Thursday, March 3, 2011

VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE: I date like a woman - Romance

For today's "View from the Other Side," we have my dear Jason, subject of many a #twitterdate... And while I date like a man, he dates like a woman.  How this will work out, no one really knows.  But here are a few words that he has to say on the matter:


VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE: I date like a woman  -  Romance 

For most of my life, the number of female friends I've had has greatly outnumbered my male friends. 

I don't like drinking. I don't like sports. I don't like guns. I don't like heavy metal music. I don't like cars, bars, or clubs. I don't like bragging about sexual conquests. I don't like considering partners "conquests". I don't like strip joints. I don't like action movies full of mindless explosions and shaky-cam car chase sequences. 

I do like reading good books, especially in warm baths. I like writing. I like melodramatic TV shows, rom-com movies. I like long conversations about nothing that branch out and fork in all directions. I like a good hot chocolate, any time of the day. I like listening intently to people's problems and stories, and offering an idea or perspective they may not have considered. 

And I love romance.

Given the above criteria, it's not surprising I wasn't invited much to "The Guy's Club". Luckily, I had enough in common with the girls that I was frequently an honorary member. We'd gossip about boys they liked, go shopping and help each other pick out outfits, discuss dating tips from Cosmo magazines, argue about books, authors, and characters (I'm on Team Jacob, for the record), and brush each others hair. No, seriously. 

So I guess it's only natural that, in my dating life, I tend to play the role of the Romantic typically ascribed to the female in a given heterosexual relationship. I swoon over the little things: a good morning note left on my pillow, an unexpected hug (especially when they sneak up from behind!), a quiet evening cuddled up under a blanket. I have a song (at least one!) that makes me think of her and smile uncontrollably. I check my phone repeatedly to see if I'm missed a phone call, a text message, or an e-mail, even if I'm not expecting one. 

I perform the big romantic gestures you've all seen in films: a path of rose petals carpeting the floor, twisting and turning before leading to a candle-lit room in which a stereo plays her favorite slow song, where I would dance with her, wordlessly, before taking her hand and leading her to a bed blanketed in more rose petals atop clean satin sheets. Or, I sneak into her house while she's at work or running errands, and, anticipating her resigned exhaustion, have a meal waiting for her on the table when she gets in -- a bouquet of colorful flowers the centerpiece. 

I perform the small romantic gestures she doesn't even know she loves until they happen: surprising her at work with a warm lunch on a cold day, peeking at her errands list and running a couple of them while she naps, sending a quick text message after a date to see if she got home OK. 

I remember anniversaries for everything. The first time we spoke. The first date we went on. Our first kiss. I remember her birthday. I remember her favorite flavor of ice cream, and always keep some in the freezer. 

I am a self-affirmed, immutable Romantic.

But it's not all sweet words and rose petals. I think all you women out there can agree: being a Romantic is Hard Work. And I don't just mean when your romantic efforts aren't reciprocated or appreciated, nor do I mean the embarrassment of crying at the end of every sappy movie. 

More than that, Romantics are like giants: the bigger we are, the harder (and faster!) we fall. Every connection is electric and immediate. Every word suddenly has a deeper, prosaic meaning. Every coincidence seems in fact fated, writ in the stars long ago. Every phrase, every sentence, every word is agonized over, second guessed, and reinterpreted beyond recognition. 

Likewise, every heartbreak threatens to be fatal. Every failed romance creates an ever growing impenetrable wall of cynicism. Self-doubt and anxiety become ever-present threats. Against our very nature, we put up guards to protect ourselves. As Romantics, once bitten, we're thrice shy. Just as every minute gesture makes our heart skip a beat, every slight is felt twice as acutely. 

Romance is the best offense in the book. So why is it then, that we're resigned to be so defensive?

We Romantics not only have this uncanny, innate ability to feel deeply, but more importantly, we have the ability to create, recognize and foster these wonderful feelings in other people. But all too often, we don't. We allow fear to control our guard. Fear of loss and fear of pain becomes fear of love and fear of commitment. Fear of reaction becomes fear of honesty. Fear of failure becomes fear of trying. Fear of rejection becomes fear of desire becomes a fear of love. 

It's both a slippery slope and a self-perpetuating cycle. The good news is, Romantics, we CAN break it, but sometimes we just a reminder that it needs breaking. That it's WORTH breaking. 

