I believe that romance—true romance—is alive and well. That sounds like a cliché, I know. But many of us lose a sense of true romance because we take in definitions and examples from sources other than our own experience—from films and digital television screens, from dog-eared novels, and even from the good friends whose relationships we admire and, so, desire to emulate. This year, my very first year of dating at the late-blooming age of thirty-five, has taught me more about romance than all other sources.
About a year and a half ago, a colleague in the division where I teach first-year college writing began prodding me to ask out Scott months before I finally did so. The excuse that delayed me was pretty petty: “Scott is too tall,” I whined. At five feet and three fourths of an inch, I had years before put on my list of life-partner qualifications “must be of average height; no taller than 5’ 10”.” Eventually, though, I laid my pettiness aside and bolstered the courage to ask Scott—all six feet, five inches of him—to a movie.
The date went well, and I let Scott know the very next morning. After a few more getting-acquainted occasions, I got the email I had obsessively checked my mailbox for. In the message, Scott wrote, “I may quite possibly be the least romantic man in the world for saying it, but what others consider the marvelous mystery in human relationships has always been either tedious or frustrating for me. I’m not good at reading subtle or even blatant signals, which is why I think we should have a no-holds-barred conversation to better understand each other and the relationship.” His words, to me—the English major, the word-nerd, the unapologetic geek—were the most romantic words in the world.
On December 18, Scott and I will mark one year of dating. In our year of learning to understand each other and our relationship, Scott has repeatedly referred to his lack of romantic skills, and I have repeatedly rejected his protestations. I’ve been reminded—because I’ve really known it all along—that romance isn’t found in movie theaters, the aisles of bookstores, or in my best friends’ marriages. Such comparisons are distracting, even detrimental. True romance is what each person, each couple decides it is; and it wouldn’t hurt to define romance a little more narrowly than it usually is. For me, it isn’t a tour of Tuscany so much as Scott’s hand put out for me before we cross a street. It isn’t a diamond so much as Scott stroking my cheek. It isn’t flowers and chocolate so much as a generous backrub. It isn’t a melodramatic rescue so much as a tight embrace on a Tuesday night. For me, the magic of romance—true romance—is simply found . . . in the mundane.
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