Ask someone what it means to be romantic and their response will probably include some combination of flowers, candlelit dinners, and diamond rings. I am here to tell you this is NOT romantic.
As I’ve grown tired of people claiming I’m somehow lacking in romance, when in fact I am the most romantic person you can imagine, I’ve decided to give a quick tutorial on what is and is not romantic.
Let’s begin with a short quiz:
1. What’s the most romantic day of the year?
2. How much money do you have to spend on someone to be romantic?
We’ll find the answers below, but let’s first look at the history of the word romantic. Romance originated as a French word, and was at first used to mean a heroic story. Sometime in the 1660′s, the meaning shifted to refer specifically to a love story. Thus, the word romantic quite literally meant to emulate an ideal romance as depicted in literature.
Today, we generally use the word to describe someone who behaves in a very loving, amorous manner, who is not afraid to make a grand gesture visibly expressing his or her love. Perhaps some people may disagree with me, but I believe the key attribute of someone behaving in a romantic way is the sentiment behind it. Going through the show of romancing someone only to find out their was some ulterior motive would necessarily strip the act of any true romance.
The idea of the romantic lover must also be contrasted with the capital R Romantic, a movement that contended strong emotion was the authentic source of the aesthetic experience. The modern sense of a romantic character may be best expressed in the Byronic ideals of a gifted, perhaps misunderstood loner, creatively following the dictates of his inspiration rather than the standard mores of contemporary society.
Whereas the romantic lover is an idealization of the courtship between a man and a woman*, the Romantic movement seeks to interpret the relationship between the individual and society. But both concepts of the romantic rely on the same fundamental principle: the sincerity and depth of the emotion determines whether the person is a true romantic.
So how do you become a romantic? The key is completely ignoring what everyone else thinks is romantic and following your own heart. In much the same way you can’t be cool by trying emulate other people, you can’t be romantic if you are reading greeting cards and watching diamond commercials.
Many of you probably thought the answer to question number one was Valentine’s Day. I cannot think of a less romantic day of the year. Others might have said your anniversary or your lover’s birthday. Wrong again.
The most romantic day of the year is today. That’s right. If you’re in love, truly in love, then why wait for a certain, particular occasion to express that love. Today is the best day to show your significant other how much you love them. No gift, no romantic gesture, is more appreciated than the unexpected one. If you are buying someone flowers because every one else is buying flowers, then is it really romantic? Contracts, social or otherwise, are NEVER romantic.
What about the question of money? Diamond companies, chocolate manufacturers, the folks who make those big stuffed teddy bears all have a vested interest in convincing us that the amount of money we spend is directly related to how much we love them. Of course, money has absolutely nothing to do with love. Did Jesus Christ love the world less because he was poor?**
Here’s a little quote from Fiona Apple that summarizes how I feel about diamonds:
I don’t understand about
Diamonds and why men buy them
What’s so impressive about a diamond
Except the mining?
Nothing could be less romantic then spending a bunch of money on a diamond for someone.
The true defining currency of romance is always TIME, not money. The more TIME you spend on someone, the more you love them. The more effort you make in trying to romance someone, the more romantic the gesture. Money might be involved, but it’s always besides the point. Instead of buying someone a card, make the card. Instead of purchasing a bouquet of flowers, go dig a garden in your backyard, plant some seeds, spray a little fertilizer, water it regularly, and in six months, present your very own homegrown bouquet. That’s romance.
One last note. Romancing someone who doesn’t want to be romanced in return is not romantic. It’s called stalking. It’s scary and gross. Don’t do it.
Okay folks, I’ve got to go. I’m about to write a lovely email to my girlfriend telling her how much I love her. Just because I feel like it.
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*The Supreme Court has on numerous occasions defended the sanctity of true love as existing between a man and a woman. At least that’s what my Republican Congressman says.
**My Bible tells me that the opposite is in fact true.