I’ve recently been asked by several people (students mostly), probably in some misguided attempt by the Universe to help me “deal” with the “pain” of being “dumped,” what the word “romance” means to me.  The quick smart ass in me often wants to respond with something like, “Over and misusing quotation marks for emphasis or sarcasm,” or “Bringing back a doughnut for someone after I’ve eaten the other eleven.”  But upon serious inner contemplation, I’ve decided I want to take that random philosophical question as seriously as my students take their essay writing.  It’s only fair.

So what is romance?  Hollywood wants us to believe romance is some mystical goal to reach after running a marathon.  The goal is often in some spectacular location, like the top of the Empire State Building or an abandoned hotel near Radiator Springs on Route 66.  There’s also this overarching idea that romance is fated – just hang on and it’ll all work out.  Or it won’t.  Hollywood wants people in love to be powerless and swept along with whatever Coincidence decides is the right path.

“You had me at hello.”  Please.  “Death cannot stop true love, it can only delay it.”  Barf.  Hollywood’s idea of romance is unrealistic.  But people buy into it and the divorce rate hovers right around 50%.  Obviously, true romance is not the sugary-sweet cherry chip cake that entertainment makes it appear to be.  As Aristotle once argued in his book Metaphysics, “Do not look to the earth for the truth about the Forms.  Truth exists only in the minds of the observers.”

To me, romance is a bond that exists in reality.  When Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd disagreed on whether to free their slaves, Abe did what he thought was right and then brought flowers to Mary Todd as an apology.  That’s romance.  When Johnny Depp brought his girlfriend a homemade meatloaf to her office, just because he wanted all her co-workers to be jealous of his amazing cooking skills… that is romance.  When Adolf Hitler sold off one of his testicles so he could fly out and help Marilyn Monroe pick out a new a dress to wear at Elvis’s graduation… that is romance.

If you can’t tell, this is about the point in many student essays where the kid assumes the teacher has stopped reading and just starts throwing in important sounding facts and details that have no basis in reality.  Seriously.  I once read an essay that stated General Lee and General Grant were gay lovers torn apart by the Civil War.  Students seem to assume that teachers are as lazy about reading their essays as they are about writing them.  The sad fact is, sometimes the kids are right.  Some teachers do just skim through and pay little attention, hoping to get back to reading some crappy romance novel where a guy’s dick is as thick as the woman’s wrist.  Plus, the hero is always “emotionally present,” whatever the hell that means.

I did say I’d take this question as serious as my students take their prompts, right?

So in conclusion, society’s idea of romance is an unreal expectation of someone else putting your needs above their own for completely selfless reasons.  In truth, real romance is agreeing to do shitty things in the hope of getting some decent sex or gifts.  Real romance is just a friendship that is so powerful that you can laugh at stupid shit while seeing each other naked, knowing that you aren’t laughing at the other person’s naked body, and then getting dressed without having sex because the moment has passed and just deciding to eat some ice-cream instead.  Real romance is being proud of the bruises on your lover’s big beautiful ass while simultaneously being worried that you caused just a little too much damage with that paddle.

Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,
The Lunch Club

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