What does it mean to be romantic? I’m not exactly sure. What’s the most romantic thing someone’s ever done for you?
A guy wrote a love song for me once. It started “Dear Kate…” It was a good song.
Once a guy wrote a slam poem for me, and then he performed it in front of a lot of people.
Once a guy wrote a symphony for me. I am not kidding. That really happened. It had three movements. Wait, maybe it had four. It was a while ago.
On our fourth date, Bear took me to Utah, for the weekend. But he forgot our first wedding anniversary. We were supposed to write each other love letters, rather than doing gifts. He was at a conference all day. I was tagging along on his business trip. I was having a great time. I knew he wouldn’t be around much. I knew he hadn’t thought to do it before. I knew he wouldn’t remember to do it later. So when he didn’t do anything for our anniversary, it was fine.
But I was a little worried, too. People might think, “What kind of husband forgets your FIRST anniversary?” (A bad one.)
I thought my friends might ask me what he’d gotten me, and then I’d have to say “nothing,” and then it’d be weird. I’d have to explain. “No, no, Bear is so amazing…I know how much he loves me! He’s the best! We’re just BOTH not into gifts. Seriously. We don’t even care about them.” And then they’d look at me, with this sympathetic look, and they’d be thinking, “She sounds so defensive, poor girl…He’s probably going to leave her.”
It occurred to me that Bear is maybe not very romantic. Can you be married to someone for a year without realizing that they’re not romantic?
When I think of romance, I think of doing something extra– something dramatic. Of putting yourself out there. Singing in the rain, while the guy closing up the pizza place gives you a look that says, “Why do I even live in this stupid friggin’ city full of crazy people?”
“Come on,” said the guy who wrote me the song.“Let’s run along the river!” It was 2 am. We were not drunk. “Come on…”
“Okay, okay,” I said. I followed him outside and we went to Riverside Park. He hopped a fence.
“I have to get over this fence now?” I said.
“Live a little!”
I lived. I got over the fence. It hurt. Damn, did I just sprain my ankle? No, it’d be worse. Maybe it starts like this, and then it gets a lot worse, like, when it swells?
We ran. I was out of shape. I started out running too fast and then everything was burning. I tried not to pant too loudly. But it was fun. My ankle was fine. The park was empty, the river was sleek in the moonlight. The cars swished by on the highway. This is romantic, I thought. We stopped, finally, breathless, at that veteran’s monument at the top of the hill. He leaned in to kiss me. I leaned away.
(imagine this at night. I think that counts as romantic. source)
Bear does not make big gestures. He is the kind of guy who tells me how much he loves me every single day. Every day, it’s clear how much he loves me. Every day, when he gets home from work, he is so happy to see me.
He says, “You’re the most important thing in my life.” And it’s true. He says, “You’re my soulmate.” And I am.
But neither of us is very romantic. Love is easy. Romance seems harder. Or am I doing that dichotomy thing I said was a bad idea in the last post?
Somewhere along the line, I learned that romance felt a little fake. I didn’t quite believe it. The guy who wrote the slam poem about me and performed it in front of a crowd, at an open mic– he didn’t get me right. He described a woman, but it didn’t sound like me. I knew it was supposed to be me, but what came through was his idea of what I should be. In my poem, my legs were suddenly long, and very, very smooth. And by then, I had already cheated on him, already almost died of guilt, already repressed it, already wondered and wondered why I didn’t love him the way I should. And by then, he was starting, somehow, in the back of his mind, to know.
Romance is for people who don’t have enough love. (For some reason, I thought that.)
Later, I married a man who can love like Niagara Falls– it pours so naturally out of him.
A week after our forgotten first wedding anniversary, at three in the morning, I told Bear that for our next anniversary, I would like him to do something. To say something. To get me something. At first, he was a little hurt. “I thought you didn’t want anything!”
“I don’t! I mean, I don’t, but you know, the world wants you to get me something.”
“Well, I don’t care about the world. What do you want?”
“I mean, I’m a part of the world, y’know? So it impacts me and stuff.”
“So you want me to get you a gift?”
“I mean, maybe? I mean, sort of. Like, maybe in five years, you can get me a gift, just so it doesn’t look bad.”
“What should I get you?”
“I don’t know! Figure it out!” I thought about it. “But maybe at some point, you should get me diamond earrings. Like, in five years.” That seemed like a gift a husband might get his wife after five years of marriage. It’s a big gift, because their commitment is also big.
“Diamonds? You want diamonds… Aren’t they gross and wasteful?”
“I know! I know! But you have to show that you care!!”
“But I do care! I show you every day!”
“But not everyone can see that!”
I don’t know what made me suddenly care about everyone, and what they could or couldn’t see. I definitely don’t care about diamonds. I’m pretty sure people know Bear loves me. Something just came over me. I wanted romance. Or at least, I wanted specialness. The specialness that comes from setting something aside and fussing over it and making it different. Maybe that’s what romance is. Maybe it’s about making something ordinary remarkable. Maybe it’s flipping something inside out and exposing the silver lining.
Our anniversary was four months ago. Tonight, Bear is taking me on a secret date. A month ago, he told me to reserve this evening. I canceled my plans.
My friends are trying to guess. “It’s totally a reservation at Per Se. You need to get those a month in advance.”
“It’s a concert!”
“What’s your favorite band? He’s taking you to see them!”
“Um…I don’t think I have one.”
Rachel’s husband said, “It’s an experience. He’s planning a whole experience.”
“Can you guess?” asks Bear.
I have no idea.
Bear has never done something like this before. He isn’t a planner. We are always late, booking tickets for a flight. We always have to pay more, and we are always angry, and we never learn.
I am so excited! What should I wear?
“You don’t know what you’re going to wear?” says Rachel, who is always wearing something incredible. “How can you not know already?”
Eek! I have to figure it out! I’m meeting him at 5:00! He never gets out of work that early. Never.
I’m surprised at how excited I am. It’s not like this is such a big deal. It’s just that it’s mysterious. It’s just that he didn’t tell me. He tells me everything. But he planned this, without telling me. He’s making it special and different.
And maybe, once in a while, everyone needs that.
I feel like I should do something back. Maybe a symphony? It might take a while to write one. Maybe a poem? I can describe Bear pretty well. I know exactly how his legs look.
(also, Niagara is supposed to be pretty romantic, itself, I hear, so if his love is like that…source)
* * *
What do you think romance is all about? What’s the most romantic thing that’s happened to you? If you have a partner, are they romantic?
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in beige. I can rock it. And that’s saying something.