Friday, 28 August 2009
Once I made a careless mention of the phrase 'old-fashioned romance' and was taken to task by a reader who reminded me that romantic love is actually a completely new phenomenon as a criterion for marriage as it had nothing to do with the very practical arrangements by which couples had been joined over the past millennia, and indeed in some places, still are today. Looking it up, I found that the dictionary first defines 'romance' in terms of the languages descended from Latin, viz French, Italian, Spanish etc. The second meaning refers to knights in shining armour in pursuit of fair lady and tales told in verse. Thirdly, following on from this is the idea that this kind of romance is an exaggeration or distortion of the truth, even a 'picturesque falsehood'. I must say this is how I used to regard Mills & Boon novels - in that the marriage on the last page was to me always a spurious presentation of eternal bliss, it being (formerly) spurred on by the raging hormones of unfulfilled desire. What would happen when the honeymoon was over? (I understand that M & B has since updated itself -lots of sex now.) Upon asking my friends what they thought 'romance' meant - most said vaguely it was to do with courtship, flowers and chocolates - or the modern day equivalent. In other words - nothing to do with real life. A pity. My own definition is that after 30 years together, my husband is still the only man I want to look at in a crowded room, the only man I want to touch, the only man whose voice on the phone fills me with warmth: his are the only eyes in which I like to lose myself. I suppose you could analyse this in terms of pheromones, or the respect and esteem in which I hold him and the mutual love and trust that has grown over the years. Whatever it is it is impossible to quantify. I think the most recognisably romantic thing my husband has ever done was to send a huge bouquet to my office on the occasion of our 25th anniversary. Perhaps he didn't realise it would stand in pride of place on our receptionist's desk for most of the morning - with its loving message displayed for all to see. That was really something. He's not one to wear his heart upon his sleeve.