a little zest

I was asked the other night what my definition of ‘romance’ is. A good question. I mean, what girl doesn’t want to be showered with bouquets and candlelit dinners and softly-spoken words of seduction?

But it is so much more than that. And then much less. Not the overblown grand gestures of flowers and chocolates, or expensive gifts – though these make me smile and are certainly appreciated. Romance isn’t the Hallmark dates marked in a calendar. It is found in the daily detail of our lives and especially in the not taking it for granted. So, I have been thinking of what makes me feel connected to my chosen person. What are my needs and what makes me weak at the knees…

You know those evenings when you are out with your partner and it’s a busy social whirlwind of a night; a diverse gathering with lots of people and music and a bar. And you are smiling and making merry conversation with friends or strangers, being great company, entertaining and making people feel good… and your partner is on the other side of the room, doing the same? And he turns to you across the crowded space to check you are ok, and you make eye contact, and he nods and you acknowledge this slight but important gesture? Then. That. That is what romance is to me. The connection, the knowing you are cherished and that someone has you in their mind and will always make sure you are safe. Without the need for words or physical closeness. Without possession or ownership. The beautiful and privileged ability to function as two happy individuals with the wisdom that once the night is over and the party has cleared, you will be in each other’s arms, and laughing at the ridiculous stories or the dreadful food or the long walk back to the hotel in the rain.

What else? What is romance to me?

I used to watch Old couplemy parents dancing. Not often, but sometimes we would be at family gatherings or the Scottish Club or something utterly boring for young kids, and I would see them; my Dad would take my Mother’s hand and cajole her on to the dance floor. It was the sight of their initially tentative moves, their warming to each other, a physicality not quite fitting a public setting, that would capture my imagination. And my Dad would spin her around slowly, and she would be smiling like she had been offered the most glorious of gifts. It was the gift of his attention. Of his focus. Of his appreciation. She was the only one that mattered for a brief but beautiful moment. This is the image of romance.

Kindness. Seeing a kindness expressed.

Generosity. Of time. Making time. Keeping time. Offering and protecting the precious moments that a couple need, to bond and grow and get sexy. Knowing that these will be given the respect they deserve. Freely gifted, not begged for. And in the understanding that sacrifices were made to keep this time, comes the real romance.

Being given permission to offer appreciation and affirmations; for him to accept affection and expressions of gratitude, with humility or humour. A private, joyous, privilege that I hold dear. This receiving of love, in itself, is where romance blooms.

Everyday routine, with a cranked stereo, and lots of mess and craziness. A partner who has the ability to join me in making the most mundane into a party – with energy and enthusiasm. Now that, that there is something pretty special. Well, you know how romantic washing a car can be, right?

Touching me. Just a welcome hand on my back as we move through crowds, move through life. I will not need reassurance but to know I have someone beside me, is the sweetest of rewards.

The telling me I am gorgeous and meaning it, even when I am feeling so fugly I don’t want him to look at me. Having the patience to let me slowly absorb such a compliment, and not be offended by my inability to accept I may indeed be beautiful to someone. To help me believe it.

Spontaneity. Cliche? Isn’t it all? But this. So much. The energy put in to making a quiet afternoon into a crazy adventure. The thought and preparation to make something surprising to me from an idea of his. The wonderful feeling of knowing that someone read my mind and can see I need some fresh air, or a laugh, or a sing-at-the-top-of-our-lungs session, or even just a giant and all-enveloping random bear hug. That someone wants to make me smile by showing their love, is by far one of the most romantic things I can think of. And it isn’t the ‘thing’, the actual activity, the doing. The romance is buried deep in the desire to express a caring for me.

Holding my gaze. Seeing who I am and still wanting to be there with me; all flaws and foibles and farting. This is romance.

Being granted space when he knows I am frustrated or annoyed or tired; without question, or accusation… just a peaceful, caring retreat, with a soft kiss. This.

The lighting up of his eyes at a certain sound or the memory of a good time – that I wasn’t there for but can see in the unguarded animation of his face, how much it means.

It’s the cup of tea on a frantic morning. Or him checking the oil in my car. Or noticing my new dress. But still loving me, even when I am wearing my old worn-out cardie. Yes, the starry-skied strolls, bubble baths run after a long day, and him turning up a soppy song on the radio. Such loveliness softens the edges of a life that can be busy and fraught. This is romance to me. The comfort he has singing in my company makes me happy. The trust he places in me with his secret desires and boyhood dreams. The hesitant sharing of his stories. The getting up at a million o’clock in the morning to go on a roadtrip…

And you know, there is so much romance in the wonderful secret discovery of new and special ways that I am moved by the things that someone does. Or how they behave, what they offer with just a look or the warmth of their unwavering support. By the intrigue of new love, that makes me swoon with abandon at the tiniest of enthralling detail.

It’s a feeling, a response. An intangible something, that can sweep you off your feet or help you feel safe. Just when you need it. Or when you didn’t know you did. Feeling special, important, cared for. And in the way you need it. Or didn’t know you needed.

There is more of course, an unending list of the unique and the wonderful, that fills my soul and woos my heart. But you get the picture.

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