I read a blog post a few days ago titled ‘Romance Ruins Real Love’.
The post reminded me of a conversation I had with an old friend some years ago. She said her favorite part of relationship was the first weeks, when everything is romantic anticipation and excitement. I remember how violently I disagreed with that view, though I didn’t say so to my friend at the time.
I never trust romance, because I don’t equate it with love. Even as a child, I was suspicious of princes on white horses. As an adult, I want a relationship that survives the flu, a broken toilet, a week-long power outage, job loss, poverty, a car accident, a road trip, moving house and painting a room together. Anyone can dress up, buy flowers and make a reservation, given adequate time, money and motivation. Anyone can make love with words. Many can show up for a great night between the sheets. Most of life, however, consists of day-to-day challenges, tasks and unexpected stuff that no one can prepare for, and that’s when we find out what we’re made of, as well as what those around us are made of.
In spite of all that, I hunger for romance in my life. I always have.
I realized this week I couldn’t come up with a succinct definition of romance. I could write lists of what I find romantic, sensual or sexy, but how do those categories overlap into a central core of what romance actually is? As I sat down to begin this post, I grabbed my Random House College Dictionary and was absolutely shocked at what I found.
Romance: A baseless, fanciful story; a love affair.
Wait, what? What about palpitating bosoms and muscled, shirtless heroes and wine and roses and diamonds? What about bikini waxes and lingerie, high heels, flowers, poetry, songs, movies and messages of love via social media? What about sex?
Is the whole world searching desperately for something that’s not even defined as real? I always thought it was real and attainable. I’ve thought of it as a rare phenomenon, a kind of shining miracle that can’t be bought or captured, coming only to certain remarkable, young, beautiful and deserving people.
I’m ashamed to want romance. It’s not for someone like me, someone flawed, broken, aging, unbeautiful and in many ways unlovable (another of my stories). To dream of romance, to yearn for it, is pitiable and pathetic, and I keep such dreams well hidden, releasing them only in my writing.
I paused in writing this post and thought about Random House’s definition for a day. I decided the thing I find most disturbing about this definition is it’s purely subjective. Do we each have a unique baseless, fanciful ideal we’re searching for or trying to create? I’ve written about stories before. If my idea of romance is nothing but a baseless, fanciful story inside my head, it’s not about anybody else. It’s only about me. It’s not something I’ll ever discover out in the real world.
No wonder I haven’t been able to find it!
If romance is just another of my stories, then it’s pointless to carry shame around because nobody will participate in my ideal. I’m the only one who can be responsible for my story. Nobody else even knows it, unless I tell it, and this is a private story I’m unwilling to reveal. My story of romance is part of who I am, a piece of vivid and passionate authenticity. It’s what I dance with and write with. I need it. It’s an aspect of myself to be nurtured and cherished, not ignored and denied.
Romance is not about them at all. It never has been. It’s about me.
This is a place I’ve been before, although this time I’ve followed a different road to get here. When I lived alone in my own home in my old life, I became romantically self-reliant, as it were. I was lonely, but I realize now I was probably the most satisfied romantically I’ve ever been. I burned candles and incense. I bought flowers for myself. I took myself to the movies, to breakfast, out for pizza. I took long, luxurious baths with music and essential oils. I bought my favorite sexy underwear and wore it for my own enjoyment. I gave myself weekends away and night walks to watch the moonrise. I danced naked. I bought art cards I loved and mailed them to myself to mark special anniversaries and days.
Then I came to Maine and began life with my partner, and because I had a man in my life again, I gave up romancing myself. I realized my new relationship is deeper and stronger than romance. I no longer feel lonely. Many of my needs are being met now that have never been met before. Life in central Maine in a 100+-year-old falling-down and leaky farmhouse with very little money is not romantic, however, and my partner is a pragmatic Yankee. He’s about as romantic as a rock. He loves me. I don’t want him to be different, and I recognize he is not equipped to satisfy my hunger for romance.
Well, no. But given the above definition, is anyone? Has my search for romance been in vain because what I long for isn’t out there at all, it’s in here? Was it my responsibility all along?
I say again: Huh!
If I decide to be the best romantic partner I’ve ever had, is that hilarious or creepy?
One thing’s for sure. I won’t have to work very hard to be the best romantic partner I’ve ever had!
Wait, I already am the best romantic partner I ever had, I just took some time off. And now I miss me.
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