What I’ve learned about love and romance

A good friend of mine that I have not seen in far too long is getting married in May and I’ve been invited to the bridal shower this Saturday. I received the invitation in the mail about a week ago and it is just as cute as can be. The theme of the shower is romance, I was given all the details about the bride’s sizes and favorite scents. I was also told where she is registered.

Yesterday as I went go buy a gift I was really perplexed about what I should do. The be-excited-for-your-friend-where-she-is-at-now side of me just wanted to get her some fun lingerie and maybe a candle or two. The almost-been-married-five-years side of me wanted to get something practical from the registry.

First of all I can hardly believe that I’ve been married almost 5 years. It really doesn’t seem like it to me. It has gone by so fast. I have learned a lot though and I usually find that learning a lot takes time. Lots of time. So I suppose I really have been married 5 years.

The whole thing sparked up a thought process in me that I have not been able to shake.

Over the years, especially when I was newly married, I would find myself holding Stephen to these unspoken expectations of what was romantic. I would get upset because he didn’t leave love notes for me or spontaneously bring home flowers “just because.” I never communicated that these were my expectations. I would just get mad and stew over it.

I think this year was finally the year that broke that for me. I remember it distinctly because I was watching The Today Show the day before Valentine’s Day. The anchors and their guests were discussing the various things that people should be doing for their loved ones — what kind of flowers were in and what was meant by them, what lingerie, the perfect chocolates, how to create the perfect romantic evening. It occured to me that morning that the vast majority of The Today Show audience is women. So what they were essentially doing is creating an expectation in their viewers that unles your husband/partner/fiance/boyfriend/etc. does X, Y, and Z he does not really love you or care about these romantic things which are important to you. All the while these partners are not watching the show and don’t know that they are being held to this expectation of what they should be doing to prove their love.

The notion didn’t necessarily break for me because I saw the logic there, it broke because I had started to realize that what they were marketing to the viewers was not love or romance.

Flowers wilt and die pretty quickly, candles get burned up, you find out that romantic dinners aren’t so romantic when everyone in Bakersfield is at the same place you chose causing a 1-2 hour wait, and after a couple wearings lingerie gets shoved into the back of a drawer. And for that matter, it has been my experience that the lingerie is more about us girls than the guys. Take it from me, at 4.5 months pregnant I’m starting to feel huge already and on days when I don’t feel that great I stay in my PJs all day. Yet somehow when I feel at my ugliest, my husband still manages to find me physically attractive. I don’t need lace and silk and feathers — which just make me feel ridiculous anyway — I just need to be me and that is enough for him.

So then what is love and romance? It’s having someone to hold your hair out of your face and rub your back when you can’t stop puking. It’s staying up all night in the ER with you even though work starts the next morning at 8 am. It’s having an advocate who stands up for you when you can’t stand up for yourself. It’s someone who doesn’t hold it against you that you didn’t manage to make dinner that day even though there was no real reason you couldn’t. It’s someone who holds you together when you think you are at your breaking point. It’s someone who encourages you to keep trying when you don’t think you can anymore. It’s someone who sticks by your side when the world seems to be falling apart. It’s a quiet Valentine’s evening at home eating Taco Bell for dinner in front of the TV and celebrating the fact that you didn’t throw up that day.

I could probably go on, but I think you get the idea.

It has also been my experience that 5 years in you wish that your girlfriends hadn’t spent hundreds of dollars on lingerie and would have instead pitched in together to get you the KitchenAid stand mixer so you can make yourself some Ghiradelli brownies without straining your arm when you’re having a bad day.
So after all this turmoil within me I think I came to a good compromise for my two sides: some kitchen tools from her registry and a copy of Healthy Cooking for Two (or Just You) (I tried to find a cookbook title with more romance in it, but Border’s cookbook selection wasn’t that great in this department) in a nice basket with red rose petals and some candles. Everything she needs to cook up a romantic dinner for two.

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