Disney and Hallmark are ruining our children. They peddle a point of view that romance is love. Romance is often theatrics and show-boating, not necessarily love. One of my daughters is a bit of a romantic. I was confused when I first heard her questions about how my husband proposed to me. She was shocked when I explained that we were discussing our life plans, and he pointed to the spot in his trajectory in which he expected us to get married. Really? Yep, that looked like a good time to me, too. And that was it. What? No one stood by and shot video of the event? There was no ring yet? There was no bended knee or soft music? It was in an office, not some romantic locale? She was aghast!
You have to understand. My husband’s an engineer and I’m an attorney. We have a very little need for romance. What we need is a life we enjoy, and that often means a life without unnecessary drama. I’ve had romance. The worst? When I started my first professional job out of college, my first husband rather romantically bought me things that he thought that I wanted – a guitar and a mountain of camping equipment. Now he was a bit of a pansy-ass and I can’t imagine him tent-camping; he knew that it was something that I wanted, though, so he bought it for me in a dramatic gesture. My guess is that he’d seen the writing on the wall and wanted to show me that he was sorry for the way he’d treated me in the previous years. What he didn’t understand was that I wanted things like our rent paid and utilities that stayed on. I wanted to be able to buy groceries and pay a few bills. I want his empty gesture. It was my job to return it all for a refund; he wouldn’t do it. I didn’t need a gesture, I needed responsible partnership.
I had to explain to my daughter that if I had required romance, I never would have thought her dad was “the one.” She and I agree that he’s a wonderful person and the best choice I every made. Why would I pass that up for drama, flowers, and music? Early in our friendship at work, I revealed my distaste for the color yellow and my intolerance for yellow highlighters. One by one, he picked up his yellow highlighters from his desk and threw them out the nearest window while I watched wide-eyed and amazed. (Yes, we collected them all later and gave them new homes.) If I didn’t like yellow highlighters, he explained, he didn’t need any. My daughter giggled when I told her this story. It doesn’t sound like anything from a Disney movie or a Hallmark card, but it still makes me smile 21 years later.
When I was “laid-off” from my job for blowing the whistle on the vice-president that was not protecting workers on very hazardous jobs, my husband never batted an eye. He told me not to worry, I was a great person and a damned good employee; I would find another job. I held onto his faith in me as the anchor it was, and I found the perfect job for me that I still enjoy. That’s love. There was no romance, no flying carpet, no white horse. But it was what I needed and showed the depth of his love.
What I consider his white-horse moment came outside the city public library. My husband took the older children inside and I lagged behind with the baby. I realized she needed a diaper change and stood in the open car door with her laid out on the front seat as I changed her diaper. So of course, a homeless man came to harass me for money. I tried to get him to leave, but I also was intent on getting my daughter taken care of and out of there. I was a bit distressed at the uncomfortable nature of his presence and he wouldn’t leave. Then I heard a deep voice behind me asking the homeless man just what he thought he was doing. The homeless man told him to mind his own business. My husband stepped closer, towering over the man, and explained that I was his wife and this WAS his business. The man backed off and left. My husband stood watch with me until my daughter and I were ready to enter the library. He’d had an inkling of trouble and had come back for me, and saved me from the scary man! I never felt physically threatened by the panhandler, but I had felt vulnerable taking care of my daughter and turning my back to the man. I was so relieved to have my husband there to watch over us. Again, nothing you would see in a movie or on a card, but that is what love is about: we always have each other’s back.
Fast-forward many years to now. We’d set aside some money for a vacation – only the second real vacation (an airplane and hotels!) in 20 years. We were cautiously making plans and dreaming about what we could do. But my father died in October and now my mother needs us to help her as she puts her house on the market and moves to a place just her size. This isn’t what we envisioned as our “big” vacation, but we’re flying to Texas to help her. My husband didn’t whine, cry, or gnash his teeth about the vacation we can’t afford now. He’s helping my mother and me instead of our longed-for romantic week alone. We chose the right thing over romance. That’s real love, nothing romantic about it.
So I ask my now-adult daughter. Is romance still required? Not necessarily, she tells me. She could miss a diamond in the rough that way. Yes! My work here is done! Thank goodness she sees it now, I think. The Disney white-washing can be revealed for what it is: the stuff little girls dream of, but real women don’t need.