No Romance For Me, Please

Photo by Dan Grebb via Flickr

Imagine the scene….

A balmy February evening with a luxurious yacht skimming along the water. On board are couples in love. To surprise Jane, John has two tickets for this Valentine’s Day moonlit cruise around the harbor.

On the drive to the dock, John remains tight lipped, frustrating Jane. She anxiously clutches the bouquet of her favorite flowers, wondering what he has planned for her, but knowing that whatever it is, she will like it. He just knows her so well.

They board the yacht with the other happy pairs and then settle together hand-in-hand at the railing, leaning out to the waves as they disappear from view in the boat’s wake. The lights of the city sparkle in the distance, and the sea air blows a gentle caress across Jane’s face and through her hair.

John takes Jane’s hand and leads her to the centre of the deck. Then, he gets down on one knee in front of all the passengers, pulls out The Box with The Ring inside and says, “Jane, I love you, will you marry me?”

With a squeal, she cries, “Yes!”

He rises, slips the ring onto her finger, and immediately, she wraps her arms around him and covers him in kisses. A round of spontaneous applause breaks out on the yacht, and the other couples cheer and whistle. She basks in the good wishes and attention of her fellow travelers–the adoration, the love, the romance.

It could not have been more spectacular if she had planned it herself. It was perfect….

Oh, please! Give me a break from such sappy romance!

I can see you rolling your eyes now. It sounds like the absolute worst movie cliché from some cheap popcorn Romcom or a film about a Season in a Famous City that will remain nameless. But incredibly, it’s not. My cousin was proposed to in this exact manner. She really couldn’t have been happier, and for the record, she has been married for three years.

Or is it four? Whatever, it doesn’t matter.

The truth is that this kind of grand, public proposal is a cliché for a reason. There are romantics out there (of both genders) who revel in the fantasy of it and secretly hope that one day it will happen to them, too.

“She actually said yes?” I asked in disbelief when I was told about the proposal. Then I remembered it was my cousin, and I took back the question. Of course she said “yes.” Being the centre of attention, having a man make the big gesture is exactly what she always wanted from the men in her life. And she’s not the only one. I know a lot of other women who would have gladly said “yes” to that proposal. A lot of them are my friends, they are typical romantics, and they love the idea of the storybook fairytale.

I, for one, couldn’t think of a worse thing to happen to me. If it had been me that night, I probably would have flung myself overboard just to get away. But not before I gave an emphatic “no” as my answer.

I’d like to think any guy who got to the point of wanting propose to me would know me well enough to realize that a public spectacle would be his quickest route to rejection. I don’t like the limelight, and I conduct my private life in private, with no relationship status updates on Facebook, gossip circulating through all of our acquaintances and weeping sessions with the girls when he isn’t a preconceived notion of “perfect.” In matters of the heart, I am just too pragmatic for romance and the idea of perfection, which is an illusion.

That’s not to say I don’t understand my friends’ desire for roses, chocolates, jewelry and a giant card on Valentine’s Day, their love of walks on the beach under the stars, and candlelit dinners at fancy restaurants. But it’s also not what everyone wants. I don’t feel the need to enrich Hallmark, sand is cold and damp at night, and candles are smoky. Plus, I don’t see very well at the best of times without flickering flames making it worse. I don’t want a pageant of a proposal like my cousin, it’s not me. And don’t ask my dad for my hand in marriage. He wouldn’t know what I’d like to eat for breakfast, let alone who would make a suitable life partner. Ask me, and have the respect and love to do it in private, just the two of us.

To me, romance is overrated. Anniversaries don’t matter. Flowers are dead things which start to smell in a few days. Valentine’s Day is one of the most generic days of the year. By all means, celebrate your love with billions of other people. I won’t stop you. I just won’t be a part of it.

To me, that’s not what love is about. I do want love. I just want to cherish it everyday. I’d like the guy to know the names of my favorite books and why they are my favorites and be able to discuss them because they are important to me. I’d like him to remember my birthday, because that’s the day I was born and that fact makes him glad and want to celebrate that specific moment. And if he is going to give me a present, I’d like it to be something that he knows I will enjoy, not flowers that wither or chocolates that I don’t eat or want taking up residence on my thighs.

I don’t want romance. I want effort.

One day, I’d like to have a proposal from someone to whom the answer will automatically be “yes,” because “Will you marry me?” is just a formality. And he’ll bring a ladder with him, because that’s part of the proposal, and he’ll know why it’s funny.

But “romance” won’t be a part of it.

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  • You totally have no idea what the definition of the word romance is. The exact things you explain you want from a man ARE ROMANCE.

