I think it’s safe to say we expect some level of romance out of a relationship. And for me, Austen represents the epitome of grand romantic gestures. What could be more romantic than a man so violent in his affections that he proposes, is rejected, and then proposes again after becoming more worthy of her hand? I don’t think any of my potential suitors will ever have to discreetly cover up my sister’s shotgun wedding (not totally out of the realm of possibilities, but fingers crossed), like Mr. Darcy did for Elizabeth.
As much as I desire these romantic gestures, a bouquet of Gerber daises “jut because,” why do I find myself uncomfortable when a guy actually attempts to be romantic? After all, I enjoy reading all about love affairs of the heart, I spend my weekends binging on rom coms, Pretty Woman, The Holiday, Bridget Jones’s Diary.
I’d like to think that if Richard Gere climbed up my fire escape, I would graciously accept the roses and (preferably) not lock the window and hide in fear of his powerful declaration of love. When a fictional man takes the leap towards love, I’m fist-pumping him on. When real men jump, I turn suspicious and question their motives. But why? When did I get so cynical about romance?
When the cute blonde guy from the farmer’s market bought me flowers mid-date, why was I not immediately flattered and grateful? Why did I assume it was an afterthought rather than a spontaneous act of enthusiastic like for me? Why did I struggle when my ex John wanted to take me out to a fancy, expensive steakhouse for Valentine’s Day; I made him compromise with frozen yogurt and a movie night, because I was uncomfortable with how much money he wanted to spend on me.
Is it simply that these small acts of affection are so uncommon that I’m not prepared for them when they do come along? Or is there something mentally or emotionally wrong with me that I’m unable to take a compliment.
I mean, I literally cannot take a compliment. What’s that old song? “I got it from my mamma.” My mother is the reason I cannot take a compliment, because neither can she. She deflects; so I learned to deflect. When someone compliments me, my immediate reaction is to negate their claim, and address some seemingly obvious flaw. Or I shift the conversation back on them by returning the compliment, when really I’m just trying to get the attention off me.
One guy messaged me on Tinder telling me how gorgeous I am, followed by a message apologizing if he “bothered” me by telling me that. How did I respond? Sarcastically. It’s like I don’t want to be happy.
There’s an episode of Sex and the City that came on the other day at the gym–it actually prompted me to write this post. Carrie was dating Aleksandr Petrovsky, and the gorgeous Russian romantic that he is, he overwhelmed her with poetry, spontaneous dancing, and Oscar de la Renta couture.
I too struggled with the spontaneous dancing, but I like to think I handled it better than Carrie–at least I didn’t faint. Snaps for me. I mean, maybe I could handle the Oscar de la Renta dress, but the poetry and dancing is where I romantically shut down.
In this episode, Carrie explains to Aleksandr that her column is based on the assumption that romance is either dead or phony, which is why she has such a hard time feeling comfortable with all his grand gestures. I hope romance is neither dead nor phony, but sometimes the pessimist and cynic inside leans toward phony.
Am I the phony? The idea of someone caring enough about me to put in the effort for a grand romantic gesture scares me. So when it does happen, I’m mentally hardened against it. I’m not as brave as they are; I fear the leap to love. Because to love could lead to heartache, and from what I’ve watched on TV, heartache sucks–I avoid it at all costs.
For me, being single is easier than being in a relationship. I can spend my time how I please. I don’t feel guilty for spending a night in with a movie rather than going out with friends or on a date. Everything I do, I do for myself. That’s the best freedom I’ve ever known. It’s also the loneliest kind of freedom, too.
I’m single by choice. I can complain about how the only good men are fictional, but I think we learned from Austenland that that just isn’t true. I’ve seen good men; I know good men; and that gives me hope of finding my Mr. Darcy.