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Failing at romance is a pattern I know well. . . - Chronarchy

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February 5th, 2007


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11:24 am - Failing at romance is a pattern I know well. . .
MJD: So, for Valentine's Day, I'm apparently going the the ballet.
Tina: Does she know you hate ballet?
M: I don't hate ballet. I hated Dracula. I don't mind the classical stuff, and can even get excited about it. I don't necessarly get it, but there's good music and nifty things going on. I just can't wrap my head around the more modern styles at all. They make me feel stupid because I don't get them "conceptually," whatever that means.
T: Why don't you do something you'll both like?
M: Because that's not what Valentine's Day is about. It's about guys doing things they don't want to do just because women think it's romantic. I have a feeling that the most romantic things in life are things that no man enjoys.
T: *suddenly can't stop laughing*
Yes, it's true: the ballet is in my future.

I admit, I don't mind. I won't lie and pretend to be excited about it (though I might actually get excited about an excuse to put on a suit and have a pretty lady on my arm), but I'll sit through it and find a way to make it work for me.

Honestly, if it hadn't been presented to me before I caught wind of the show, I'd have probably offered to take her, anyway: I've been scanning the ballet schedule off and on for a couple of months trying to find something I might be able to work with. This is probably because my idea of romance is "stuff I don't like to do." Thus, when I find something I don't want to do, my first thought is often, "Hey, that'd be a great date!"

This could be why buying flowers doesn't seem "romantic" to me. . . I like to buy flowers for people. It's fun, and often unexpected. But it's not romantic in my head. But going to the ballet is. I understand, though, that there are certain actions that women find "romantic", and I try and do those actions from time to time.

Finding romance in stuff I like to do is hard. I mean, I like to geek out over Star Wars from time to time, or hike, or pray, or write rituals, or watch movies and TV shows on DVD, or play video games. . . the list goes on and on. But nothing there is considered "romantic" by most standards: heck, most of it's individual. Sure a hike can be romantic, but I like to *hike* when I hike: it's not "romance" when you find more joy in the open trail you're on than the person hiking with you. Watching a movie is good, but I like to *watch* them, not make out during them (though, ya know, if you're gonna make me, I won't complain too loudly. . . but I'll watch the movie again sometime without you).

This, of course, is different from "spending time with a person," which I also don't consider "romantic" because I like to do it. If I go hiking to spend time with a person, then I'll enjoy their company, but I won't consider it a "hike". If I go to a movie with the express purpose of making out, then I'll go and make out and enjoy spending time with the person and ignore the movie (come to think of it, I should really go to a movie to make out sometime: I missed that phase of adolescence). These are good, fun things to do, but they're not romantic, they're just fun.

Romance, generally, is a game to me. That's how I have to see it to make it work. I look at it and say, "Hey, I'll bet this'll work well!" and I do that. I enjoy the end result (that mushy, melty pile of woman that I end up with if I manage to play my cards right), but getting there is somewhat calculated and cold. To be romantic, you have to follow the rules and make the right moves. The hardest part, of course, is that the rules are different for every girl you encounter: every one is unique, challenging, and oh-so-certainly worth the effort.

When I characterize romance as a game, it allows me to remove a lot of the coldness I feel toward the actions involved. A game of romance demands a level of seriousness that trying to be seriously romantic just couldn't ever manage to instill in me. But then, that is the role of play in our lives: to help us take things seriously that we could never take seriously under any other circumstance.

In turn-about, because that's always fair play, I don't think I've ever felt that something was romantic when done in my direction. "Fun", "thoughtful", "sexy", or "nice", sure, but not "romantic." I have sketchy ideas of what might be romantic, but they're undefined in my brain. I find myself appreciative toward relationship items (someone buying me dinner, or going for a walk, or writing me a love letter), but to actually feel "romantic" about it is hard for me. This could, centrally, be why I have trouble with romance in general. I do expect that it's me who's broken, honestly, not the romantic drive. Romance isn't dead, it just doesn't live in me, that's all.

Now, flirting. . . that's a whole other story for some other time. . .
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: "No Woman No Cry", -JB

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Comments:


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From:chronarchy
Date:February 5th, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC)
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DOOM :)

No, what I like about the possibility of going to the ballet is that she'll like it. I may not like the ballet, but I like it when she's happy, and so that's what I'll get out of it.

Just because I'm unlikely to get anything out of people contorting themselves to music doesn't mean I can't enjoy something else at the same time.
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From:wishesofastar
Date:February 5th, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
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I enjoy the end result (that mushy, melty pile of woman that I end up with if I manage to play my cards right), but getting there is somewhat calculated and cold.

So, let me get this straight: you partake in an activity you don't enjoy so you'll end up with a mushy pile of woman. Basically, you've reduced the woman to a vending machine. You put in the proper currency and get something out (a pliable, mushy mass). This is possibly the most manipulative view of women I have ever read, and I spend a lot of time on Fark. I think you might be better off with one of these-- WARNING: LINK NSFW!
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 5th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
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No, vending machines come out with stale, sticky treats of sugar that receive no value from the transaction. Are you suggesting that women have no value, and that no woman derives value from the actions that are romantic?