    1: to try to influence or curry favor with especially by lavishing personal attention, gifts, or flattery

    2: to carry on a love affair with

    • Crystal I agree with you completely, what I want is romance, but I feel that the media has hijacked the concept of what romance means. The definition of romance has changed in Western society, it has become a narrow ideal that works for some and not for others, that was the “romance” that I was addressing.

  • Great read, I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Reading through this article one word kept repeatedly popping into my mind. “Bitter”.

    • Why do you say that? Some people are more pragmatic than others. Just because someone doesn’t like cheesy romance doesn’t automatically make them bitter….

    • It’s unfortunate that you find my article “bitter”, Mark. Bitter is the last thing I am. I’m just very practical when it comes to love and life in general. I’m actually surprised that I wasn’t accused of being cold not bitter, which I’m also not, by the way.

    • Nonsense Mark, some of just arent flowery-girly and conventionally romantic :)) we dont like to be the centre of attention cos it feels fake.
      The best present that my naturally romantic boyfriend ever got me was a water well in Africa – to know that a community of people and children had clean water because of what he’d carefully done, made me come out in goosebumps. And he knew that 🙂

  • You want romance, you just don’t want a stereo-type that doesn’t fit your personality. I’m the same way. I’m not a public spectacle-type person. But I love it when hubby does nice little things for me – things that aren’t traditionally romantic, but are still meaningful to each of us in our relationship. V-Day? Don’t care for it. Anniversary, love an excuse to buy each other presents/make a yummy meal cause it’s actually a good distance away from our birthdays. As long as people are on the same page, it’s all good.

    The great thing is, when you find the dude you’re looking for, he’ll like and appreciate that about you.

    You don’t sound bitter – you just like different things. Which is great.

    • I don’t know why I hyphenated stereotype…

    • You highlighted the word that matters to me most when it comes to relationships – meaningful! The manner in which you honor and celebrate your marriage is great, it’s what I look forward to in a long-term successful relationship. I love celebrating milestones that have importance to you personally.

      Oh and in my most serious relationship we exchanged perfunctory text messages. And it worked for us.

    • The text messages were for Valentine’s Day.

      You see I even miss out the day when I am talking about it!

  • As with everything else on this site, this is quite well written and personal. Unfortunately, it’s also the first piece of writing that made me feel less like someone was sharing a personal experience in order to see if other people could relate and more like something that criticizes the way other people view the world. What was learned? Why should I empathize? I love what this site represents, and I’ve disagreed with the sentiments of other writers on here before. In this case, I agree with many of the points of this piece, but this is the first time I’ve felt like a discussion is being ended instead of started.

    • I’m not sure when “Lady” will have a chance to respond, so I’ll jump in….

      I’m sorry you feel that way, since the mission of the site is to open (not close) lines of communication. When I was working with her on this piece, I never got the impression that she despises other people who love the gushy romance. I think her uber-curt, uber-pragmatic (and *hint* non-American) style of writing is probably what you’re picking up on.

      To me, the lesson learned is that putting an effort into the relationship is what ultimately matters. For some, public displays are lovely, but for others, they don’t work at all. And that’s why we need to pay attention to our partner and make sure we understand what they like.

    • I’m in the same boat as Jen, I got the same feeling from the article. Not saying the author is right or wrong in her viewpoint, she’s certainly entitled to her own opinion, but this felt like more of a criticism of people who like the sappy, sometimes public romantic stuff (which I honestly am also not a huge fan of, fwiw) instead of either starting a discussion about it or explaining a lesson that was learned.

    • Okay, I know this is gonna sound pretty self-centered and self-serving of me, but I think it’s AWESOME that you guys have come to expect a lesson in every article.

      I started Musings with a specific mission in mind, but I honestly don’t know if most people care about–or have even read–our mission statement and the reasons we write, or if they just want an entertaining read.

      So, the fact that you guys noticed and spoke up when you perceived there to be a lack of lesson here…. Well, thank you. It’ll definitely keep us on our toes with respect to future lessons! 😉

  • Really, I think it was because the writing feels like a reaction to someone else’s ideal rather than an expression or example of what the alternative is. There’s less emphasis in the piece about what works for “Lady” and a lot more emphasis on what doesn’t, which surprised me given that this isn’t usually the feel I get from pieces on this site. I didn’t mean to imply that she was overly harsh.

    • No worries. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion and shouldn’t have to apologize for it (well… unless your opinion is blatantly bigoted or something). 😉

      I do see what you’re saying about focusing on tearing down someone else’s ideal, though, rather than discussing the alternative. Point taken.

