I truly do not have anything personal against romance. What sane minded gal does not love being adored and showered with attention? But between the Valentine’s Day consumer blitz and the hype about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie release this past weekend, I am nearly ready to decapitate some roses, throw away all my candles and pour all my red wine down the sink.
I love any occasion that results in festive activity as a byproduct and I was more than happy to cook an extra special dinner for my Usually Lovely Husband and open an especially nice bottle of vino to commemorate Valentine’s Day. I also admit to succumbing to the mommy forces and gifting my prodigal sons with their annual heart boxers and candy, but I somewhat resent the inherent guilt factor that seems to come with Valentine’s Day. Shouldn’t we find romance in the little things every day? Must we feel an obligation to bring forth pink, red and purple bliss into the midst of February each year? Sure we all need a reason to celebrate during the dark months, but I don’t want to feel guilty that my U.L.H. and I aren’t spreading rose petals willy nilly across the bedspread and writing epic poems of love in shaving cream across the bathroom mirrors. At my house the cat would inevitably eat the rose petals and lick up the shaving cream and we would be cleaning up pink soapy cat vomit for the next two days. Arguing over who gets to find the rug cleaner in the utility closet is not that romantic.
I ran into a girlfriend at the grocery store Saturday afternoon when I was buying supplies for our impending Valentine dinner. We hugged and I wished her a cheery “Happy Valentine’s Day.” She’s been married about as long as I have and we both kind of rolled our eyes together as I said it. “Just means I have to cook a nicer dinner than usual”, she admitted. Another friend told me she had reminded her husband earlier in the week that Valentine’s Day was Saturday. She was laughing because apparently he responded with a disconcerted look and uttered “Oh Shit!” Other friends at the gym this morning admitted that Valentines day did not seem different than any other Saturday except they had to buy a card and remember to wear pink or red. It was somewhat gratifying to know I was part of the population who had NOT programmed their music systems to play an evening of Barry White and Norah Jones and pretend to be thrilled with a bouquet of grocery store roses. My U.L.H. and I exchanged funny cards, ate a fabulous dinner of Shrimp Pad Thai and drank a killer bottle of red wine and plopped down on the couch to surf NetFlix and promptly fell asleep until our son and his friends crashed into the house and woke us up. Nothing beats the romance of seventeen year old boys reliving a high school basketball game. But honestly I couldn’t have been more satisfied.
I am sure there are readers who are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at this admission. I count amongst dear friends those whom surely decorated their homes with love poems and lit scented candles or went out to romantic dinners and sat at corner tables and looked deeply into one another’s eyes and I think that is fabulous! One couple’s idea of romance should not have to equal anothers. Hence when I express my abject horror to the media hype glorifying one of the most poorly written books and screenplays which opened to coincide with Valentine’s Day, I am not making pointed assumptions about the people who flocked to see it as part of their Valentine weekend; however, I am incredibly concerned that our society in general thinks that this is a romantic film or book.
I cannot admit to fully knowing the “plot” or “storyline” of Fifty Shades of Grey well enough to critique it professionally. When the hype began a couple years ago I picked it up at the library because I admit to enjoying “popcorn literature” once in a while for pure entertainment value. Nothing beats a good Bridget Jones Diary laugh-out-loud read when you want to forget the vaguely hellish happenings in your own life story. Several of my girlfriends had admitted to reading Fifty Shades so I succumbed to peer pressure and brought the thing home. I hesitate to actually call it a book or a novel, because before I even can attack the reprehensible subject matter, there is the issue with the utter lack of skill in composition and writing to be dealt with. I’ve seen Garfield comic books with better prose. Three chapters into this “work” I called it quits because I simply could not stand the poorly written dialogue, smarmy descriptive text or utter lack of intelligence in the title characters. How on earth did this get published? I felt the same way about those Twilight books and I shudder to think that centuries from now a time capsule will be opened and generations of persons in the future will think this is the best literature we had to offer from our decade! John Updike must be turning in his grave.
Poorly written prose aside, since when did it become okay to think that stalking a woman, bondage, rape and domination was romantic or even allowable? How can we be counseling our young adults about the dangers of date rape and the power of the word NO when Hollywood has developed not only a movie but an entire line of clothing, alcoholic beverages and consumer products glorifying it? College students are being required to attend seminars discussing alcohol and sex and the importance of respecting the human body. How are they supposed to take this seriously when blocks from campus there are theatres having all night parties to celebrate the debut of a movie which gleefully claims that a man can dominate a woman without her consent? Not having seen the movie I bow to this blog which I read this morning. I highly encourage you to read it. She adeptly illustrates all the things that have been bothering me about this over publicized mainstream hyperbole supposedly catering to women who “are looking for passion.” http://www.bonbonbreak.com/letter-children-fifty-shades-grey/.
Passion, romance and love can certainly be about candlelight dinners, an unexpected bouquet of flowers or a moonlit dinner on a beach, but it can also be when your true love goes out and defrosts your car and scrapes the ice off the window on a cold morning or cleans a nasty clog of hair out of the shower drain without complaining. Sometimes true love manifests itself the most when date night means being perfectly happy doing nothing more than having popcorn for dinner and watching the newest episode of House of Cards.
The best relationships are the kind when the two of you are at a party making eyes at each other, unspoken words flashing between you because you are dying to get home and be alone. You make your excuses together and slip out, arrive home and immediately go to bed and fall soundly asleep because you are both exhausted at the end of a long work week.
Real love is when you go to your husband’s office for the first time two years after he has started working there and realize to your horror that the photo of you that he has put up for all the world to see is one where you had been hiking in the rain all day with no makeup. When you express your dismay that his whole office must think you look like a homeless person he looks at you completely perplexed because to him you are always beautiful and that day was epic.
A true love has seen you in various states of inebriation and very possibly under the influence of anesthesia and only takes advantage of you by teasing you about that political diatribe you delivered and no longer remember. They make sure you get home safely, tuck you into bed and laugh with you not at you.
Chivalry is when he turns the heat down in the car when he notices you are having a hot flash, automatically pours you a glass of wine when you look disheveled after driving the carpool, or pretends the light doesn’t bother him when you are reading in bed.
I was reflecting back on the last time my U.L.H. and I were both gasping for breath ala Shades of Grey style and realized it was when we literally were rolling on the ground in hysterical laughter remembering the time twenty years prior his mother learned what the phrase “nailed it” meant and tried to drop it casually into conversation about eight times in three minutes. Not necessarily hilarious to anyone else – but we laughed like buffoons then and then laughed even harder reliving the story recently. Recreating memories over a lifetime whether they are funny, poignant or minuscule is much more binding than a handcuff.
We probably all wish for more compliments, more moonlit nights, more candlelight dinners and more spontaneous acts of passion and we should remember that those things are important to any relationship and kindle them when the time is appropriate. Love and romance are neither black nor white and like a campfire can be exciting when it burns hot but may really seem best when it’s ebbed down to glowing embers that you can comfortably snuggle up around.
There may be some that call me a prude for saying that Fifty Shades of Grey is a misogynistic poorly written bit of pap that takes the hard earned rights of women back decades and there may be some that think my idea of a romantic Valentine’s without the commercialist flair of gifts, chocolates and flowers is lame, but I hope that I can teach my own children by example and that someday they find someone who not only puts up with their idiosyncrasies but with whom they share equality, respect, adoration and whom they can engage in intelligent conversation. I’ll choose that over fifty shades of any color.