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Here’s Looking at You Romance!!!

How often do we really ask our self if our interpretation of romance is socially constructed around our gender? When you think about romance what is it that comes to mind? For me it is Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blane forfeiting the opportunity to escape a dangerous political situation with the love of his life Ilsa Lund in the Academy Award winning Best Picture, Casablanca! What made that moment romantic is somewhat morbid, but none the less, provocatively sexy. Bogart’s Rick tells Bergman’s Ilsa that their love is not meant to be because it stands in the way of them both making a significant contribution to the possibility of a better world. A love that is as deep as theirs could only be ended by some major catastrophe. To watch them both experience the pain of a loss of their one true love— with a recognition that it needed to happen—brought a painful appreciation of their poetically tragic situation. It also makes one ponder the question is love sweeter in our memory when it can’t be fulfilled, or is short-lived? Perhaps more interesting than that question is this one, what would a feminist Ilsa’s reaction be to Rick’s overtures?

What is your definition of romance? How important is romance and sex, romance and love, and/or romance and marriage to one another? .In the Philosophies on Romance, Sex, Love, & Marriage class that I teach at SUNY Plattsburgh, we watch various film clips that accentuate the readings with visual images which frame the four themes we cover in the class. In “Out Of Sight” George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez somewhat mirror Bergman and Bogart’s characters’ extremely romantic, albeit unattainable love. In “Feeling Minnesota” Cameron Diaz and Keanu Reeves buck tradition and serious odds by stealing away together. In “Love Jones” Nia Long and Larenz Tate weather miscommunication and their own insecurities, finally succumbing to the habit of love. In “Bound” two women intimately discover one another and then conspire to rob and exploit the mob to better situate their opportunities. In “About Last Night”—originally titled “Sexual Perversity in Chicago”—Demi Moore and Rob Lowe overcome backbiting friends to arrive in a better space. What all these scenarios have in common is the fact that during all of their journeys they experienced a plethora of romantic moments.

What are the romantic moments that you have experienced or witnessed during your life? What are the films that forever frame the romantic moment? What are the songs that transport you to a romantic place. Does LTD’s “Love Ballad” appear on your list of romantic songs? How about Billy Joel’s “I Love You Just the Way You Are,” Brenda Russell’s “Get Here” or Marvin Gaye’s “Come Get to This?”

Perhaps my notion of romance will vary greatly from a woman’s, an Asian male’s, a differently abled person, a lesbian, an impoverished or wealthy couple, or a person originating from a First People’s (Indigenous) perspective. As an able bodied-heterosexual-petit bourgeoisie-Black-African American male I think provocative conversation with like minded people passionate about their philosophical perspectives is exhilarating if not outright titillating. How is a person that you find visually engaging while she/he is comfortably dropping pearls of wisdom consistently, stealthily and seductively not somehow entering and exiting the realm of sexy?

What is the reality that you originate from and how does your concept of romance differ from the person you just passed? Why don’t you help others visit the panoply of possibilities for considerations of romance by taking the time to paint a picture of romance that shows exactly how different the concept can be to a wide array of people?

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Comments

Hey JW
I like the phrase "the habit of love" and I think it says more about what's necessary for a successful long-term relationship than anything I've read before. When white-hot romance fades, it is that "habit" that keeps couples together, I think.

I do agree, however, that romance is also necessary to sustain a marriage or other long-term relationship. There must be those moments of electric passion, warm intimacy, and comfortable closeness to sustain relationships through mundane day-to-day demands. Couples must work to make time for those moments for themselves. They must jointly decide that it's time for a candle-light dinner, bubble bath, an afternoon on the couch watching movies - whatever it is that brings the two of them back together after day-to-day responsibilities and petit conflicts push them apart.

But, Partners must also be concious of each others' needs as well - romance should not always need to be initiated by the male in a heterosexual relationship, for example. (I'll play straight-up ignorant as to how same-sex couples sort through traditional gender roles because I don't have a clue). When one is feeling "down" the other should be able to see or sense that, and act to make their slumping soul-mate feel better - brining them out of a funk.

All of this takes work. Perhaps true, sustained romance means caring enough to do that work; caring enough to be intuned with each other's rythms; caring enough to be able to feel another's needs without having to be asked.

Hey JW,

It doesn't surprise me that your notion of romance is different from a woman's, or an Asian Male's, or an impoverished person's.

And for that matter, it wouldn't surprise me to hear that your notion of romance was different from other black men or other astute college professors.

Love is a search for beauty. On a very simplistic level, it can be physical beauty. Two physical beings have an attraction, and often our eyes are our first connection. But in the long run...physical beauty across the board is quite similar. Over time physical beauty degrades, as we all get older and wrinklier. It’s the higher level of love that I think romance fits into...romantic love.

Romantic love carries a higher status than physical attractiveness or sexual love. It's music, art, ideas, knowledge, intimacy, connectedness. It's the true beauty behind the shell of the physical world.

