When I was young I positively lapped up the stereotypical/old fashioned fairytales – mainly because that’s all I knew or was allowed to consume. But I do remember that even then I was a bit more drawn to the love story of Beauty and The Beast, than say, Cinderella. There was a revengeful and ‘you go girl’ charm about Cinders being able to escape the cruel clutches of her step family and celebrate a new life with a rich and handsome Prince – but there wasn’t anything that particularly enthralled me about the leading man, as nice and pretty as he appeared. The Beast had an edge, he was stubborn, had a dark past, was very noticeably flawed…. he even in-prisoned his future love for goodness sake ( a slightly worrying thing to find allure in). But our hearts all swelled when we saw him play with the delicate birds in the snow, and those glimmers of softness that would seep through during his journey to redemption. There’s something so romantic to me (and I’m sure many of you) about the transformation of man as a result of something powerful happening in his heart.
Despite the cinematic and unrealistic elements there were some reality checks via childhood films by the like of Mrs Doubtfire, that showed the heartache of divorce, and that some love stories don’t pan out sweetly. And Sliding Doors, which I saw despite my parents thinking it was a bit too grown up for me, which showed that partners can lie, deceive and unconvincingly bumble their way through cheating, but also that true and pure love is sometimes thwarted by unplanned and tragic events.
There’s two more films I look back on that I was utterly obsessed with too. I’d recorded them on to VHS and would watch over and over despite many eye rolls from my parents as my back to back viewings got in the way of The Antiques Roadshow, or some BBC period drama (and it’s voluminous sleeves) that was big at the time. The first was Labyrinth. Course I loved the music, the Henson puppets, the bog of eternal stench – the farting stones made me giggle, but it was the tension between Sarah and Jarroth (which I didn’t realise at the time was sexual tension) that interested me the most. He was mean, , evil even, yet he also promised to give Sarah (you, in your imagination) everything you desired. That ballroom scene was (and still is) one of the sexiest/romantic scenes I’ve seen on screen – although I don’t entirely know why I think it is, or whether I should.
Some quotes for the movie…
‘I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.’
Sarah: Give me the child.
Jareth: Sarah, beware. I have been generous till now. I can be cruel.
Sarah. Generous? What have you done that’s generous?
Jareth: Everything! Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked the child be taken. I took him. You Cowered before me, I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you.
Even reading over those quotes from this cult classic, I’m reliving how I felt when David Bowie said these words with that intensity in his eyes (while wearing those tight leggings) and I feel something pretty deep and heady. But maybe from an early age I confused romance with lust and sex. Perhaps I confused love with romance. Perhaps they overlap, maybe they shouldn’t. Should we view them as separate things (I’m actually asking you). Which should be considered more important? Does one influence and play into the other? What impacts what ‘does it’ for you ?
Then there’s Indiana (Jones). Not only did we see our burly and rugged adventurer romance a new woman in each instalment of the series (much like Bond), he wasn’t overly nice to them on the run up – he was rather surly, dismissive at times, and definitely a tad chauvinistic. My favourite of the liaisons was with the beautiful Nazi, Elsa. Again, it doesn’t exactly sound like the recipe for a romance that’s rewarding to watch, but I loved it. It was fiery, complicated, and there was manipulation, lies, and again, redemption. Why did I need it to be so difficult, tragic and dangerous?
But these days, as a fully fledged adult and with a few long term relationships behind me, I adore watching shows like First Dates. When that french music rings out it signals one of my favourites times of the week. It always makes me smile and cry and everything in-between. I get very weird looks from Si when I squeal when something particularly cute happens. I find myself getting emotional and weak chinned when they tell their sob stories and personal reasons for looking for love, and feel absolutely gutted when it does’t work out for a pair I think seem well matched. I get very involved. What can I say? I’m a romantic. But what does that even mean in 2018….to me at least?
During these shows I often find my ideas of romance challenged, or at least how romantic liaisons, dates, and meet cutes should play out. I consider myself a modern and independent woman, but I still enjoy gentlemanly behaviour, the opening of a door, the standing up at the dinner table when you take a trip to the ladies, insisting on paying the bill – the old fashioned stuff. I always offer to pay my share (and have even covered the entire bill on a date) but I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the feeling I got when my date wanted to take of things in that way. I always feel a bit guilty about this though, and wonder if these moments go against what it means to be a feminist or a strong female. It doesn’t feel very empowered. Maybe that’s something I need to work on, or maybe not. What do you think?