Further on in the post, I noted that removing the coldness involves recontextualizing the actions as a game. By setting the rules and then following or bending them, the actions find warmth.

I'm not sure why you assume that manipulation is bad in this context. I think the word you use has connotations I wouldn't place on it here.
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From:duriyah
Date:February 5th, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC)

romance

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I just don't get you, MJD. Putting up with something that you don't want to do because your partner likes it is nice. It's sweet. But it is NOT romantic. Romance is shared intimacy that is thoughtful, sweet, and is "special" between the two of you. Romance IS doing something that lets your partner know you want to make her happy. But just because it is something you also enjoy does not mean it isn't romantic.

Romance says "you are special to me and I like showing you that." What it sounds to me like you are saying is: "you are special to me and let me show you how much by putting up with something I don't like." I can see that as sweet, and nice and giving. But not romantic. Because if my partner isn't enjoying the experience, then we don't have the shared intimacy that is essential to what is romance. I want my partner to be happy, and enjoy his time with me. If he's not enjoying himself I wouldn't be happy, I wouldn't feel that we were sharing a happy intimate moment, and I wouldn't feel he was being romantic.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 5th, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC)

Re: romance

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Here, then, may be the issue: I do not grasp the concept of "intimacy" as most people use it. I do not find intimacy, as I define it, as "within", but "without." I am not sure how it relates to *me*.
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Re: intimacy - (Anonymous) - Expand
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From:qorinda
Date:February 5th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
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It reminds me of a conversation I had with Avery yesterday regarding picking out cabinets and countertops. (How romantic is THAT???)

Basically, we would look at stuff and he'd say, "I like that." And I would say, "Oh, but it doesn't really go. See? How about this?" and he would say, "Whatever you want." And then I said, "But I want YOU to like it too." And he said, "Well, I would rather you be happy than I like it."

I suddenly realized that this is his modus operandi with me.

And he means it.

AND I am happy. ;)

However, I do have this inkling of guilt now, knowing he is foregoing his own pleasure at my expense, so I am on a new campaign to find common ground in our immense diversity of tastes.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 5th, 2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if he would say the same thing I would, I were the other person in your relationship, which is, centrally, "The fact that you are willing means a lot to me, but you don't have to do it, and, in fact, I might be happier if we maintain this dynamic. What you have found *is* what makes me happy."
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From:viedansante
Date:February 5th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
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I get it. No, really.

I'm too tired to write any more. It's been a long and difficult day. So all of my other insights and brilliant ideas will have to stay unformed.

Hope that the night is enjoyed by the pertinent party. As long as she gets you and appreciates your intent, that's all that matters.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 5th, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC)
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I thought/hoped you would. I'm in an awkward position, personally, as far as this stuff goes, and it's nice to know that at least you see what I mean. It means I'm not completely crazy.
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From:tanrinia
Date:February 5th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)
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romance to me? coming home to a house that someone has cleaned and vacuumed for me :)

but then i'm pretty easy to please...
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 5th, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)
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*nods* Different definitions abound here :)

There's this saying that roles around now and again: "Nothing is sexier than a man in a nice, white dress shirt with his sleeves rolled up in and his hands in the sink washing dishes."

There are many women, it seems who agree with that statement from time to time (most don't agree with it always, though).
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From:nontacitare
Date:February 5th, 2007 09:37 pm (UTC)
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As a woman who is not too abnormal (although there are those who would disagree with that ;-) ), here is how I see romance. Romance is about sharing yourself with another, and allowing her to share herself with you. For most women, romance is intimacy. Thus, if you enjoy hiking and she enjoys hiking, hiking might be the most romantic thing you can do. I've experienced men approaching romance as a game, or as a computer program (if I type in these commands, you will turn into this, which is what I want), and been insulted by it. To go back to the ballet example, it depends on how you approach it. If you're thinking, "Quid pro quo. I took you to the ballet, which I hate. Now you owe me," it's a problem. But if you're thinking, "You're a really cool person and I want to get to know you better. Explain to me what you actually get out of people contorting themselves while listening to old-fashioned music," then that's very romantic.

Now discussing this post with your girlfriend on Valentine's Day could be the most romantic thing of all. :-)
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 5th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
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I admit, I've never felt "owed" anything by a woman. I generally feel that I owe them just for being willing to hang out with me :) Besides, women are far more amazing than I am. So, yeah, what I'm thinking is, "The ballet isn't for me, but I kinda like you, and thus I'd like to do something you'd like to do." I don't know if it's necessary for her to try and explain it. . . I am not sure I can grasp it. . . most arts are outside my ability to understand and grasp with any competence. Of course, if she'd like to, I'll listen, but I'll also tell her up front, "Hey, you realize I don't get it, right?"

