Sucking at Romance – Confessions of a Romantaholic


Sucking at Romance

From the time we’re old enough to slip our feet into patent leather shoes and twirl our dresses, we of the feminine persuasion have been groomed by everyone from Grandmas and maiden aunts to Lifetime TV and fairy tales for an addiction to romance. I know because I am a recovering romantaholic. I wish I could reclaim just a quarter of the hours I’ve wasted readying and trying to write Harlequin romances, and if I can’t have that time back, couldn’t I please at least have one tenth of the time I’ve wasted trying to chase and live those romantic scenarios that seemed too good to be true because they absolutely were?

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not so jaded that I don’t believe in love and romance at all; in fact, I think it’s maybe the opposite. I do believe in romance and true love, but I also think that I’ve often missed one because I was so busy looking so stridently for the other. And that’s a damned shame because the moments when romance has found me and surprised me almost always took my breath away, and you know what they say about life not being about the breaths you take be the moments that take your breath away. Allow me to very humbly confess to my own delusions and deficiencies, if you will.

About fifteen years ago, moments after a Christmas Eve dash to Sam’s Club, my husband surprised me with a heavy-duty bathroom scale and set of salt and pepper shakers for Christmas. I’d worked and saved for months to surprise him with a handmade rosewood harp and hammered dulcimer that I’d even had delivered to my office to ensure the surprise. To say I was pretty disappointed by the bathroom scale as a Christmas gift would be a supreme understatement. But only a year earlier, we’d not been able to buy each other Christmas gifts at all because times were pretty tight, and other needs came first. It hadn’t mattered to me then, but now that we could actually afford a gift for one another, I felt duped and disappointed to have only been worthy of the last-minute dash for a heavy duty bathroom scale. I cried in the shower, so he wouldn’t see my disappointment, and both my hopes and the bar were raised for the next time.

Two years later, Dan surprised me again – this time, it was with a pair of shoes from WalMart. But it wasn’t any old shoes. He’d taken the time to spray the shoes from top to bottom with aerosol glue, which probably led to the demise of the ozone layer and shortened his life span through contact with aerosol propellant and glue. Over the glue, he’d sprinkled about three pounds’ worth of red glitter, creating a pair of “ruby red slippers” that left a trail of sparkling red metallic shavings everywhere they went. I’d saved again and convinced a friend to sell me her late husband’s Shopsmith – an all-purpose woodworking shop that takes up as much space as you dare to give it and even comes with its own built-in vacuum system.

I would love to blame my discontent on the holiday season and my experience as the middle child in a dysfunctional family who typically spent more of the holiday in church attending to the needs of others than celebrating as a family unit, but I can’t blame it all on family. It’s about me and my own deficiency and addiction to romance. WalMart shoes versus Shopsmith and a tool wonderland – the disparity seemed overwhelming to me, and the shoes, which proved to be a size too large for my feet – made me sad because I’d gone top shelf for him and assumed that his love for me was as discounted as a rollback price at WalMart. I wasn’t appreciative until much later, and to this day I am ashamed of my selfishness and blindness to his tender and romantic gesture.

The times when I’ve spit in the eye of true romance while waiting for its much glitzier and more surface step-cousin to show up and sweep me off my feet have cost me some of the most genuine moments life tried to offer. When my husband teared up during our wedding vows, my monumental insecurity made me think that perhaps he was not misting up from joy and happiness at choosing to spend the rest of his life with me but somehow mourning the loss of something he’d given up when settling for me. Like the sparkly red shoes, it took me years to recognize that I’d completely missed those moments that were so pure and simple in their expression of love because I’d been waiting for the fireworks promised in my Cosmopolitan magazine or the pithy repartee I read in Rita Rainville’s semi-annual paroxysm of passion in the pages of the drug store Harlequin romance novel.

True love isn’t about the latest flavor of diamonds at Kay Jewelers or the heady fragrance of long-stemmed roses being publicly delivered on Tuesday, February 14th in a place just public enough to paint a wide splash of envy on the cheeks of every unselected woman in the office. It’s about the guy who makes my tea every morning and opens the front gate, so I don’t have to get out of the car an extra time on my way to work. It’s about the guy who sits on the sofa and grabs my feet to give them a squeeze, even though I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of reciprocating. And it’s about the guy who grabs the plunger whenever the need arises or slays the wolf spider that has me hysterical and shouting obscenities like a seasoned teamster. He may not be dressed in a billowing white pirate tunic – indeed, he’s usually in a pair of underpants riddled with holes that I wish he’d throw out for God’s sake, but he’s my knight in shining armor…replace sword with a plunger, or a wrench, or some screwdriver the name of whose end will always elude me.

And while it may not come wrapped in silk and purple tulle with a whisper of glitter and a box of chocolate truffles dusted with gold flake, I’ve ruined enough opportunities to accept true love  gracefully and enjoy it thoroughly that I don’t want to waste any others I may have left. I admit, I suck at romance, and although I have to share the blame with Harlequin and Hallmark, and Jared, the Diamond People, I hope to start getting a little better at counting my blessings and appreciating the simple and pure romance that comes my way in the special moments of every other day of the year – not just the big kahuna of Valentine’s Day.

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