I’m currently falling hard in love with the character of Don Draper, despite my better judgment -Yes, I know I’m late to the party, Mad Men is an unreal series, so I’m not sorry that this another less than current reference. On paper he doesn’t sound a particularly great guy. An unstoppable philanderer, often selfish, never without a drink or cigarette in his hands. But there’s enough moments where we see the core of who he is, we see how vulnerable he is, we see what elements of his childhood have played a part in his behaviour. We somewhere how not only forgive and love him….we want to be the one to be the one awarded the job of taking care of him. Is it the fixer upper innate need that a lot of us have? Is it because we like the idea that we could be the one that could tame the beast? Is the feeling we get knowing that a man that could have anyone has chosen us as their main girl massaging our ego in some way? Is safety and predictability boring to us? Do we seek excitement more than we do gentle and reliable romance? A mixture of all of the above I imagine….
I’ve been in a few relationships where I’ve lived for those small windows of romance. The ones that have involved being in a living hell 90 percent of time, but have been so cinematic and powerful when romance, more often bad-romance has hit, that I’ve been a slave to those ones for far to long. You think that there’s a chance that this small interlude of romance will signal a change where it will become more of a constant theme (it never does). They’ve been the Don Draper guys. The ones that behave badly and often, but who have had a past that offers you reason to forgive or excuse. Knowing that their affections or (horny-ness) is somewhat fickle, when they make you feel like the chosen one, with their touch or words (however genuine or curated), you feel beautiful, sexy and special. The feelings is dangerous, it’s so intoxicating it fools you thinking that all the romantic down time (where you feel like a worthless turd) is worth it. It isn’t, just in case you needed reminding.
But now as I exist in the years that many of my older relatives consider the ‘settling down’ phase of life, I ask myself what I believe romance is to me and whether it’s healthy. I’ll try and remove it from the concept of what love is to me because I do think that maybe they’re two different things, although hopefully they often collide, intertwine and work together. Romance is definitely a side of the relationship me and Si need to work on (a lot). We have love down on the most part (by no means perfect, but I know we genuinely love each other dearly), but the obvious kind of romance has definitely wained. But do I feel it whenever Si offers to rub my tired legs and feet without me nagging him or shoving them in his face. When he touches my cheek when he goes to kiss me, although I giggle like Rachel did in friends when Ross touches her bum because most of the time we are silly, and it feels like a very serious romantic move. When Si made me a breakfast on my birthday which incorporated a special pancake that we enjoyed on the last day of our favourite holiday a few years ago. When he grabs my hand when we go for one of our walks in the cold. When he does something I know he doesn’t want to do, just because he knows it’d make me happy. When he remembers something that I didn’t think he had even listened to. When he offers to make me a hot chocolate in the afternoon when I’m glued to my laptop. But romance shouldn’t be one sided so what do I do that’s romantic? As I wrote this I turned to Si and asked him he said ‘You’re always thoughtful’ and I said, ‘Is that really romantic?’ He said ‘it is to me’. So maybe romance and love can’t be separated completely, and maybe we can never define what it is, because its unique and personal to you and your duo (or more if you’re in a poly type situation). Something that doesn’t feel romantic to me (scratching Si’s back) might feel hugely romantic to them. Maybe we shouldn’t care whether it fits other people’s ideas of what it is or should be, but consider honestly how actions and words make us feel in our relationships. Whether we need or deserve less of some, more of the other.
I think I also know that some things that I think are romantic or make me feel romantic aren’t necessarily good for me, or worth it for that glittery or tingly moment. I’ll always find stories that involve people separated by war, opposing families, distance, another partner, culture etc, hugely romantic – it’s why I sob at Nicholas Sparks movies and cried myself to sleep after watching Labour Day, but I don’t need to be part of the stories myself. I still think I have an unhealthy interest in those toxic but exciting relationships but again, been there done that. I like to think I’m PC and contemporary in my thoughts, but I do love some of the old fashioned ideas of romance. I know that relationship that involve only small pockets of commitment and that special feeling are hugely detrimental to my mental health and self esteem. I know that it’s the quiet and sometimes unnoticed gestures that instill romance, but I very occasionally want a slightly grander one.
All I know is, whether it falls under love or romance, I want someone who celebrates who I am – although willing to help or support me work as I work on those flaws that should be worked upon. Someone who naturally wants to do those things that make me happy or make me feel better when needed. Someone who wants me to fulfil my life purpose and achieve. I don’t need someone to make me feel worthy, beauty, important, but they musn’t be someone who makes it harder to feel like that. If that person is willing to make me my favourite snacks, rub my boiled-rice smelling feet, and hold my hand in the car while I sing like a first round X factor reject, then I think that’s all the romance I need….as long as there’s just a few sweet surprises along the way.
I’m still and alway going to love Bad Romance, but it’s something I will consume via a melody and on film….not in my real life.
Outfit – Weekday Jumper, Wearall PVC Trousers, Dr Martens Boots.
Photos: Kaye Ford