The moon showed but a silver sliver of its full self. Laying in bed, I waited patiently for the Cheshire Cat to open his eyes and reveal himself in the night sky. He never did. Still, there was something in the way that celestial scimitar was standing triumphantly in the cloudless sky that inspired a deep feeling of romance inside of me as I remained caught in its gaze. Romance, I thought with a bit of a laugh. What is Romance?
Well, Google aptly defines romance as:
1. a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.
“I had a thirst for romance”
2. a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.
“the romance of the sea”
Growing up as one of the many young Romeos, all of us chasing the collective Juliet, I thought I conformed to a pretty standard notion of romance. It seemed pretty simple in those days. The boy bought (or stole from the neighbour’s garden) flowers, and then professed his love from beneath some sort of balcony. If he was a particularly adept romantic, he would do this by means of a sonnet.
The timing was important; it was best to perform the monologue under a full moon, but at sunset would also suffice. The woman was, for whatever reason, constantly awake, available to listen, and always waiting for young suitors to visit her at strange hours. At the end of the performance, the Juliet decided she was either:
(1) Not into the idea and sent the boy home, or;
(2) Was satisfied with the romantic gesture and let her hair down for the young man to climb up.
Sure, I might have gotten a few different love stories mixed up at that age, but I had the gist of it. In those days, I wasn’t sure what ensued in her bed chambers afterwards, but I knew it represented the climax – no pun intended – of the romance.
As I grew older I began to realize that my vision of what was romantic might not exactly capture the essence of romance. For one, my sisters began to give me an inkling that a truck load of chocolate might better serve a romance than any type of flowers – unless they were chocolate covered and edible. For two, I started to wonder what was in that “happily ever after” that always occurred after the curtains were drawn.
We didn’t realize it then, but everything we watched or read during our youth emphasized the beginning of a love story as what should be considered romantic. Whether it was about new love birds or an old couple breaking apart before rekindling an old flame, the romance always lay in the chase; it was the pursuit that was romantic. It was always about that opening gambit and a few initial speed bumps before both prince and princess were ready for that royal wedding. Then the credits rolled.
Even now I think of the happy couple, rosy-cheeked in their romantic infancy, reciting the story of how they met for an audience of half-interested single people. It often runs along the same lines. Initially, the female wasn’t interested but the male romantically wooed her into changing her mind. We cover our hearts and say “aw” when we hear of the cheesy and “romantic” gestures that helped to sway the odds in this particular Romero’s favour.
There’s not much to say after the “how we met” stories concludes; they are in the middle of their happily ever after. The movie is usually over by now. Babies start coming, fights start happening, and a divorce will probably be the result. The spark has faded. The spark that, we’ve been taught, represents the romance. Of course if we see romance – and by an extension, love – in this way, we’re doomed to a never-ending cycle of needing the hunt. Like freezing Neanderthals in the winter, our lives will be spent focusing on chasing the spark, never enjoying the fire we’ve already set ablaze. Is that really what romance is?
I look around me and I see that isn’t true. I see romance everywhere I look. It floats on the breeze that swirls around the elderly couple walking hand in hand in the park. At the arrivals gate in the airport, it swims in the teary-eyes of two lovers locked in an embrace. When two people are separated by an ocean, romance twinkles in the stars they look upon while thinking about each other. It’s in coming home to that familiar face after a long day’s work. It’s in missing someone, even if you just dropped them off. It’s in the strange way you can be overwhelmed with frustration but still love that person with all of your heart.
Romance lives in forgiveness, and understanding, after arguments both big and small. It’s in the first handful of dirt a widower throws on his wife’s coffin. It’s found in the breast pocket of a dead soldier, in the recently dried ink of a letter home to his high school sweet heart. When we’re a shoulder to cry on, romance is that little wet patch of tears they leave on our sweater. When we’re the ones crying, romance is the familiar smell of perfume or cologne that we inhale as we bury our face in their clothes.
The sorrow of lovers parted before they met, laments over promises betrayed, long lonely nights spent sleepless until dawn, pining thoughts for some far place, a woman left sighing over past love in her tumbledown abode – it is these, surely, that embody the romance of love.” – Yoshida Kenkō, A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees.
Not one of us will ever master love, or understand it. That is why everything about love is exciting and mysterious. As such, there is romance in all of it. We just need to move past our Hollywood conception of it and start enjoying the little things. Love isn’t perfect, and neither are we.
Our happiest and most exciting moments with our significant others will lay perilously close to the saddest and most dull ones. It’s all part of it, it’s up to us to appreciate each moment to the very last. There are little Romeos and Juliets in each of us. We are all romantics. We just need to embrace the romance that’s all around us.
Be good to each other,