Day 75: Romance?
I found myself thinking about this as my parents celebrated their diamond anniversary, 60 years! [Happy Anniversary you two!] Shared meal at a favorite restaurant, romantic movie (that as it turns out was not), and a delight for me, a picture of them on their porch with the flowers Brian and I sent. A dozen white roses, honoring the ‘diamond’ bit. Cheaper than diamonds, to be sure…but ah well...
After the day's meanderings, I finally surrendered inside: I have no idea what romance means for me anymore. Does that make me sad? Does that make others have pity on me, a 53-year-old, happily married woman who yet does not know what romance means anymore?
Awakening to the Feminine, feeling the rage of abandonment of the feminine in a culture that objectifies bodies, I’ve relinquished most of the cultural tropes of romance I inherited. I can no longer stomach the chick flicks I used to enjoy.
Gloria Steinem argues that romance has cultural plots or tropes uniform enough to be conveyed by shorthand: "if-I-can’t-have-you-no-one-will,” “transitional affair,” “middle-aged crazy,” “the other woman,” “wartime romance.” Most disempower the woman while confronting a man with unreal expectations.
More settled in who I am these days, the only romance movies I seem to enjoy are the lgtbqia2s+ ones. At least they play with romance tropes in refreshing ways. In earlier years, I'd be scared to be seen enjoying them, like it meant something about me. Now, I love the curiosity, surprise, unexpected plot turns. I can feel the sweetness of new love in them.
Perhaps part of the gift/challenge for me is that I was exquisitely courted. Twice; by the same guy. First time in college, second time in my late 20’s. My beloved Brian knows how to court a woman in the best classical Jane Austen/Mr. Darcy fashion. Not surprising I fell for him. Twice.
Flowers in my college mailbox every Friday. He still buys me alstromerias to this day. Wine and bread amidst intimate conversation. Cocktail hour on the porch today. A prioritization of my needs over his own. Beautiful AND can be disconnecting too, we’ve learned. It can lead each of us to conform or perform so to meet the other's needs first. We find our way together, which is why happily is the correct adverb for us. But Mr. Darcy doesn't work on me like it did. We don’t try to find romantic movies to watch together. Can't even pretend otherwise.
So what’s a girl to do when she wakes up to the disempowerment of the feminine, the pretense of protection over collaboration, co-creation, curiosity? Steinem says something I’d like to simmer with a bit: “Romance is the most intense form of curiosity.”
I’m in love. I’m regularly curious. Respect and understanding are huge in my home. Sometimes to the expense of fun, but eventually fun or humor finds us.
Perhaps all of the above is our romance, my beloved and me.