A couple of years ago I was talking relationships and romance with one of my best guy friends and commented that often I feel the men I date are far more romantic than I am. In fact, I told my friend, I don’t consider myself to be overly romantic.
My friend nearly fell off his bar stool laughing.
“Smiley,” he said, “you are one of the most romantic people I know.”
And then he proceeded to point out various actions on my part that provided support for his opinion.
Did I at one point sell everything, quit my job and move to Boston to be with someone who had swept me off my feet? Guilty. Have I left romantic mementos on windshields and mailboxes? Again, guilty. Do I typically see the glass half full? Also guilty.
My friend, it seems, knows me better than I know myself.
It is true I am charmed when someone takes the time to light candles or procure my favorite wine when I come to visit. Expensive gifts and excessive wining and dining are not necessary – in fact I’m often suspicious of people who employ those tactics. In my experience, when someone showers me with expensive gifts or insists on taking me out to very trendy and expensive places for dinner, it is more about THEM than it is about actually wanting to understand what I really want or need.
There is a song by Jason Aldean called “Night Train” that, loosely translated, is about a guy who picks up his girl and takes her out to a hill late at night to look at the stars and listen to the trains go by. That is my kind of date. My kind of romance.
And so few people get that.
One of the coolest and most romantic dates I’ve experienced was when a guy I was dating who was kind of a science geek and knew I was kind of a science geek, drove out to the country to a big field late one night so we could sit on the hood of his car and watch the meteor shower. It made me feel special because I knew he had really thought about what I would like, what I would enjoy, what would be a truly romantic evening for me.
I am the kind of woman that would list Silence of the Lambs and No Country for Old Men as films that make my top 20 list. Not romantic films by any means although Dr. Lecter does seem to have some kind of a thing for Clarice (i.e. “People will say we’re in love.”) But also making that list would be Pride and Prejudice (modern version Bridget Jones Diary) and Taming of the Shrew (modern version 10 Things I Hate About You). Both of these stories are about women whom most might not view as romantically inclined because they refuse to bow to social norms or because their view of romance is non-traditional.
The men who love the heroines in these tales are also non-traditional — especially when it comes to romance and romantic gestures. In 10 Things I Hate About You, Patrick falls for Kat who is into feminism and indie music. He goes to hear a girl band she likes because he knows music is important to her. His romantic gift to her at the end of the movie is a guitar. And Kat is just as in tune to what Patrick really needs. When Patrick gets detention after school, it is Kat who distracts the teacher in charge which enables Patrick to escape via the window. After Patrick’s escape, he and Kat spend the afternoon paddle boating.
Like Kat, I try to really listen and try to think what the person I’m seeing would most appreciate. If I were dating someone with a bad back who complained about pain and expressed a desire to find relief I might get them a yoga mat. On the surface, it seems a more pragmatic gift as opposed to romantic but when you look deeper, that truly would be a romantic gift for someone you care about.
Back to Pride & Prejudice/Bridget Jones Diary for a moment. The two main characters in this story first clash, then fall for each other but have a difficult time communicating their feelings to the other. The passion is there, smoldering, but it takes a long time for Mr. Darcy to muster up the courage to say to Bridget: “I like you. Just as you are.” And in turn it takes Bridget/Elizabeth a long time to come to terms with her feelings for Mr. Darcy and to tell him in turn: “I like you. Just as you are.”
No risk, no gain. Mr. Darcy and Bridget/Elizabeth finally take the risk and gain a loving relationship. I am also that person who can take a long time to reveal smoldering passion and at times that has been mistaken for being unemotional or not being romantic.
As I write this, we are about a week away from Valentine’s Day. While I may have said at certain times that I hate the holiday, the truth is that I’ve loved Valente’s Day since I was a kid getting and giving paper valentine cards in elementary school.
I have heart-shaped earrings and necklaces. I have scarves with hearts and cupids and lip prints. I admit to wandering through Meijer browsing valentine candy, candles, wine glasses, cards, and the like. Honestly, I can probably count on one hand the times a gentleman has given me a card, a single rose or even a bag of cinnamon hearts or a box of chocolate. Perhaps I hide my romantic side so effectively – at least from those who haven’t known me for 20-some years like the friend to called me out on being a romantic – that folks assume I don’t appreciate those kinds of things. But I do. I do.
But more than an elaborate valentine card, a heart-shaped box of Russell Stover chocolates or a dozen red roses, I want someone to show up on my doorstep, take my hand and for us to listen to the night train and gaze at the stars while confessing to each other: “I like you. Just as you are.”