Hey guys, fuck romance! “Blah blah blah, we all have different ideas of what ”“““romance”””” means” I AM HIGHLY LITERATE, step off. You know what the fuck I mean.
So anyway, fuck romance. You know why? Romance is patriarchal. Romance is cheap. Romance is lazy. Romance is killing the revolution. Stop caring about it, if you don’t mind.
Here are my propositions:
Romance is a set of cultural conventions that we all agree mean true love.
Romance is a lie the patriarchy tells to keep women dependent upon men.
If you are a woman or a queer person, you remember that are-we-or-aren’t-we hand wringing of first crushes, first relationships, first love. That scalding intensity that set your heart literally racing, that kept you up at night wondering, that had you writing letters or emails or texts, and then trashing them because what if they were too much? It hurt, but you loved it. It made you feel alive. Then that special other person looked at you, saved you a seat, invited you over, and you transcended into literal heaven. Only days later, you were back on earth, are we or aren’t we, how much do they like me, is it more than I like them? Back to not sleeping, not eating, back to second-guessing yourself, back to bottling it up in case your excitement, your enthusiasm, your affection was undesirable. In case you weren’t desired: that was the worst case scenario, right? That if you pushed too hard, you’d find out that that special person didn’t really want you. So you didn’t push, just existed in that liminal space, subsisted on scraps and kept your feelings mostly to yourself.
That’s cool! That was fun! Just kidding, it was the worst! I had better things to do throughout my youth than flop around shooting laser eyes at some random person, waiting for them to maybe give a shit. I realized that at a certain point and, I thought, grew out of that bullshit. I started dating someone with whom I felt like things were relatively straightforward. They communicated to me that they liked me, I communicated to them that I liked them. When I found out they were still dating someone else who didn’t know we were hanging out, I told them to sort it out or I was done. They did. I wasn’t falling down in fainting chairs all the time over this person. I just liked being around them, and they liked being around me, and that was pleasant.
That’s when a close friend started in on this romance shit.
Her: Does this person give you butterflies?
Me: Not really.
Her: Does your heart beat out of your chest when you see them?
Her: I want that for you! I want you to have real love!
Me: [is in a committed relationship with this person for nine years]
This happened again when I started dating my now-partner, ten years later. A fully different friend had this talk with me, repeatedly:
Her: I just don’t know if this is the right person for you.
Her: I just want you to have what I have. When I see my partner, my heart races.
Me: I mean, I’m happy. I love being around this person, and I respect and admire them. They are supportive and loving and respectful to me.
Her: But I want you to feel that flutter with someone. I want you to know that they’re the one.
Me, older and more self-aware: That’s not what I want or need.
I don’t know. People want you to feel some kind of crazy way when you’re with someone. They want you to be so physically overcome by that person’s presence that you are convinced that they are the literal only person that could ever make you happy, I guess.
That’s dumb as hell. I got wise to my young self and realized that what I was experiencing wasn’t love, it was a physiological response to anxiety. Guess what the Mayo Clinic has to say about that?
Symptoms of Anxiety
-Feeling nervous, restless or tense
-Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
-Having an increased heart rate
-Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
-Feeling weak or tired
-Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
-Having trouble sleeping
=Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
-Having difficulty controlling worry
-Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Everyone can be happy partnered with many different people, or with no people. (Unfortunately, our society is not set up to encourage people to be happy while single, which is some more bullshit.)
The idea of the one, of soul mates, is a special piece of violent nonsense. It causes you to over-invest in someone because you enjoy being with them. It takes away your perspective, your ability to decide what you want out of any given relationship, and your agency. If you like someone enough to be dating them or fucking them or whatever, the logic goes, then you are obliged to be with them, and only them forever and ever. Conversely, if you can’t imagine being with someone forever, it’s not really okay to fuck them or date them.
And then what if you really did like them, and you did intend to be with them for good, but things change? What if they reveal themselves to be a manipulative asswipe, or you just grow in different directions? Sorry, they’re your soul mate. You need to save this because otherwise you’ll be alone and miserable forever. This is the hill you need to DIE ON.
Romance sucks. Romance takes desire—particularly the desires of women and queer people—out of the equation. It creates this blurry area where your desires belong, a weird hazy chasm that will occasionally be filled by the generosity of this person with whom you are spending your time. Yes, your needs and wants are largely left uncommunicated and unmet, sure. But whenever this person deigns to fill the maw with, say, some cut flowers or jewelry or food or any other symbol of romance—generic or specific (yeah okay buddy, sure, your boyfriend gave you a signed baseball, that’s fine)—you are SATISFIED, OKAY?
WHAT IF, though. W H A T I F ? ? ?
Picture this: You are tired. You have had a long week and it’s only Tuesday. You say to your significant other, “shit, I’m really overwhelmed this week. I could use some help.” Here are a couple of situations:
Your significant other says, “sure, great!” They pick up some groceries and make easily-packable lunches for you. They put gas in your car. They make sure you have extra time to take a nap.
Your significant other says “what can I do to help?” You ask them to be responsible for dinners this week. You give them a list of errands you need to do that maybe they can do for you. You tell them you’d like a backrub. They do as much as they can.
Hey, it’s not a dozen fucking roses. It takes the fun element of surprise out of the equation. But WHY ARE WE SO INVESTED IN BEING SURPRISED INSTEAD OF ASKING FOR WHAT WE NEED AND WANT? FOR THE LOVE OF LIZZO, STOP CARING ABOUT BEING SURPRISED. (See also: people who argue that verbal consent “takes all the fun sexy mystery out of sex” hey, go jump off the moon, you rapist)
But for real. I know some of you are like “I want the element of surprise. I want them to anticipate my needs.” Well, they can do that so much better if your needs aren’t a mystery that they are free to ignore and replace with a standard regimen of Romantic Gestures.
Get you a partner (or partners) that doesn’t make your heart race. This world is fucking stressful enough. Get you a partner that supports your parasympathetic nervous system. Get you a partner that makes your life easier and better.