Whither Romance?

January 13, 2004

Dirty Whore NWS asks why men no longer treat her romantically

So I think back to when men were really romantic. The key difference between me then and me now, besides my age? I used to be more of a bitch. My body was just about the same, I dress and look better now, I am much more financially stable? but I?m also more tolerant and easy going, and far less demanding and petulant. Is that the key? Are men only romantic toward women who barely appreciate it?

I can only speak for myself. I learned the hard way that there is only one way to treat a demanding and petulant woman - walk away and don't look back.

That said, I rather like to be romantic - even if it is just stealing a kiss at red lights. I am fairly demonstrative, very touchy, and J has learned to like (or at least I hope she likes) to have my fingers trail over her back or shoulders. She still does not like it when I walk up behind her, lift her hair, and kiss the nape of her neck - but she puts up with it as long as I don't do it too frequently. She gets her revenge - my bald spot gets smooched when she walks up behind me.

I do think that as a society we are no longer training ourselves to be romantic. Men no longer automatically open doors for women, now the first one to the door holds it open for the second person, unless someone is carrying a package. Men no longer open and close car doors for women, except for the people at Taken in Hand who are living an exaggerated and self-conscious version of gender roles. Men no longer make sure that they are walking on the polite side of women. Heck, I barely remember if I should be on the street side or the wall side as we walk along the sidewalk - feh, I just realized it has been so long since we have been contradancing that I don't even remember default dance position, am I on the left or on the right?.

Some romantic gestures were symbolic gestures of strength and protection, legacies of patriarchal households where a man proved his worth by protecting and providing for his dependent women and children. We are moving away from patriarchy: women want to work, want to feel independent in case they have to provide for themselves. The challenge is to devise a language of romantic gestures that recognize her equality while still celebrating interpersonal tension.

Kissing her hand still works, but it can be stagey and feel fake. Holding hands is a big winner, as is planning a date. J hates surprises, so we tend to plan dates together or, at the least, I will tell her that I have planned something and how she should dress. Still, "Honey, we are going on a date on Friday. Wear shoes you can walk in." is enough warning before I take her to the zoo, or to a museum.

Looking back over what I wrote, the key seems to be to create a sort of respectful dominance - give her space and identity, but make it clear that you are trying to celebrate and please her. When swing dancing, women spin and twirl and show off, men make it possible for her to show off, and the men lead and give direction. Swing dancing, any sort of dancing, is not a bad metaphor for adding romance to a relationship.

Methinks DW needs to go out dancing more. For that matter, so do J and I.

Posted by Red Ted at January 13, 2004 08:39 AM | TrackBack