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What is romance?

By Francis Ewherido 17/08/2017

You would have noticed that I have never written on romance in this column. Well, that is because you cannot give what you do not have, or so I was made to believe. At my 40th birthday party long ago, I told my hosts (they actually organized it for me) that “my wife has been wonderful and most supportive, but she complains that I am not romantic.” They roared into laughter, while a friend jokingly commented that “how can she say you are not romantic, yet she is pregnant.” But you know even rape can result in pregnancy, yet rape is not romantic. I know that for a fact. In other words, sex can be romantic, but not all sex is romantic.

The truth is while growing up; I read James Hadley Chase’s action, crime and detective novels, while my wife read Mills and Boons (romance). But it is not entirely my fault if I am not “romantic.” I told my hosts that my father never came across to me as a romantic husband. He loved and cared for his wife; that much I would vouch for, but romance? I would not bet my N10.

I added that even my brother, who was sitting nearby, I could not vouch for him as a Mr. Romantic and he too roared into laughter, which means concurrence. Some of my younger brothers might be different because they grew into adulthood after my father had passed on and so did not copy that plastic behaviour from him.

Anyway, all that is about to change. As one of my post 50th birthday resolutions, I have decided to become a romantic husband. Did I hear somebody out there asking, “old dog learning new tricks?” Yes, this old dog has learnt many new tricks in “old age” and he keeps learning. I have swallowed many bitter pills in the name of learning new tricks, so why should “licking ice cream” be an issue?

So my starting point as a good student is to ask, what is romance? I went to the dictionary: “a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love;” “a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness from everyday life.” These definitions look gibberish to me. I surged on: “An intimate relationship between two people,” “a strong obsession or attachment to someone;” “thinking about love and doing and saying things to show that you love someone.”My relationship with my wife is intimate and we are strongly attached to each other; I also do things which show I love her, so that cannot be what she means. Obsession? No, in a previous relationship, my fiancée accused me of being obsessed and that partly destroyed that relationship. Since then I have wiped out obsession from my system and my wife knows it, so that also cannot be her reason for complaining that I am not romantic.

I decided to go to Wikipedia: “Romance is the expressive and pleasurable feeling from an emotional attraction towards another person often associated with sexual attraction. It is eros rather than agape, philia, or storge.” This definition seems to portray our spouses as sex objects and many women do not take kindly to that. I decided to dig further.

“True romance is doing something special or unexpected for someone you love, even though you don’t have to. Romance isn’t a greeting card, it isn’t Valentine’s Day, it isn’t a box of chocolates, and it certainly isn’t a dozen roses (unless you like that sort of thing). Real romance is not what modern society has been taught to think it is. Real romance isn’t manufactured. It is completely individual (emphasis mine). Romance is for showing the person you love that you’re thinking about them. It shouldn’t feel forced. There are no limits to romance; it can be shown by a handwritten note, by going for a walk, or even by making someone a sandwich. Romance is something simple and sweet that reminds your partner why they fell in love with you in the first place” (Urban dictionary). If this is all there is to romance, my wife will not accuse me of being unromantic because I would have scored at least 55/100. I surged on.

“Romance is a nebulous thing with the curious property of being describable but not definable (Samuel Stoddard). If we accept this opinion, then romance and pornography share something in common. In 1964, an American Judge, Potter Steward, was confronted with defining pornography. He said: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description (hard-core pornography); and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.” Now we are getting somewhere.

Another opinion of romance: “what women want out of a relationship… men aren’t romantic, and if you’re a man… you need this guide. If you’re a woman, of course, you were born with an innate knowledge of this stuff…” This is stereotyping, but let us not be distracted. So even women, “born with innate knowledge” of romance, cannot define romance, but they know it when they see it.

So, I asked my peacock (wife), what is romance? She jokingly told me that “Romans is a book in the Bible,” before describing her version of romance, which, of course, is for my consumption only. Do not forget, it varies from woman to woman. So ask your wife to define, sorry describe, romance for you. Simply put, romance is what your wife says it is. So the next time you see me writing about romance, do not ask: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 10:11). The spirit of romance has seized this Saul, no, Francis, and he has joined the league of romantic husbands.

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