Each person has their own notion of romance...it is developed as they grow, and changes based on their life experiences. Similarities in the notion of romance among different groups are just a result of some similar life experiences.

When I really try to wrap my hands around what romance is, the more I feel that it’s something intensely personal. I find certain things romantic…my wife finds things romantic. We might share some of those things, but others we don’t.

The key to being romantic is knowing the person you’re with. I agree with Card Buddy that there is some work involved in romance. It takes digging…it takes an effort. A truly romantic act is one that reflects the level to which I understand the person I’m with.

I know I’m speaking abstractly…without examples. But I guess that’s the point I’m trying to make. The actual acts in a romantic encounter aren’t so much what makes it romantic as the context in which it’s made.

Physical qualities first place a woman on my radar and scenarios inspired by them dictate the type of romantic connection already being formed, even if it is only in my mind at that point. A connection based on physicality can present extremely romantic situations, if realized, though, for me at least, they are short lived and eventually leave me feeling empty. (I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day with that statement)

For me, intense romance can be found in laughter, intellectual exchange, challenges to the foundations of my beliefs, the ease at which I feel not only comfortable, but beautiful being myself around this person. That romantic connection has had me in the past testifying to friends how I've connected with perfection, and that woman indeed reaches that state of holistic beauty in my mind. And while when I first met her I may have thought her physical appearance was appealing, but maybe not as much as the last woman I spent time with, once that deeply rooted romantic connection, this woman is the sexiest person I've come across.

A romantic situation with her might be a couple hours in the bookstore, flirting with longing glances and fingertips sliding across backs when passing to look for an author. Exiting the store for the eatery might be interupted by a lingering kiss against the brick wall outside the bookstore, closed mouthed, maybe slightly open.
There's not much talk after that, until halfway through dinner she tells me to follow her, and I do, toward the restroom, and well, shoot, you got your mind's canvas, paint your picture.
After that we spend the rest of evening in bed connecting between discussions of philosophy, religion, films, childhood milestones, SpongeBob Squarepants, the destructiveness of our corporate-run government and how sharing Hershey Kisses is good for the lips...

I remember watching a French film recently in which two women sat together on a bench waiting for the subway train. One explored herself over clothes and removed an undergarment while a young man watched through the train window. When the train left, the women stepped down onto the tracks, around a corner and in a shadowed opening in the wall, shared an intense physical experience. They flipped the script on men and pulled the strengths during intimate encounters as they cemented their control and rose to power.

Throughout the years, my list of ideal women, when the selection has been narrowed to those of international popularity, has included Jewel, Simone de Beauvoir, Avril Lavigne, Hannah Arrendt, Penelope Cruz, Maureen Dowd, Tina Turner and Brittany Murphy.
There's always music, Hershey Kisses, existential discussions and some type of public location.

Romance is...

a way of life. I don't believe it is something that requires special planning and money (though they certainly are nice additions). My ideas about romance include, though are not limited to the following...

the way my lover looks at me from across the room

the way my lover speaks about me to others

the way my lover goes out of his way to stay commited to his word

the way my lover treats children

the way my lover allows himself to remain vulnerable

the way my lover expresses his desire to be in my life until the end of time

...I'm feeling like this list could go on and on. I believe what I am describing is a definition of romance based on close friendship which includes loyalty, time, affection, consideration, passion and tenderness.

I'm pretty certain romance lives in the heart and when connected to the mind and put into action both the giver and the receiver experience the liquidness of love...a flow, if you will.

Yeah, that's romance...pure liquid love.

Romance…

Dedicated to JW…a true hopefull romantic!

Romance…
A dance…
Often left to chance…
More than getting in my pants…
It’s not a wine-me-dine-me-sixty-nine-me
Kind of thing…

At its inception
Mostly a projection
Of ideals, nervous squeals,
Hopes and dreams revealed,
A lightness in your step,
Makes you wanna sing!

As the seed begins to grow,
The spirit you get to know,
Buried places you dare go….
I see you, you see me,
A complicated simplicity.
It’s liberation that Romance brings!

It’s the hand in the small of my back,
When courage has fallen off-track,
It’s your head in my lap,
When courage finds her way back.

It’s the glint in your eyes
As my mischief you realize,
The acceptance no money buys,
When I take you by surprise.

It’s a penetrating kiss,
Or just a nibble that brings bliss,
Your masculine smell, my pounding chest,
And your presence that I miss.

It’s where hard and soft combine,
Where anxiety dare unwind,
In darkness and light unconfined,
Your touch is also mine!

Romance…
A dance…
Perhaps not so much by chance…
It’s naked soul,
Sum of parts…
Make us whole!
Intentional feelings uncontrolled,
Makes common man a King!

It’s laughing through the tears,
Fighting through the fears,
Could be moments….
Could be years….

