When you woke me up with your prying kiss I thought about it all day. I smiled in the shower and then I sang in the car. I wished you could have stayed but you had a 7am meeting. The anticipation consumed me. I smirked at the coffee shop, they asked what I was thinking about. I didn’t say. It was only 9am, a long day awaited.
I returned home to my study, in a state of distraction. And then I saw it. The little gift you had left for me. A neon light box with the words “Mark loves Cosi”. This involved effort. How very romantic. Anticipation and effort are two of the things I associate with romance.
But what does romance mean to others? For some it is traditional, bound in the history of the word. Originally of Latin origin, ‘romanicus’. It was often associated with chivalry. Chivalry had its origins in Knighthood and was a social code for how to behave. It was not to do with love. The modern day version of chivalry would be to hold a door open for someone. Recently a man did this for me. I said thank-you. It was in a highly political work environment. He then looked at me and apologised. I know you can open your own door he says. I respond with mmm…as I’m not sure what to say. I don’t know him well. He then tells me he’s old fashioned and he doesn’t know what to call himself anymore. He suggests he’s a ‘doorman’. It makes me laugh. He looks embarrassed. I shouldn’t have laughed. So, we live in confusing times. Chivalry still exists today but the narrative around romance has largely moved away from it.
After chivalry romance developed other meanings. During the nineteenth century the Spanish and Italians defined it as passionate and adventurous. And then came the rise of the romance novel. This led to where we are today. Where some people see romance as a narrative for their lives. I am one of those people. It is not that I believe in idealism, this is naïve and old fashioned. I believe in possibility. And this story, it is different for each of us.
Romance can also be symbolic, this is both historical and modern. The Roman myth of Vertumnus and Belides has us associate daisies with romance. Vertumnus, god of seasons pursued nymph Belides continuously, so enamoured was he. To escape his affections, she turned herself into a daisy. Forever immortalised as a symbol of romance. And then today, we too have our own symbols. Things that we consider significant.
A romantic recollection
Many years ago, whilst on holiday we visited an art show with our four children. Part of the show was interactive, and children could complete a piece of pottery. Whilst I was supervising our children my love made me a little clay heart, about one inch in diameter. It was a very happy time in our lives. I carried the heart in my purse for many years. I loved seeing it. Life became difficult, but each time I pulled out my purse I would see the heart and it would sustain me. And then, at the worst possible time; for no apparent reason the heart split in two. I was very upset. I held the two pieces out on my hand for my love to inspect when he got home from work that night. And I just stared at him, my heart was broken. He didn’t say anything, for there were no words. And then I put half of the heart in my dresser and I left the other half in my purse. After a few months it didn’t look so much like half a heart anymore, this worried me. It was getting smaller and had a little chip. So, I placed it in the dresser too. Both pieces in a special box with daisies on top. I felt sad at that time. My sadness passed as everything passes, except love, that is a veil cast on eternity. I look in the box periodically to make sure both halves are in there; united. The crumbling clay…we are fragmented together. The romance.
Some of my friends associate romance with chores. Things like getting cups of tea or doing housework. I would describe this as an ‘act of service’ and in many modern households today it is an expectation. For me, this is not romance. Romance is passionate and thoughtful, it requires effort and can lead to a wonderful feeling of anticipation. Romance can also be a grand gesture but not everything of meaning is a grand gesture. Romance is free and can be completely disconnected from materiality. It could be a flower on a desk, a note in a lunchbox, a promising kiss, or a memory to treasure when you need to be tenacious. I couldn’t exist in a reality without romance.
My mind returns to that prying kiss, I think of the little light box on my desk. The effort and anticipation leading to desire, a beautiful state of being. Wanting the end of the day to arrive. Hearing the roller door out back. He’s home. It’s that hectic hour of everyday, there is stuff everywhere. Food, plates, pots, pans, sports gear, art supplies, washing, ironing and then there is you. Our eyes smile across the room…everything quickens.