  • Jen, the reason that I felt like I wanted to talk about society’s stereotype of romance and my cousin’s proposal in particular was that her proposal resonated for me very deeply and not in the way that might have been expected. It worked for her but as soon as I heard about it, I knew that it wouldn’t work for me. I am very shy to put it mildly, I don’t like being the center of attention other than with those I know well, and I prefer conducting my relationships in private. That is what makes me happy. Rejecting society’s idea of romance and holding my partner to my own standards were an empowering lesson I learned from my cousin’s engagement – the latter was in fact the most important part for me. That was my lesson. Not a specific list of what I want from romance but more an approach to romance, and it’s okay for me to want that, that was what I learned.

    Romance is relative, that’s my point. (Right Dennis? 😉 )

    • I really feel like some of this should have been in the article. I read it and agreed with Mark on the “bitter much?” sentiment. I felt like it was bashing people who like stereotypical romantic stuff. Sure, I don’t have to shout my relationship status on FB but I like Valentine’s Day and want my chocolate and to celebrate with every other cheesy person. I don’t care how trite or commercial or whatever it is. I still celebrate Christmas even though it’s mostly for presents. My point is, I wish the article focused more on the “wow my cousin’s proposal really made me realize that I have different standards and am sticking to them” instead of “I don’t like the conventional views of romance and if you do it’s gag inducing”.

    • I’m going to agree with the majority of what’s been said and what Beebee King wrote.

      Over-the-top public displays of affection aren’t my thing. My fiance proposed to me when I was wearing my glow-in-the-dark cookie pajama pants and he was in a grey wife beater. We were home alone. He shoved a box at me and said “here”. That’s how I got my ring. There’s more to this story but the point is, I thought it was the most romantic thing in the world because it was the most “us”. Little did he know, any way he proposed would’ve been perfect to me because HE’S the one asking me to marry him.

      However, I, too, feel like this wasn’t an opening to a discussion but, rather, a criticism on what other people may define as “romance”. I choose to enrich Hallmark because those funny mushy cards only make an appearance on that day. Unless I buy them in mass quantities to give to Clyde throughout the year (still enriching Hallmark), I don’t see when else I can give him one. I could always make it myself but that’s not the point.

      I like my chocolates even though they ruin my Wedding Diet plan. I like having date nights with Clyde and the whole she-bang. I love receiving flowers but I always wish for the kind in pots so that I could watch them grow. That’s when they’re not just dead things but a living gift you get to take care of and enjoy.

      I would’ve reacted much differently to your piece had you focused on the what you learned from your cousin’s proposal (the stuff you didn’t like) and what you’d like for yourself. To me, romance and effort go hand in hand because it takes effort to be romantic.

  • Ha, ’tis obvious, my little squirrels, that romance is relative (as are all the other personal PREFERENCES – in music, books, movies, cars, people, etc., etc.). It also seems obvious to me that Lady Bee is, perhaps, as big a romantic as her cousin is, but just in a different way.
    What some people don’t seem to get is what spurred this article (I suspect, though I’m not 100% sure) is the shock caused by hearing of her cousins wedding proposal.
    Why shock? Well, because:
    1. Is life/personality defining – it makes you realize how you are and what you want, and
    2. Because the above mentioned realization is made in a negative way, by opposition to a path that is considered desirable or the norm by the society you live in.
    I understand that intimately, because many of the things I’ve learned about myself were learned through opposition to other people’s ideas about how I should be; instead, they taught me what I DON’T like, what I SHOULDN’T do, how I SHOULDN’T be (talk about irony…).
    I passionately hate it when people try to limit how I should live my life based on their own ideas, feelings and experience. For example, some people disapprove of the fact that, although I’m 27, I’m unmarried and without children. I HATE with a burning-hot rage people getting married and having children just because that’s what they think they *should* do, that that’s the *normal* thing to do – I think it’s utterly wrong and irresponsible. While I do get that for some people this works, and they are reasonably happy (or at least content) with their marriages AND they are relatively good parents, for most people it doesn’t work out, screwing up both their lives and the lives of their children… Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to get married and have children, it just means I’m not at that point in my life. It also means that I take marriage and children very seriously, and if I’ll ever have them in my life, I want it to be because I want it, not because someone else thinks so! I know, I know, how silly of me to think that a loveless, unhappy, dysfunctional family is not something to strive for…
    Another point I’d like to make is that acting stereotypically might mean you’re faking it! That’s why I generally don’t like stereotypical romancing: because I’m not sure if what she’s feeling is genuine or she’s just doing it because she feels that’s how romance should be… Also, from my personal experience with human psychology, people tend to think that acting in a certain way can make you feel that way too – basically, that if a feeling can give birth to a behavior, then vice versa is also true (what I like to call the effect->cause fallacy) – basically, that means that some people believe that if they *behave* in a romantical way, romantical feelings will soon follow, both in themselves and in their *love* interest…
    So, in conclusion my little squirrels, be genuine (whether stereotypically or not, it doesn’t matter), be who you truly are and don’t bust a nut over what the other people think it’s the ideal way to live your life – it is YOUR life, not theirs!!!