- Dystant Relative

Love and romance is a science. Tools provided by nature to perpetuate the species. An incentive, if you will, to do so......and it works. Evolutionary, yes, but in my opinion, not created by society. I believe society embraces the notion and spins it to its advantage. I believe society takes advantage of our responses to love, sex and romance and the weakness that we, as humans, have for the addiction that it causes. There is scientific evidence to support the addiction theory, as our brains release the chemicals (dopamine/ oxytocin/ seratonin) which give us that "feel good" sensation. This leads to a craving and stimulates motivation which ultimately leads to a feeling of ecstasy.

Ironically, science is not romantic. It just doesn’t seem right to me. Is that due to societal conditioning, or is it my innate biological programming protecting me from realizing romance and love are anything but systematic and exact? Thus, further serving the purpose of perpetuating the species? Or, could it be a little bit of both? In any regard, I prefer to focus on the benefits of love and romance and further fuel my addiction.

Romantic love is having your best friend and lover all in one. Someone who goes out of their way to make you feel special, and succeeds. It is an unselfish gesture with sincere intent to provide gratification to someone you love in lieu of, or prior to receiving gratification for yourself. It is about the moment and absorbing it for all its worth and fully appreciating the person with whom it is shared. It is the consistency of these actions that speak louder than words. It is a direct look into the eyes of your lover that erases the world around you and brings you into the depths of their soul.

You wrote: "It also makes one ponder the question is love sweeter in our memory when it can’t be fulfilled, or is short-lived?"

And this reminds me of a Nietzsche quote (so many things remind me of Nietzsche quotes!) but his quote goes like this:
"One ultimately loves one's desire, not the thing desired."
I think infatuation is far more common in our society than love is. Far too often, people use other people as props in their own imagination, ignorant of (or ignoring) the truth about the other person.

As for your question: "What are the romantic moments that you have experienced or witnessed during your life?" I'll give you one moment in my life, that I will never forget.

Once upon a time in HS, my then gf and I were watching Casablanca. We were often on the verge of breaking up due to complications involving her ex-bf being really good friends with my best friend (and I may have played an instrumental role in his becoming her ex-bf). Regardless of the particulars of the circumstances, we are half-way through the movie, and she decides she has to leave. This made me feel intense sadness, but I let her go. I watch her get into a cab watch the cab drive down the block. I go inside, crack open a beer, and begin to wallow.

I flip the movie back on, and five or ten minutes later I hear the doorbell ring. I go downstairs and there she is. She couldn't leave, she was on her way home, and she felt compelled to turn around and come back.

I felt intense joy at that moment.
I call that, Romantic.
It felt like something out of a cheesy-movie; the guy opens the door and there she is standing there; I used to think that stuff never happened. But it did. And does.

Romance is that moment when you look up and she’s looking deep into you. Her eyes will not let you leave them. They grip you and pull you closer until, even though you are halfway across the room, you feel her breath on your lips, begging your noses to lightly touch. The baby hairs trickling down your neck begin to itch as you recognize that your pelvic muscles are beginning to tense. You want her and she knows it. She shows it with a seducing grin as she gently bites the inside of her lip and lets out an inaudible sigh that asks, “Why don’t you?”

As you open your mouth to answer, someone else shifts in the room, and it’s as though someone had stopped you from love making. Your concentration is broken and you snap out of whatever dream may have been occurring in your head. Almost immediately, you look to her again and she is no longer looking at you. You smile, a bit crookedly, that sparkle in your eyes assuring you of that shared moment. That’s romance.

The most beautiful romantic moment that I think I've ever seen took place this past summer in Wegman's (the supermarket my family and I get our groceries from). It was a moment between an older couple whose combined ages would proably have put them close to 175-180 years old. I had just swung past the bakery and saw the woman and man about 15ft from where I was standing. I watched as the older couple, who were dressed in the same sweat shirt and sweat pants, shuffled across the isle toward the Hostess snacks. The older woman reached for the peanut butter wafers but quickly (or as quickly as she could) turned toward her husband and said, "you like these don't you?" He responded with, "I don't remember. Do I?" She said, "yes sweet heart. I do believe you like these." She reached for the box again and put the wafers in their cart. He reached up with a shakey hand and rubbed her wrinkled cheek with his fingers. He smiled and she smiled back. They didn't say anything more as they shuffled their way down the rest of the isle.

Never before had I seen anything like that. My eyes welled as I watched the couple remind me that love is not always just found in the cards, the flowers, the "I love you's," the hugs, or the kisses; sometimes it's found in the Hostess section of Wegman's.

Katie,
I lived in Rochester, NY for 6 years and shopped at Wegmans...love it!

More importantly, I have to express my pleasure with your comment on romance. My eyes dripped a bit as I felt the power of this couple's love and respect for one another. Simple, pure passion. I knew it was still possible. His shakey hand rubbed her wrinkled cheek...WOW.

~hp

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