My pocket dictionary offers more than a dozen definitions of romantic: impractical, unrealistic, preoccupied with love or the idealizing of love, ardent, passionate, fervent. Hopeless we know: impossible to accomplish, incompetent. Putting the best possible face on it, a hopeless romantic is a person who passionately strives to maintain an impractical ideal of love. Don Quixote comes to mind, not the most admirable of literary figures. So why is being a hopeless romantic something on which people would want to pride themselves?
There is a cartoon by Stine hanging on my wall that sums up my own feelings about this hopeless romantic thing neatly. A non-gender specific person holding a bright red flower and wearing something that looks suspiciously like a dunce cap strides forward, blissfully unaware that she or he is about to step off a cliff. The drawing is entitled “Romantic Enters the World.”
So is an incurable romantic some dopey innocent setting off with the highest of expectations simply cruisin’ for a bruisin’…and bound to receive one? Unfortunately so in many of the cases I see. Certainly a person who has unrealistic expectations – of instant passion, of love conquering all, of effortlessly living happily ever after with a soul mate – will likely be disappointed. Worse yet, after the mourning of the last painful fiasco you know that romantic will pick another red flower, don the jaunty cap once more, and go walking towards the precipice with a sweet smile of expectation that this time it will be different.
Do I sound churlish or unsupportive of romantics? After years of hearing the love problems of thousands of people I have concluded that usually the only instances in which romance as a concept arises are women in relationships complaining that their partner is no longer romantic (i.e. pays them insufficient attention) and single men who think of themselves as unvalued Romantics who arrive at the doorstep of the prospective beloved, single daisy in hand, only to watch her drive off with some brute in a snazzy car as the daisy and his hopes pathetically droop.
In other words. I hear many complaints about the dearth of romance, its loss, its lack, but very little about the positive aspects of actual courting behavior, which is, I believe, what most people mean when they speak of romance.
Most would-be or longtime lovers of both sexes and all persuasions will probably enjoy imaginative gestures of affection (read romance), but as with relationship roadmaps or recipes for good sex, there is just no one way to be romantic. Flowers for a hay fever sufferer or candy for a dieter are bad choices. Greeting cards with cute sayings have made Hallmark millions but may well make your cynical sweetie barf. Yeah yeah, buckets of roses, champagne, home-made meals, are the traditional strategies for softening the object of your affection’s heart, but they are…well, traditional. In the case of romance it really is the thought that counts as well as the follow-through.
From years of being privy to others’ longings I have developed a simple recipe for infusing a relationship with romance, any relationship. Romance is very much akin to what I submit is successful sex – taking some time and paying attention to what specifically pleases the person you want to please. A sports fan dragging Sweetie along to the playoff game will not likely be given credit for a romantic gesture, no matter how hard the tickets are to come by, if Sweetie has no interest in the sport (no more than ear nibbling will ignite the passion of a non-earcentric partner no matter how much you love it when it’s done to you).
Romantic gestures that let Sweetie know he is valued or she is in your thoughts could be as sweetly mundane as a gift of a new brand of ramen, a used paperback he might like, or a text just to say hi in the middle of a work day. None cost much in time or money. They are just thoughtful little indications that your sweetie is on your mind and that pleasing her/him is not way down on your life’s priority list. Go to a parking lot and make out. Offer to massage his feet. Make homemade ice cream together. Take a picnic to the park. Doesn’t that all sound…well, romantic?
The more attention one pays to what the object of one’s affection likes, has liked, might like, the more probable a thoughtful gesture – and you – will be perceived as romantic, hopefully so.