Thursday, April 15, 2010

He Said, She Said - Romance

Today's topic is romance: What exactly is romance? And is it overrated? Donna of The Bare Essentials Today and Brian of The Cheek of God offer their opinions, so read on . . .

SHE said:

Romance is overrated

Romance (n., adj.) a fictitious tale of wonderful and extraordinary events characterized by a non-realistic and idealizing use of the imagination. An exaggeration or fabrication that has no real substance.

Our culture has defined romance as the ultimate experience in an intimate relationship. It's idealized as the euphoria of being "in love." When, in reality, it doesn't have anything to do with love, but more so with having your personal needs met. It becomes the catalyst for having certain needs met, while not having to define or put a label on those needs.

If you're already having your "personal needs" met in any relationship you're in, where is the need for this fictitious tale or this grandiose display of affection?

I guess I'm just a simple kind of gal. A desirous look into my eyes. A simple I love you. I don't need any over-the-top gestures to let me know that I'm needed and wanted. And I guess to some those would be considered romantic gestures, but I think they should be part of the norm, rather than the exception.

I just Googled "romantic gestures" and these are a few of the gems that I came up with:

1) Do the laundry - really? I would expect that from a partner.

2) Write a message with a bar of soap on the mirror - Who's gonna clean that up?

3) Unwind with a glass of wine - Again another given.

4) Share things about your work day - It's called dialogue. And work? Not really so romantic!

5) Change her oil - Really?

6) Go grocery shopping - No comment.

7) Pay her a compliment in front of people you know - Again, no comment.

8) Help with or do the dishes - I would expect that. (Maybe I expect too much!)

9) Have a quickie somewhere new - Hot, but definitely not romantic.

10) Express appreciation for specific things your partner does for you - Again, a Thank You would be expected.

11) Be his/her slave for a day - Again, could be hot but there's nothing romantic about that. Slave is such an undermining term.

Maybe I'm too jaded. Maybe it's because I'm single right now. But none of these seem like they are worth the effort or would mean as much to me as a gesture that I would just expect to come naturally in a relationship (I love you, winks, soft touches, etc.). Well, maybe the quickie someplace new ;)

I once dated this guy who lived by the book The 5 Love Languages. He quizzed me on it during our first date and apparently by my answers he concluded that I thought like a dude. Maybe he was right.

What do you consider romantic?

HE said:

Methinks Donna made up that definition of romance, based on her experiences, and I sort of like it. And yet I must (or rather, the nature of this type of post forces me to) disagree. Romance isn't some "exaggeration or fabrication that has no real substance." I believe instead that there is a very real, substantial, and yet ultimately mysterious element within genuine romance. To wit, I'll offer my favorite definition, straight from the American Heritage English Dictionary:

romance (n.) - A mysterious or fascinating quality or appeal, as of something adventurous, heroic, or strangely beautiful.

In short, I believe romance isn't just something we do, it is also, more importantly, something that is a part of us. And romance often manifests itself in ways that are not so easily pinpointed.

Looking back at Donna's list of romantic gestures, a cautionary theme emerges: Be wary of any guy who does such things - especially when they are actions he typically doesn't perform - for, in the end, he did it all for the nookie, and such actions ultimately lead to disappointment and heartache. In the same vein, Kevin Leman once wrote that Sex Begins in the Kitchen. And while the book makes some interesting points, the overall message - that intimacy can be cultivated by the things we do - is too simplistic. Too pragmatic. For if we do things only to get things, then isn't that merely manipulation?

That dog don't hunt. And perhaps it's because of people who believed this tripe, and tried to apply these principles in their relationships with Donna, that she has become so jaded. (My apologies, Donna, on behalf of right-thinking men everywhere.)

So what am I getting at?

In gearing up to write this post, I did a bit of research. (See, Shelle!? I may write these posts on the day they are due, but I usually preface my writing with a modicum of preparation ;-) I stopped by my local Barnes & Noble and perused the magazine rack, seeking some current thoughts on romance and relationships from a man's perspective. I flipped through recent issues of GQ, Esquire, Men's Journal. Even Maxim. And while the pictures were lovely, and I do occasionally enjoy reading about camping, technology, style and fitness, there was nary a solid piece of relationship advice to be found. I even dove into family- and relationship-oriented magazines like Family Fun and Parenting and came up empty.

And then I saw it! "Make Me Laugh: Humor and Romance" on the cover of . . . Scientific American Mind?!


Here are the bullet points from science writer Christie Nicholson's article, titled "The Humor Gap:"

1) When seeking a mate, men desire women who laugh at their jokes, whereas women prefer men who can make them laugh.

2) Once a man and a woman are in a relationship, humor roles change.

This article confirmed for me two very obvious things about my relationship with my wife:

1) She was immediately hooked after I guzzled root beer floats and shoved pizza up my nose. Witnessing me at my slapstick best, she loved me anyway and gave me a shot.