Let this be a call to all Romantics; a reminder to return to form and be true to yourself. Do something unusually, unabashedly romantic (small or large!) for your significant other for romance's sake. No romantic interest currently in your life? That's cool, too. Address a hand-written card or letter to a loved one, just to catch up or say you're thinking of them. Send some flowers to a friend, just because. Invite your neighbor over for a home cooked meal, and try out that new recipe you've been meaning to. You have a gift, dear Romantics, so use it with conviction, without pretense. The world will be a better place for it, and I think you'll find that you'll become a happier, better version of yourself too.

Blog commenters!  I'd love to hear from you: what are some romantic memories, both big and small, that made you melt? Have you ever found yourself falling into the Fear Cycle? How did you climb back out? What's the last romantic thing you did (and how long ago was it)?

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9 comments:

  1. Hmmm I'm divided on this topic. I'm a woman (obviously) but I don't like too much romance. Don't get me wrong, the occassional romantic gesture wouldn't go unnoticed or un-appreciated by me, but what you're describing is just way too intense for my liking. I don't want to be rude or offensive but if someone I was dating did all of those things that you mentioned, I'd feel like they were suffocating me. I blame this on my independence. I like to run my own errands, I don't want someone else doing them for me (no matter how busy I am). And as for someone letting themselves in to my home while I'm at work just to prepare a meal or what-have-you kind of creeps me out. I hope I haven't upset you but that's just MY viewpoint on the matter.

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  2. No, not at all.

    I think one thing that I didn't impress in the above is that there is a time and place for each of the examples I provided (and others I didn't), and it's not something that you can or should do every day, every week or every month, even!

    Furthermore, you have to be at a certain point in a relationship to pull most gestures off with any hope at success -- i.e. the dinner. If you can sneak into the house, you probably already have a key, you know? It was assumed that the level of trust was already established. I'm definitely not advocating breaking and entering. :)

    Also, you have to carefully pick and choose WHICH things you do, tailored to the personality of the person. What one person finds romantic, another WILL find suffocating, saccharine or sinister. Knowing just what to do and when to do it is a big part of the romance!

    That being said, I find it really hard to believe anyone would really get upset if someone ran to the corner store to pick them up milk and eggs every now and again, you know?

    Hopefully this addendum clarifies my points, lessens the hyperbole and makes me sound at least a little less creepy. ;)

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  3. I'm definitely not a romantic, but I'm a sucker for a thoughtful gesture. Not the big gestures like petals on the floor or an enormous bouquet of flowers. I like the small things that tells me he's been listening and paying attention to what I say.

    Like him thinking my obsession with Glee is cute, and remembering to ask every Tuesday night if it was a good episode. Offering to go see a Broadway play with me (even though it's not his thing) just to spend time with me. Without me actually even thinking of taking him along for that kind of torture. Just a genuine I-Like-You-That-Much kind of offer. Noticing and remembering that I always use two straws in my drinks, so he always grabs an extra one for me. That kind of stuff. =)

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  4. I am, pretty much, as opposite from this as you can get. I like drinking. I like cars & bars. I often brag about sexual conquests, LOL, and I definitely have been known to enjoy strip joints.

    At the same time, I enjoy reading (when I have time for it... but reading in a warm bath happens *maybe* once every 2 years). I love rom-com's. I love long conversations, etc, etc...

    And I'm barely romantic.

    I do enjoy doing sweet things for the person I am with.
    I do enjoy having sweet things done for me, if they're done from the heart, rather than out of a sense of obligation.

    But like Vanessa mentioned, *too* much in the romantic direction may be too intense to handle, especially for someone like me who prides myself on being independent. And like Leslie said, the little things are the most important of all. (Like that you remembered that pink is my favourite colour, and thusly got me pink roses. I loved that!!)

    The most important thing of all is to feel loved and safe, and sure, that's something that can be expressed both through gestures, big and little - but it's mostly a feeling that comes over building a relationship. Someone could bring me all the flowers in the world, but if there's no chemistry, it wouldn't mean a thing. And likewise, someone could give me nothing at all, but just look in my eyes and talk to me, and it could mean everything.

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  5. Little things are what make me swoon. Those normal, almost casual, little but thoughtful and surprising things. The small note, the smiley face written on a page of mine, a drop by for coffee, picking up something randomly just because. Those conversations that are the cause for smile and laughter. The thoughtful gestures as Evil put it, lol.

    I call myself a romantic at heart - Cause I love the romantic gestures, just not when I'm the recipient.

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  6. I felt torn at first when I was reading this. I couldn't figure out if I was a romantic or not. I feel like I've been in relationships where these things happened and they totally creeped me out and other relationships where I felt all warm and smoochy inside when a guy did something like this.

