Romance is a wonderful thing… especially when two people really care about each other! Then, it is not just fun, it is meaningful – an emotionally intimate experience, a reinforcement of affection and respect. It plays its role in keeping a relationship fresh… alive even.
However, romance is subjective; your idea of what constitutes a romantic gesture may not be mine. And younger people often crave experiences that older people no longer feel they need. One person’s bouquet of red roses is another’s cup of tea and a foot rub!
In the absence of genuine, mutual affection and respect, a romantic gesture is rather like the icing on a cardboard cake in a baker’s display cabinet; lovely to look at, but kind of empty. It doesn’t mean that much. A guy may produce a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers on a first date, which is lovely, but not personal. It is a polite thing to do, and is mostly about creating an impression. Still, better than turning up with an opened can of beer in his hand and a ciggie hanging out of his mouth (yep, a blind date did greet me that way, many years ago!). Or, turning up with his best mate who had all of the social graces of one who had been abandoned as a baby and raised by hyenas (that happened, too!).
When I said I wanted flowers…
Romance cannot replace genuine, honest caring. It cannot paper over cracks, at least not for any notable length of time. And romantic gestures don’t prove anything. If a relationship is fractured, or struggling under the weight of problems, an outer display of dedication is meaningless. And forcing romance is not a great idea! Complaining to a partner that they never do anything romantic for us might possibly lead to a bunch of petrol station carnations, or a box of Milk Tray, but it won’t be a spontaneous act, motivated by a desire to remind us how valued we are. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we aren’t valued, and it may be that our partner chooses other little ways to express appreciation. For example, they might vacuum the living room carpet without being ‘reminded’, or put the dinner on before we get home. Those things might not sweep us off our feet – and some would argue that they are expected, so why should they be rewarded with praise and appreciation? I suppose it’s just a case of horses for courses; there have been times in my past when I would have killed to come home to the sound of the vacuum cleaner, or the scent of cooking!
Many men are terrified by the idea of romance and don’t have much of a clue about what is expected of them. Not all men, of course; we now live in a world in which many young males are naturally more in touch with their ‘feminine’ side than were their predecessors. However, women are still complaining about men and their lack of insight into their needs, so it appears that there is still plenty of room for improvement!
I’m not carved from ice, after all…
Anyone who knows me well, or regularly reads my blog, will be able to confirm that I am a seasoned cynic, especially where idealistic romantic notions are concerned. In my defence, I HAVE spent 25 years tuning into and picking through other people’s tangled, disappointing love lives, which has obviously left its mark upon me! I promise you, there isn’t anything new for me to hear or see, and there are only a small number of issues, problems, attitudes and approaches, where dating and relationships are concerned… they just show up a hell of a lot, regardless of gender, location or culture. I see people running into the same pitfalls again and again, and I have written much on the subject – though it often isn’t listened to, because the emotions have a strong tendency to override everything, including intuitive guidance and common sense! However, I have written a biker rom-com novella, of which I am very fond and proud, much to the surprise of one of my best friends! She couldn’t believe that I had written a romance, given my general attitude toward it… and in some ways, so was I. But, I was also pleased to discover that my heart wasn’t actually carved from ice, and I genuinely cared about my two main characters. In fact, when I knew I was going to drop a bombshell on them, I cried and couldn’t write anything for two days. Having said all of that, I did include a complete bitch and a fair amount of swearing, so it isn’t all moonlight and roses. But, to me, it was genuine romance, as opposed to sexual romance, or feigned romance. We’ve all experienced the sense of let-down that comes from the forced effort of Valentine’s Day, for example. He is supposed to do something special, and you are supposed to feel it. It might be a meal in a crowded restaurant where you are surrounded by those who are either struggling to get in the mood, or, are devouring each other rather than the food. Both can be depressing to witness! And, if your friend is swept off for a long weekend in a 5 star hotel, whilst you get a teddy bear holding a red heart embroidered with, “My Valentine”, you’re going to struggle to feel worshipped and adored. No, to me, romance is about warmth and friendship, about genuine mutual interest. My main characters delight in one another, and laugh a lot, despite their differences… and neither of them are perfect, especially biker Nick! I enjoyed writing it, and in fact found it to be a therapeutic exercise – a breath of fresh air to blow away the negativity of resentful demands for perfect love and heart-stopping romance!
So, it is my conclusion that romance is a wonderful thing, but it has to be meaningful to us, and is much better shared between two people who genuinely like each other (just because two people share a home and a bed and claim to be in love doesn’t necessarily mean that they like each other!). Confusing romance with love is something that the young or emotionally immature often do, and it is never satisfying. When there is love, romance is so much sweeter, even if it isn’t anything particularly earth-shattering. A moonlit walk on the beach with someone attractive we have just met is tantalising… but having our partner pick up a bottle of our favourite wine, cook dinner, and sit together with trays on our lap, watching Bake Off… well, that might not exactly be savouring the evening air and the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower… but it is pretty sweet to me!
It cuts both ways…
One more thing I feel I should mention: romance is not something that men do to women – it cuts both ways – or at least it should! I have heard many females complaining that their man isn’t romantic in any way, and yet when I ask how long it’s been since they last complimented him or spontaneously hugged or kissed him, they look a little blank and respond with, “I can’t remember”. You might argue that being kind and thoughtful is not the same thing as being romantic… and I would ask you how it is possible to separate the two? As I have already said, romance without love is like the icing on a cardboard cake… you could pick it off and even nibble it… but there’d be nothing of substance beneath it. Romance between two people who like each other can lead to love, but romantic gestures alone don’t automatically equate to love. If you find yourself dreaming about and craving romantic gestures from some fantasy figure, or a love interest you have hoisted onto a lofty pedestal, enjoy it for what it is… but don’t expect it to translate into real life!