2) Her enduring sense of humor made my recent extended period of unemployment tolerable. In fact, I can safely say that she saved my life on more than one occasion, simply by reaching down into my depths (she refuses to go there with me) and lifting me up with her tried-and-true, one-two combination of compassion and encouragement, both tinged with her own subtle, humorous touch.

As we've grown old together, humor has been the constant fuel for our romantic fire. Initially, I was the comedian and she my willing audience. She laughed at me, and I dug her laughter. Now, we share inside jokes, the punchlines of which are ours alone. And none of this is the result of any particular thing we've done. It's who we are. There is no exaggeration there. Only the reality of two lives merged into one. Two roads that lead toward a common goal:


So, as I've defined it, romance is indeed necessary - even if not so easily pigeonholed - and far from overrated. For those that would be romantic, there must be the realization that romance transcends actions. Accordingly, romance goes beyond having your personal needs met. Those things come with the proper foundation is laid. And the foundation is not made merely of the things you do, but by the stuff of which you are. And relationships built on the right stuff will stand . . .


tysdaddy said...

Morning all. Well, it's morning for me anyway. VERY morning. Heading to work today, so I'm commenting to subscribe to the comments.

And to add: Romance is not about sex. End of story . . .


heelsnstocking said...

Romance is so intangable, unquantifyable, you shouldnt be able to measure it or prepare a checklist for. It's the glue that holds the other stuff together though. It's like an ingreient you can add to the everyday to make it amazing. Its like the fairy dust of love! (oops almost sick then im being so sweet)

SciFi Dad said...

For my wife and I, romance isn't about the grand gestures so much as the little ones: bringing home flowers "just because" isn't as romantic as bringing home a large double-double because when you called on your way home from the office you could hear that she'd had a long day. It's about knowing who you're with, and acknowledging that you know them with actions that only you two fully understand.

DCHY said...

I still make my wife laugh and she is always amazed by my constant stream of surprises. She will never know what comes out of my mind at any given day and looks forward to that every day.

Anonymous said...

I honestly believe that romance is different for each person experiences it. For me it's making breakfast together on a Saturday morning or going for a run to Sonic at 9 pm because we want ice cream. A quiet dinner watching the sun go down on our front patio or working together to get the house clean before his entire family invades. Fishing when I haven't been since last summer or driving me out in our field so I can take pictures of the sunset. For others its flowers and candy or expensive dates but I'm just a simple country girl.

Anonymous said...

I can see this one from both sides. I think it is a somewhat intangible feeling that can be the driving force behind actions. The gestures that show that your partner is thinking about you and cares enough to brighten your day or lighten your load go a long way. (Love the example of the double double).

Yes, there are certain things that may be expected, but just imagine the difference in the relationship if such things weren't done for the other person. Actions show care and concern where inaction can show apathy.

For us too, humor and laughter is a big deal. My husband can always elicit a genuine laugh from me in most any circumstance. Shared laughter can fuel romance.

For me, there is also romance in appreciating and building shared history. There is also romance in looking how far we've come together, and seeing the possibilities of what we can become because of the other.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I use to think Romance was all TysDaddy has described it so eloquently (glad you do the research also, very impressive)...but I'm with Donna on I realize it's not romantic as much as it is expected and just part of the relationship...those things described as romantic should just be. Ya know?

But I'm not a skeptic...I want for Romance the once in a while big gesture...but laughter to me is more joy and being then fantastical or wimsy...yes I made up those words!

NV said...

I actually pondered this. I think that like beauty, romance is in the eye of the beholder. And it’s seriously biased by the “who” and the “what” involved. For some of us, it’s the complete mind/body/soul-titillating experience. (Even as jaded as I am, and that’s quite jaded to be sure, I still hold that as the principle for romance.) While for many other women, I’m sure that doing the laundry may qualify as the most romantic thing their husband/partner has ever done.

Swing for the Fence. said...

And to add: Romance is not about sex. End of story . . . (Brian)

Spoken words of the modern man. :(

Not sure if I would agree, considering for many people physical touch(which includes sex) is very romantic. But hey, whatever floats your boat.

Anonymous said...

I disagree completely with the "She Said" portion of this post.

I agree, actually, with one of the comments here; "I honestly believe that romance is different for each person experiences it" (said by hellesbelles86)

What one person says is Romantic, another will say it's required and another person will just shrug it off as being silly or pointless.

When my husband walks past me and lightly touches my shoulder or my arm or he leans in for a quick kiss on my temple, to me that is romantic. To someone else they believe this is expected of him. He doesn't HAVE to do this. He CHOOSES to do this because he (a) enjoys it, (b) enjoys my reaction and (c) knows that I appreciate it and feel special when he does it.

I think that Romance, even if it's something small and unbelievably simple, is needed. It's a way to show you care and/or love the other person. Yes, you can easily tell another person that you care or love them. But with the amount of lies that are out there in our society, it's not always easy to believe when someone tells you something kind. It's like the saying "I'll believe it when I see it".

PS. I love the book The 5 Love Languages and suggest other people read it. It's a brilliant book. I learned quite a lot from it, as did my husband.