Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Romantic Shift of a Word

Last week, in a slightly manic bout of children and husband on the west coast energy, I drove into the city on a chilly Friday night to have dinner with a bunch of strangers.

And, to my delight and surprise, it was FUN!

Maybe it's because they were writers. Cartoonists, copywriters, fantasy and poets. Creative people with creative appetites for conversation and food; our age ranges spanned from twenty-something to sixty-something.

Which of course, because we're writers, gave us an idea.  We would each write about what romance means to us; little essays informed by our generational differences.

If you'd asked me what romance meant when I was in my twenties I would have given you flowery descriptions; allusions of being whisked away to somewhere warm with the waves crashing below my window like a metaphor for the amazing sex I would have been too shy to describe.

There would have been exotic fruit, laughter, lots of champagne and eye contact. I would have tried and failed to put into words the feeling of giddiness that's like spinning in circles until you collapse in a giggling heap on the floor. 

After my children were born my vision of romance shifted, as though each birth was a mini-earthquake with the power to shake up and redefine language.

Romance was my husband getting up at 5:00 in the morning when the babies cried so I could sleep in.

It was dinners eaten at child-friendly hours so we could all be together. Looks of wonderment exchanged across the table over the heads of laughing toddlers. The question passing back and forth between the adults in the room, how is it possible that we created a place where our hearts are so full?

Lately, I've realized my definition of romance has morphed again. This time the shift has been slower, but like global warming, its effects can already be felt.

My notions of romance have become intertwined with the concepts of freedom and deep understanding born from quiet scrutiny.

The ability to say and do anything without fear of being judged. To have someone who is both a friend and the calm repository for all my wacky ideas. A person who makes me laugh while I'm brushing my teeth and, who knows me well enough to convince me to slow down, leave the lights off, look out the window at the setting sun while we share our secrets and feel grateful that somehow, through the teeming masses of humanity, we found each other.

Maybe the true magic of romance is located in its ability to shift and glide, changing slightly through each decade until, like a good bottle of wine, it becomes a thing that is perfectly aged.


Beylit said...

I think our ideas of romance have to change as we grow and change. If they didn't it would be so disappointing.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Great post! I agree with your changing view of romance. It matches mine.

ilima said...

I agree! I know my view of romance has shifted through the years, and I'm grateful for it in all its wonderful forms. Great post.

The Bookworm said...

Beautifully said Johanna. I do think that our notions of romance change with time and wisdom. I used to think romance meant being swept away for dinner and dancing. Now I know romance is in the little things like when hubby cooks dinner for us himself and we sit and watch a movie together at home cuddled up on the couch in our pj's.

Barbara Watson said...

My idea of romance has definitely changed over time too. The other day I called out to my kids to set the table for supper. My husband said he'd do it. That was a romantic moment for me. :-)

jaybird said...

Forget the uniform, I always say my husband never looks sexier than when he is standing at the sink up to his elbows in dirty dishes! Now that's hot. And romantic, to me. Our priorities shifted, with the birth of three kids. After seventeen years of marriage, I wouldn't take back a day on our romantic journey together, (even the rough, insecure early days) because making it through that is what cemented the bond of friendship, love and respect between us. The relationship we enjoy now, is amazing and I'd never believe we'd be in this place even five years ago.

Johanna Garth said...

Beylit, good point!

Dianne, glad to know we're on the same happy path.

Thanks so much, Ilima!

Naida, it's the happily ever after not shown on film.

Barbara, doesn't it make you wonder how the word will shift in the future? :)

Jaybird, that's such an inspiring comment!

Stephen Tremp said...

Change is good and necessary. What worked onc may not work again. Great post!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Romance to me is true friendship.

Shell Flower said...

This is so well written, seriously eloquent. I love it. Romance to me is still a little of all of those. The giddy girl comes out now and then, but yeah, having someone to laugh with about silly things the cat does or whatever is as romantic as when he used to open doors for me (still does, but it's not as sexy after 11 years).

Gina Gao said...

This is such a well written post. I enjoyed reading this so much.

PK HREZO said...

I love it Johanna. Beautifully said. I often think of my youthful idealistic impression of what romance is, compared to how I see it now, and I wonder how it is I managed to idolize it so much.
After kids, everything changes. Romance isn't nearly as fascinating to me as love. Comfort and understanding and acceptance are sexier than anything tangible or expensive or lush.
I'm glad you found your partner in this world, and so humbled that I was able to find mine.
Happy Valentines Day if I don't see ya by then!

Nicki Elson said...

Mmm, this is nice. I hope you read it to the guy who makes you laugh w/ toothpaste in your mouth.