On romance

I keep a lot of notes and hastily scribbled thoughts in my writing journals. Mostly they’re about modern life, things I love and things I don’t. Sometime the scribbles are more fleshed out than others. I thought I’d start a series of thoughts and ramblings from my notebooks to give myself a chance to flesh them out. Today, my collected thoughts are on romance.

A couple of months I started watching “A Very British Romance”, presented by the lovely and brilliant Lucy Worsley. It’s a programme that shows how courtship rituals developed through the ages, using literature and historical documents like diaries and letters as a spyglass into the past. It’s made me think about the concept of romance, what it is and how it manifests itself in this day and age.

Knitted toys in love from JoshMcConnell/Flickr via The Atlantic
Image from JoshMcConnell/Flickr via The Atlantic

A romantic gesture distinguishes itself from a simple act of kindness because it’s not entirely selfless. You’re trying to impress a person that you feel more than a platonic liking and admiration for. You might be trying to get their attention and set out your stall as a potential (or continuing) partner in crime. I believe that in order to create a great romantic gesture, you must be a good listener, adept at picking up little hints (intentional or not) from a look or a conversation, a little bit selfless by putting someone else’s happiness above your own for a time, thoughtful and maybe a little creative. It’s not really about love, but showing that you’ve understood the other person with the right gesture at the right time. It can all go catastrophically wrong.

People say that in this day and age we’re starved of romance and don’t know how it’s done. Maybe that’s why people read romance novels. I think that romance was easier in the past. Courtship has always been so tightly controlled that a look or a letter could be considered completely swoon-worthy. Nowadays, with almost no limits to what we can do (except those imposed by belief systems perhaps), it’s a harder, but more worthwhile pursuit.

I beg to differ that we’re all romantically challenged. In fact, I think we can all be very romantic in our ways – they may just not be detected by anyone but the person they are intended for. Maybe we’re all a little bit more private nowadays (in Britain anyway…) or (on the other spectrum) have overblown ideas of what constitutes a romantic gesture – please, no need to fight duels on my behalf. Privately, I cringe internally at lavish gestures, like the extravagant public big screen proposals that have become so common, even if I’m very happy for the couples involved. It’s a personal preference and something that your other half should have cottoned on to if they know you at all.

Old people with ice cream holding hands
Image from eHarmony via Old People Holding Hands Tumblr


For me it’s not about grandiose and clichéd actions for the wealthy, such as big bouquets of roses on Valentine’s Day (unless that happens to be your bag, in which case go for it). I like my romantic gestures small, understated, private and intimate. I prefer a cheap, well thought out gift than a generic expensive one-size-covers-all. They show me that my love understands me, listens to what I say and has considered what would make me happy. You might laugh, but one of my boyfriend’s favourite romantic gestures included gherkins before we were even going out. After a quiet drink together as friends, he got a burger. I didn’t want a full burger but had a hankering for gherkins, so he gave me the gherkins off his hamburger. He likes them, but not as much as I do. After that my fate was sealed!

Our romantic gestures toward one another are usually few and far between, but the dearth makes them even more special when they do happen. They’re not always reciprocal; we don’t have a schedule – your turn this month, love. They flow from the spur of the moment and are an excuse to keep little secrets, get excited, and make each other’s lives more pleasant. Most importantly, they make me smile.

What’s your definition of romance? Do you prefer grand gestures or subtle smiles (not to say you can’t have both!)? Do you think the way romance is portrayed in films and other media is remotely realistic? Does it spoils our perceptions of love?

Image credits: 1 & 2


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