It's been sent to her, earlier today, with the statement that it would be nice if she asked questions if she had any :)
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From:wylde_chylde99
Date:February 5th, 2007 10:06 pm (UTC)
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personally for me, if i know or suspect my date isn't enjoying himself it wouldn't be enjoyable. it wouldn't be worth going at all. and the idea that you specifically know you wont' enjoy it but are going only because you think its romantic that way, well, i certainly wouldn't find that romantic.
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From:whitmanschild
Date:February 6th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC)

Part, the First

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I think I get you on this, MJD. I really do. On everything, that is, except for your definition of "romantic," which I find fairly ridiculous in that it precludes the possibility of you ever enjoying romance or romantic things. I think you misunderstand romance in believing that your recontextualization of it into a game, complete with calculation, strategy, planning and desired end-goal (which you describe as cold) is not romantic. Here's why.

Romance and intimacy are linked because one inspires the other. Intimacy is just the knowledge, the familiarity, the understanding of another person's experience and perspective on things, and then checking your identification with that person. It's knowing the inside joke, understanding that person's feelings, etc. Having that knowledge, that understanding is either going to inspire in you a sense of sympathy, antipathy or apathy (ie. you could be very intimate with a hated enemy). In the case of a significant relationship that is commonly referred to as "romantic," we're going to assume that it inspires sympathy and all of the things that go with it--trust, honesty, altrusim, love, etc (because if it doesn't then you've got more social problems than understanding romance). The important thing is, you can't have romance without the intimacy. Unfortunately, people often make the mistake of believing that romance is a trick or mysterious quaity that establishes "instant intimacy" that you could concievably take on a first date with you. (Thanks, Disney!) Women are often more susceptible to the effects of this because we've sadly taught them that they are of little worth until they have established at least the appearance of intimacy (with a guy, of course), which leads into all kinds of other objectification bullshit that makes me want to go on a feminist rant. (All those ex's who wanted excessive "displays" were likely looking for you to assuage their insecurities by appearance of romance that would speak to a deeper intimacy that may or may not have been there.)
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From:whitmanschild
Date:February 6th, 2007 12:40 am (UTC)

Part, the Second

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Romance, then, is the actions that you're inspired to undertake because you have strong feelings of sympathy, love, identification, appreciation, etc for a specific person (probably of your preferred gender to get naked with). You show your SO that you understand them, their feelings, their perspective, their wants and needs, etc, through the medium of your own character. That's where the thoughtfulness happens (and all of the planning for your particular brand of romance). For you, the act of recontextualizing something that your would normally dislike into something that you can enjoy (or at least tolerate) IS an act of romance, so long as you're not trying to keep accounts. There IS romance in turning a trip to the ballet into a game, no matter how cold you tell yourself the calculations are. Why? Because you both get what you want and enjoy yourselves and further the cause of mutual intimacy by adding to your shared experiences. You get the game of it, she gets the ballet--she is happy and you are happy. But (and this is where I think singingwren is dead on), you need to make sure that your acts of romance don't get interpreted as martyrdom because it will kill the enjoyment for your SO--precisely because our culture interprets martyrdom as a debt-incurring act. (Thanks, Judeo-Christianity!) Even though this is not your intent, you have to work within the limitations of your own cultural norms, and your partners are almost certainly going to interpret your altruism and your romance as martyrdom.

So what does that all mean? *braces self for a barrage of angry detractors* In our culture, where genuine altruism is continually suspect and romance is treated like a fairly tale--even in realms where intimacy might make one believe otherwise--romance often requires a certain amount of deception, although usually only in small amounts and frequently in the form of silence or feigned enthusiasm. When you're faced with this, you have to ask yourself which is stronger: your commitment to pure and unfiltered honesty in relationship communication, or your commitment to making the ones you cherish happy.

You do, of course, always have a third option of waiting until you find a woman so divorced from our culture's suspicion regarding self-sacrifice that she can accept your giving as pure romance without the pretense of mystery and so unaffected by the insecurity-inspiring fairy-tale bullshit that she is able to feel loved and intimate with you without your having to put up more displays of romance than you find natural to your character. Personally, I'd say that you'd have better luck looking for a dude in that case.

A mutual friend of ours once said to me that the secret to dealing with women lies in mastering two things: patience and diplomacy. For the most part, I would agree, but add that I think it applies to mosy men in romantic realtionships equally well.

Not sure if that helps at all, but there it is anyway...
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From:lizcrosssmith
Date:February 7th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)

tooooo funny

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Hmmm... My comment is so much more simplistic than eveyone else's comments seem to have been. But the truth is, I found your comment, "Thus, when I find something I don't want to do, my first thought is often, 'Hey, that'd be a great date!'" the funniest thing I've read in days -- possibly weeks. In fact, every time I re-read it, I start to laugh all over again. So, thanks for the giggles -- and good luck on V-day.

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From:lizcrosssmith
Date:February 7th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)

Re: tooooo funny

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Dentist: I'm afraid you need a root canal.
MJD: Can I bring a date?


Liz (still laughing my butt off)
From:snakesinspace
Date:February 8th, 2007 01:23 am (UTC)
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Hey you-- stop behaving in ways other people don't get, it makes it more difficult for them to chastise you.

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