    And after reading all of the comments, I had a realization. Some of the guys I've dated who were really romantic would often do things to impress me rather than to show their love for me. It's hard to really express the difference, but there was something about the way they did it or how they did it that made me feel like it was more about them showing off than anything else. And then would expect me to just completely swoon and be eternally grateful, and honestly, I felt a little put out by that.

    More often than that, romantic guys I dated were hung up on the IDEA of romance. And because of that their gestures (subtle or grand) always felt so impersonal. It was like they'd written this grand love story in their head before they met me and then just cast me as the part of the love interest without even taking the time to get to know me. And it sucked because when a guy surprises you with a 4 course meal made from scratch that took all day to prepare, you can't exactly complain that there are tomatoes in the salad even though you know you've told him that you hate tomatoes. Or that there's blue cheese dressing (yuck) instead of my favorite: balsamic vinaigrette. You can't really make a fuss about how you prefer red wine when he has a bottle of white chilled to exactly the right temperature, right? Because that would make ME ungrateful. But when this kind of thing happened, I couldn't help but wonder if it was ME he was falling in love with or just the idea of being in love that was driving him to do these things.

    Call me crazy, but I'm much more easily won over by my husband coming home to a bunch of wine-drinking, loud-talking, hysterically-laughing women in his kitchen (my book club last night) and taking the dog for a walk because I was otherwise engaged and she has too much energy. And then secluding myself to the upstairs den for several hours to give us some girlish privacy. And then come down when he hears everyone saying goodbye to politely say good night to my friends. And then promptly start doing our dishes!

    And apparently this reply is too long for blogger to accept, so I'll post 1/2 of it and then the rest in another comment ...

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  7. The second 1/2:

    It's not that I don't appreciate romantic gestures of the grand or subtle variety. I think everything in that list would be hugely appreciated by me. But only if the circumstances were right. It would have to be the right time in the relationship (too often guys start doing things like this way too soon and it's creepy!!). It has to feel more about me then him showing off/impressing me. And most importantly, it has to feel personal. I think it's easy for romantics to get so swept up in the romance that they lose sight of actually getting to know the person they're in love with or falling in love with.

    I don't want to be too negative. I think this was a great post! Very well written and thought provoking and I really enjoyed it. I have no idea where I stand on the masculinity/femininity thing. I can be found in a bubble bath with a good book at least once a week in the winter. But I'm equally at home living in a camp ground not showering for weeks at a time for an entire summer. I enjoy romantic gestures -- both giving and receiving. But I don't think you can build a relationship on them. They're the decoration of a relationship, but without a good solid foundation, you've got nothing. And I think too many people throw in too many decorations before they've finished building the house. Finding a deeper connection and compatibility is important and I think if you get too swept up in the romance, you lose sight of learning about who the other person really is.

    Also, regardless of timing, all of these romantic gestures are awesome if they're coming from the right person and smothering and creepy if they're coming from the wrong person. And if I feel like they feel relieved to have found me because now they have an outlet for their romantic tendencies, that can be a huge turn off.

    At the end of the day I'd rather be understood than swept off my feet.

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  8. Wow! Julia, I wish I was notified days ago when you posted this! What great, thoughtful and insightful comments! I really appreciate them (and all the comments from everyone, really) and the time and effort you went into crafting such a thorough response.

    And, perhaps you're right! Maybe I am too caught up in the idea of romance, but I'd like to think that's a little piece of youthful innocence I'm not quite ready to give up on just yet.

    I do *TRY* to pay attention to details, and keep the timing appropriate for gestures big and small. But it's really, really hard: Proactively being romantic is smothering. Having to ask for romance is unromantic. Ignoring romance is selfish, thoughtless. Finding the perfect balance between these pillars is akin to navigating a maze in a sprawling pitch black building wearing a blindfold.

    I love your analogy of romance as decoration, and I found your advice about the deeper connection and understanding very insightful. If I get a chance in the future, I might just take the opportunity to pick your brain a little further on the matter. :)

    I wish more guys read blogs like these and could benefit from the opinions and perspectives each of you ladies have been kind enough to share with me, because otherwise, we're flying blind and it's a clusterfuck of guesswork.

    That being said, a sincere thank you to each and everyone of you who have taken time to respond to my posting. I didn't EXPECT it to go over well (and indicated that to Katie in the e-mail I sent with this attached), so there's absolutely no hard feelings in conflicting opinions. I have only great appreciation for your participation in what has proved to be a very educational and engaging dialogue. So, again, thank you everyone, for your time, effort, energy, and the benefit of your experiences.

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  9. You're welcome to pick my brain whenever you want. Katie knows how to get in touch with me if you ever want to.

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