Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

When did the grand romantic gesture die?

World crisis aside, though that’s arguably the best time to pull off said bold gesture, when was the last time you did something brazen for the person you want to hold? With a heavy heart, I have noticed this practice has largely fallen by the way side. Or worse, is considered one of a schmuck.

We all watched the drone date guy have a (socially distant) romantic balcony dinner, then inflate his bubble to go meet his woman of interest, face to face (with just a little safety plastic in between them) and we lapped it up! I can’t speak for most men out there (one guy friend sent me the story, so I know he liked it; but another guy friend said “Wow. That’s a lot of effort.”) but most women were saying “Awww!” Clearly, we still yearn for these stories. These unforgettable moments.

Now I admit — I watch wayyy too many romantic comedies. But, I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s, a writer, and a woman. Sue me. I dare you to grow up loving “Sleepless In Seattle”, “When Harry Met Sally”, and dozens more, and not be a hopeless romantic! But what good does that do me today as a recently divorced mother of two…in my forties. It’s not the most helpful trait, let me tell ya’.

Plus, I’ve been lucky enough to have a few unforgettable moments in my past loves — which I realize raises my bar. My first love learned to play “Everything I Do” by Bryan Adams (Go 90's!) on the piano…and he didn’t play piano! He learned just that song and played it for me as a gift! My heart melted. It’s all warm and tingly now just remembering it. I was 17. Maybe it’s easier to be boldly romantic when we’re young. We’re far less jaded.

In my mid twenties, a guy I had just started dating sent an embarrassingly large bouquet and a barbershop quartet to my work on Valentine’s Day. I was a bartender at a nice hotel chain and the place was packed. Everybody stopped to listen. I was beet red. Then I noticed all the women in the room looking at their men like, “Mm hmm. She gets a barbershop quartet. What have you done for me lately?” and felt really guilty. But the gesture itself was pretty grand, I had to admit.

While my ex-husband didn’t really pull off the grand romantic gestures, he did have a wonderful way of showing up when I needed him most. By that, I mean he would get onstage in front of hundreds of people and join me in a dance routine we never quite had enough rehearsal time for. He would always try to make me look my best. That’s a man. And I never stopped appreciating that. In fact, he still shows up for me when I need anything. Thankfully, our divorce is amicable. And he called me gorgeous just about every day (for ten years). I know what you’re thinking guys — but no, it doesn’t get old.

My point is, my past has liberated me. I think of love as the greatest adventure and I’m willing to look like a fool to pursue it, if that’s what’s necessary. But I seem to be in the minority here. Or at least, where actions are concerned, I’m noticing a lack of bravery lately. Maybe I’ve lost that spark that moves men to action –that’s the easiest thing to do, blame ourselves — but if I’m being totally honest, I don’t think I have. I’m still spontaneous, fun-loving, sexy. I’m more well read than I used to be. I meditate. Hell, I even cook! I recently spoke with an ex from way back and he said I sounded the same (it was expressed as a compliment;).

So where did I/we go so wrong? Do men not fight for us because we’ve gotten so good at fighting for ourselves? Are the archetypal roles sooo ingrained that powerful women turn men off? I truly hope that’s not the case. Tell me what you think. And be honest. I can take it.

Part of me wonders if it’s easier to give up one fish because there are sooo many fish in the sea. We used to be confined to our little circles/towns. But now we travel almost effortlessly (present circumstance excluded) and can meet exotic fish from anywhere in the world. And of course, the internet allows us to lure fish from any depth as well. Is that it? Are people just “not settling” anymore?? I’m all for finding the best person for you. But even the best person is going to have their off days. If a relationship is 95% fantastic and 5% “Whoa. That sucked” aren’t you still coming out Way Ahead? Where’s the work ethic gone?

And ladies, while historically this has been male turf, I’m not letting us off the hook. I fought for my past two relationships (I dated a great guy right after my divorce. And yes, all my friends said it was too soon. What can I say? Carpe Diem, right?) One might say my fighting didn’t do any good, but at least I can say I left it all on the field. Isn’t that what “Rocky” (and every sports movie ever made) taught us we should do? Who doesn’t want to be that fierce?

Ironically, the feminine essence is supposedly softer than the masculine–something I’m only just starting to wrap my head around as I was a tomboy most of my life–so our “fighting” might look different. Maybe it’s a compellingly written love letter (or apology, if needs be). I’m open to suggestions from the men out there whose women fought for them…successfully.

I know in movies, women’s gestures are far more subtle. Julia Roberts, in “Pretty Woman” “rescues him right back.” More recently (spoiler alert) in the sequel to the Netflix phenomenon “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” when Laura Jean is running out the door to her man — he’s already coming for her and says “Break my heart.” Would any man with an ounce of dignity do this?? It was hot when Noah Centineo did it.

I know we’re all getting a little stir crazy at this point of the shelter-in-place process, but use this time to discover new creativity… new passion. Let’s be honest: we’ve binged enough. Let’s go out on the proverbial limb and show our true strength by being vulnerable. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll make those RomComs of our youth pale in comparison to what we do for each other.

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Allison Johnson

Allison Johnson

Dancer, writer, mother, watcher of too many movies:)