  • Personally, I really liked this piece. I understand what others are saying, but I think the personal lesson is there — you just have to dig a little past the “cutting” language, which is a stylistic choice. I don’t think she intended it to be a personal slam on the way other people express romance, but instead, like Andrei so eloquently put it, as a realization she made as a result of opposing how others typically think she, as a woman, should act or feel.

    This sentence expressed it best: “I don’t want romance. I want effort.” Maybe it would’ve been easier for readers to understand if the word “romance” had been surrounded with quotes. You don’t want canned romance — you want someone who loves and respects you enough to care about the things you really want — someone who, in my case, will stop at the store to surprise me with a can of black olives before roses because he’ll know I’d appreciate those much, much more.

    • Maybe somebody should write a counter-point: “Why Over-the-Top Sappy Gestures are Awesome”

    • I mostly side with Lady Bee that the gesture is best if it’s specific to the love interest’s personality. That said, I still think I probably would’ve melted (back in my dating days) if a guy played is guitar – badly – in the courtyard outside my apartment singing “I’ll Be There for You” by Bon Jovi ala “A Lot Like Love.”

      A boombox over the head would work, too.

    • We just need someone with a time machine to jump back to the 80’s and kidnap John Cusak or Patrick Swayze, and bring them back here and I think Katie would be set.

      And, um, while we’re at it….could we also pick up Heather Locklear or Kelly LeBrock? Or (and this may raise a few eyebrows) Sigourney Weaver circa Ghostbusters (don’t judge me).

  • Thanks Andrei and Katie! My lesson was indeed the realisation of what I didn’t want in behaviour from my partner.

    I may be blunt in my response to some forms of romance, but those are my personal feelings. I’m entitled to those opinions and honestly, I believe everyone is free to enjoy any type of romance they choose, and many of my nearest and dearest are serious romance junkies themselves. Being allowed to have my own view was part of my point, it wasn’t to “bash” anyone else’s.

    What I do strongly object to is large companies and society in general telling me how I should celebrate love and that it’s not okay if I don’t do it their way.

    I guess the idea of “romance” in whatever form is really contentious which is interesting. And I think it’s an insoluble argument like Coke vs. Pepsi, everyone has an opinion none of which are wrong.

    • I guess what I dont understand is why you feel “large companies and society in general” are telling you how you should celebrate love and that it’s not ok if you don’t do it their way. I’ve never been someone who is big on PDA, or huge romantic gestures for Valentines day and the like. Sure, a nice dinner is fine but mostly it’s just for fun and because that specific day gives you an excuse to get dressed up and try to inject a little romance in life, which can be helpful if you lead a busy, stressful lifestyle. But I’ve never felt “put upon” or pressured by companies or society to do any of these things. Anything I did for valentines day was my own choice, and I did the little things (card, chocolates, etc) just because I wanted to make my significant other feel loved that day. Thats not to say that everyone has to do that, or should want to do that, but I dont think it’s as big a deal as you’re making it out to be.

      This is really not meant to offend, but its the best example I could come up with – but you kind of remind me of a lot of the people I met in college – a little angsty for some reason, raging against a precieved societal oppression that really isnt there as much as they thought. Now, I’m not trying to say you’re wrong, or that you should change you’re opinion, hate all that sappy stuff all you want, it’s you’re right and I don’t have any problem with you feeling that way about it personally. But at the same time, you shouldnt make it sound like anyone who buys into that is stupid or that they’re wrong for taking enjoyment in it (not that you did that particularly or blatantly in your article, but reading it I got the sense that this was sort of the underlying feeling you have towards these people).

      Good article though, even if I disagree with some points, at least it’s started a decent amount of discussion.

  • OoOoh I want the romantic, fancy proposal lol 🙂

  • This was depressing to me, im not a big fan of the naysayers of romance, we all have different perceptions on the type of romance we want, so i dont like the idea of criticizing other peoples ways of finding happiness.

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