn’t even conceive of ‘a future’ if I didn’t enact one of my longest-held goals and passions: become a freakin’ vagabond. I’d be useless if I didn’t scratch this soul-itch. I’d be a withered shell of my former self if I couldn’t get the experience my heart was craving, or write the words that roiled in my chest like in a witch’s cauldron.
So my best girlfriend and I moved to the Patagonia region of Chile. After a while, my friend decided Chile wasn’t for her, so she moved home. And from there, I moved to middle Chile, and met a man.
When we met, everyone wanted to know if he was the one. And when we fell in love, they wanted to know if this meant we’d be coming home now, to begin the family, have the kids, start the retirement fund. I sensed that people were more thrilled about me meeting him than about the fact that I had been actively living my dreams down south for over a year at that point. I was really happy that people were happy for me; thankful that I had people to share in my joy. But I felt some people saw it as the defining aspect of my life, like “now my life could begin”.
When really, it was only our lives together that had begun. From there, he and I explored Argentina, Bolivia. Then we moved to Peru, and lived in some different cities there.
And all along the way, my room with a view changed. Some days, it overlooked the dreary, rain-soaked streets of a sleepy, Germanic village in southern Chile. Other times, my room faced the endless horizon of the Pacific Ocean from the port of Valparaiso, the misty mornings bringing a new facet of understanding to the poetry of Pablo Neruda. Sometimes, my room overlooked the bustling streets of Lima, Peru, my windows caked with pollution while palm fronds rasped against them. And more recently, my room with a view looked out to the craggy, surreal landscape of the Sacred Valley, the high-altitude heaven in southern Peru known as the Incan’s playground, where thunderstorms brought hail so huge I thought it would bust right through my room with the view.
And now, we’ve come to the USA, to sit for a spell. To find a new room, with a new view. A new place to peer out of, think about, and put those thoughts onto paper. We’re in northern Ohio, where we just married. I didn’t take his last name, and he didn’t take mine. We didn’t exchange rings, but rather relics that we found during our travels together. Some of these details are scandalous to certain acquaintances or family members; as though it were the 1900’s and I’d chosen to marry for love instead of station.
Over 100 years later, my adventures aren’t so different from Lucy Honeychurch’s, minus the gentlefolk’s resistance to talking about delicate matters (can’t claim that as an erotic romance author!). Sure, I didn’t have to debate which marriage proposal to accept—the socially advantageous one, or the fulfilling one—but there are plenty of other obstacles that Lucy faced that women today still face.
Though the options and outlooks for women in England and the States are leaps and bounds better than just over one hundred years ago, there are still plenty of social mores that unfairly affect women over men.
Lucy’s lot in life in the early 1900’s, according to social tradition, would be to marry young and have kids. And, in an even more condensed nutshell: Marry well, and shut up. And though marrying above or below “one’s station” isn’t so much of an issue these days, it still seems like the push to marry YOUNG and bear children EARLY is still very much a presiding mindset, disproportionately affecting women.
I felt the brunt of this societal expectation as I made my way through my 20’s. I still feel it, even nearing 30. So yes, I have a room with a view. I am free to choose my room, and my view. But that room still has a direct tunnel dug into the past. We see it when women make small talk: So, are you seeing anybody? Just haven’t found The Right One yet, huh? Don’t worry, you’ll find him. We see this tunnel to the past when a woman is first and foremost assessed on her looks; not brains, or resume. We see this tunnel when a woman who chooses to remain childless receives a special type of judgement.
We’re making progress. I think that in over just one hundred years, the fact that my own modern version of Lucy Honeychurch’s excursion to Europe raises far less eyebrows is a testament to the ground covered. That I can near 30 without kids and it’s not cause for worldwide scandal is an improvement. That I could choose childlessness, if I wished, without facing ex-communication from my family or religious group is, again, a step in the right direction.
But the traditional underbelly is still there. Because when a man who sleeps around is a real man, and a woman who sleeps around is a whore, we haven’t come so far from Edwardian times. And when a woman who chooses a life without kids is considered selfish, but a man who never marries or has kids is a prudent businessman, we haven’t come that far.
So what can we do?
Like Lucy Honeychurch, and all the other wandering, working women out there, we must choose our rooms and our views. They must align with our guts, with our passions, with what we feel to be right and true and aligned. Whether that means raising families young or never bearing offspring. No matter what society says.
Because society will always be stuck in the past, and it’s up to us, the women right now, to set the examples for the future we want to see.
And with effort and the slow march of time, we will inch ever closer to that sought-after even playing field.
Ember Leigh has been writing erotic romance novels since she was far too young. A native of northern Ohio, she currently resides in South America with her Argentinean partner, a detail she uses to justify her Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Literature. In addition to romance novels, she also writes travel articles, maintains three blogs, and continually attempts to complete a mildly-gripping short story. In her free time, she practices Ashtanga yoga, travels the world, and eats lots of vegetables.
Join two ex-lovers, four years after their last romp. When a work trip brings Casey back into Carlos’ territory, she knows she’d have him right there in the airport parking lot. But Carlos doesn’t seem so eager. Unsure of herself post-divorce, Casey knows only one thing: she wants this man as much as she did the last time she saw him. And she’s more than ready to relive every saucy adventure they had together. Can the sparks be salvaged, or has time left them behind?