Grand Romantic Gestures
From about the age of two or three, it seems as if there’s a conspiracy at work aimed to ensure that life is filled with disappointments and ‘almosts’ that never quite hit the mark. It isn’t that life isn’t good or sweet or worthwhile of course, it’s just that we always seem to be left wanting more. We have an awesome birthday party or Christmas, but when we think about it afterwards, we nearly always begin to anticipate next year or our next birthday, certain that it will be even bigger and better, more fun and completely satisfying. It seems we are steeped in competition and a desire to have the biggest and best. After all, every ad we hear tells us we deserve nothing less than the best regardless of the cost. With the pinnacle of perfection always as our benchmark, how could we be anything other than just short of satisfied by anything less than fireworks and heavenly choirs celebrating our every accomplishment or milestone?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – specifically with regard to the “grand romantic gesture.” It seems every time I turn on the news or log onto my computer, I read about another twitterpated young man who goes to extraordinary lengths to profess his forever love to a sweet young thing, complete with mountaintop hikes ending in a yurt filled to the ceiling with dewy fresh red rose petals, a flash mob that takes over a city street and belts out, “I wanna marry you” while executing a perfectly choreographed corresponding dance number, or a scavenger hunt with clues that retrace the couple’s journey of love and culminates with a gargantuan diamond boulder that can be seen from space being placed on the delicate hand of the beloved and teary-eyed fiancée.
I can’t help but wonder where these romantic Prince Charmings come from and who gives them these grand ideas? I also want to know who is helping coordinate the logistics of the whole thing because many guys I know can scarcely match their socks without assistance, much less pull off a Rube Goldberg romantic gesture with eight hundred precision-synchronized moving parts. Who exactly is behind the grand romantic gesture, and why do women seem to crave it so much?
If you’ve ever been in love, you’ve undoubtedly been through the phase of, “No, you hang up first,” and, “Do you love me? How much?” It seems that when love is new, there is never a shortage of answers to the second question, and now that long distance charges are a thing of the past, the final decision on who hangs up first is made practical and equitable only by the size of our mobile phone’s battery. When love is newly in bloom, those are the days of the grand romantic gesture, limited only by the imagination and sometimes the size of a paycheck.
Once you’ve been in love for a while though, things shift, and while the love is still sweet and true, it doesn’t seem as important to execute a triple somersault while writing, “I love you,” in sparklers. Long-time couples don’t seem to need to hire a plane to fly over the beach waving a message of love to all the other beachgoers worshipping the sun below in an effort to reach just one in particular. And you don’t ever hear about a long-time couple hiding a multi-carat expensive ring in one of the layers of a petit four or winking up from the bottom of a flute of Dom Perignon. The ‘lifers’ are too busy enjoying the dessert or champagne for that.
Please don’t for a moment think I’m complaining about not being the recipient of a lifetime of grand romantic gestures. I’m not jonesing for a billboard professing undying love for me or a ‘promposal’ that features a marching band complete with color guard. I have just been wondering why we feel something is more real or meaningful when it’s done big-time? Is regular love really not enough to satisfy our appetite for romance?
Almost every morning, my beloved puts steaming water into a cup, so I can enjoy hot tea on my way to work. And even my way to work is a testament to his love because, left to my own defenses, my vehicles would be woefully low on the fluids and air necessary to keep it running smoothly. And though it may not seem like a grand romantic gesture, I hardly ever have to wield a plunger, and if the garbage disposal stops working, I know it will be taken care of. So maybe it’s not a surprise symphony playing ‘our song’ as we dance in front of an audience of adoring and slightly envious onlookers, but there’s something kind of hot about knowing that someone in my life loves me enough to change the air filter in the AC unit and do whatever it takes to repair the garage door when the button stops making it magically open with just a touch.
There are lots of ways to show love, and while it may never be the subject of a Lifetime Channel movie of the week, I’m lucky enough to be the recipient of hundreds of those small, unromantically romantic gestures every single day. What’s most romantic about them is that they are endeavored not to impress an audience or become a viral sensation – they are done out of genuine concern for my well-being and love that doesn’t need to put on a show or broadcast itself to feel real.
When love is young and uncertain, maybe we feel like we need the grand, public, romantic gestures like painting our names in a heart on a street or puckering up for a Hollywood Screen Test Kiss on a stadium jumbotron. But real love doesn’t always need to announce itself with grand romantic gestures and light shows; it proves itself with small, unconditional acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, with a glass of water delivered even when it wasn’t requested and someone who sits in the doctor’s office waiting room with you even though the doctor always makes you wait a long time and you both have better things to do.
Real love is a good morning kiss before either of you has brushed your teeth, and someone who gets up on the middle of the night to let the dog out to pee so you can sleep. Maybe it won’t get a million “likes” on social media, and the next generation will likely think it’s lame, but it won’t be long before they’re looking back on life’s most special moments. And when they do, I’ll bet what will come to mind won’t be the champagne balloon ride or the bloom of all the roses that scented their relationship. Nope. I bet what they’ll remember most are the conversations in the car as they drove to visit friends or children, the giant spider slayed by a fearless life-partner who maybe was actually a little afraid himself, and the memory of that anniversary dinner that was supposed to be perfect but got burned and had to be replaced with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead. Those are the romantic gestures that will seem the most grand and leave the greatest impression on us.
When I look back on the grand romantic gestures of the truest love I’ve known, I’ll remember the homemade ruby red slippers made with about a pound of glitter and a can of what had to be toxic spray glue, the bookshelves in my office to safely store my favorite tomes, and my beloved teaching me how to make bread dough. In short, the romantic memories I cherish most won’t be the fields of flowers, cabinets filled with sparkly jewelry, and grand displays of affection where love is publicly professed for all to hear.
I think what I’ll find most enduring is that my beloved is here with me – on good days and bad, when the sun is shining on us and in those days when we were so broke we had to live in a tent and eat sale hot dogs that turned the water and the white bread all red because that’s all we could afford. And those are the kinds of romantic gestures and memories that I hope will always mean the most to me because they are simple and genuine, which is exactly how I would describe the best kind of love.
Wendy Dwyer is a woman of many hats. A full-time Associate Professor at Indian River State College, she serves as a creative consultant for a variety of nonprofit organizations in the area. She also writes regularly for Luminaries, STUART Magazine, and a variety of other publications.
The creative force behind a variety of unique and wildly successful fundraising programs locally, including the Jewelia Project, the “What’s in Your Bag?” Food Drive, and the Silver Bells Holiday Home Tour, Dwyer is an active volunteer in the community as well, serving as a founding board member of the Van Duzer Foundation, and assisting a variety of local charitable organizations including: Mustard Seed, HANDS/VIM, Southeast Florida Honor Flight, Creature Safe Place, the Inner Truth Project, Guardians for New Futures, Fort Pierce Jazz and Blues Society, the Sunrise Theatre Foundation, LifeBuilders of the Treasure Coast, Heathcote Botanical Gardens, United for Animals, and many others.
An award-winning writer, educator, and public relations professional, Dwyer is always willing to assist non-profit organizations and provide dynamic and engaging public relations trainings for Treasure Coast charities. Her book Asshats to Assets: How to Turn Crappy Jobs into Career Gold is available at www.amazon.com. When she is not working or volunteering, she enjoys writing, walking, and spending time with her husband Dan and a large variety of rescued animals at her rural home west of Fort Pierce.