In my discussion of the Top Ten Most Romantic Betsy Ray-Joe Willard Moments, I posited that Betsy and Joe’s impassioned meeting right after she gets off the S.S. Richmond in Betsy’s Wedding was the closest thing to a sex scene we were ever going to get out of author Maud Hart Lovelace. This sparked a thoroughly engrossing discussion on Twitter in which fellow Betsy fans threw out a few more steamy scene suggestions. (You know, as early 20th century steam goes.)
From: @lschmeiser: ”Or the line about some nights, all Joe wanted for dinner was for Betsy to put on her peignoir & be his pink silk bride.”
From: @kmcdade: “’Joe sat up in bed, and Betsy told herself that she must never allow him to wear any pajamas but blue ones.’ THAT one is almost a sex scene. Because you KNOW she must have been all over him right after that.”
But my absolute favorite “sex scene” came from @mysocalledwendy, who simply quoted, “’After a while he went back to the bacon.’” She’s completely right — I mean, you’ve got steam, sizzle, pop, and BACON! I also dug this one out myself: “In seconds, cane and bags were on the ground, and Betsy’s new French roll was toppled.”
However, while those are all great suggestions of potential steam, I stand by my original nomination simply because of the incredibly in-depth description we get:
1. Of personal items in disarray: “She had dropped her umbrella and her new hat was knocked off but she didn’t care.”
2. Of their frantic physical closeness: Betsy’s face is “crushed into his wooly shoulder.”
3. Of their verbal exhortations: “Oh, Betsy! Betsy!” “Joe! Joe!”
4. And, finally, of Betsy being unable to actually say “Joe! Joe!” because “he was kissing her and she was kissing him.”
As a young reader, I was pretty disappointed that the chapter describing Betsy’s actual wedding day ended with Anna throwing rice at Betsy and Joe as Harry and Tacy drove them off to their lakeside honeymoon, and then the next chapter began THREE WHOLE DAYS into their lakeside honeymoon! Where was the kissing, the wedding night nerves, the pent-up physical attraction finally unleashed within the bonds of respectable matrimony? In short, where was the Harlequinity of it all? As an adult reader, I have come to realize that there is so much more romance, sweetness, and, yes, I’ll say it, sensuality in what is left unsaid.
I recognized it in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series where the reader squeezes so much more juice out of every glance, touch, and prematurely broken-off kiss because the glances, touches, and prematurely broken-off kisses are all you get for several incredibly thick books. I call it the “showing a bit of ankle” effect. Instead of being turned on by an entire naked body — the full and complete exposure of which leaves nothing left for future tantalizations — you are titillated by a few inches of skin, and your imagination and longing for just a few more inches does the rest.
I’m sure there’s some hot and heavy Betsy-Joe fanfic out there, but I’m not going to go looking for it. I’ll just savor the hair toppling, the face crushing, and the bacon.
[…] I’ve been exploring the idea that some of literature’s most romantic moments are the G-rated ones from our childhood — those that leave much unsaid and undone, but still manage to strike a sweet, tender nerve […]