Isn’t It Romantic?


CF3611My father-in-law is a psychoanalyst. He’s a highly educated, brilliant man, holding both a Ph.D. and an M.D. He’s been practicing in his field for over 30 years, has written countless papers, as well as a couple of books. He can spend, literally, an entire day in deep discussion about the differences between embarrassment and shame, or about the debilitating effects society suffers from shyness. But what he really loves talking about, what truly gets his imaginative and creative juices flowing, is romance.

Now, to be fair, the way he thinks about romance isn’t necessarily the same way as how many of us think of it. Traditional romantic associations – roses, chocolates, bubble baths, quiet dinners for two – aren’t at all what he’s interested in. Instead what he wants to talk about is how those things make us feel. Why they arouse such emotions. If a cute guy brings you flowers, do you blush? Are you flattered? Aroused? Excited? Happy? Is the surfacing of those emotions the essence of romance? In other words, what exactly is romantic?

Once when I was visiting my in-laws, my father-in-law plopped down in front of me (I could already sense he was in for a long spell) because he wanted to have a discussion about romance. He’d been thinking about it a lot and was wondering why I felt certain things are romantic. Poverty, for example. Say, what? Poverty? Indeed, poverty has often been portrayed in a romantic way. The picture I chose for this post I felt was a perfect example of his point. It’s by an artist named Thomas Kennington and is called The Pinch of Poverty. But it certainly has a romantic element to it. The sweet face of the litle girl, the shine of the rainy sidewalk, the loving way the mother cradles her baby. But the artist is portraying poverty for gosh sakes. Why would anyone call that romantic? And if they do, why?

Exploring what is or isn’t romantic doesn’t have to delve into non-traditional territory. Let’s take candles, for example. The lights are low, and candles glow. Romantic, right? But, as my father-in-law would kindly, yet persistently probe, why? Why are candles romantic? Is it just that the dim lighting flatters our physical features? I would venture to say no. The emergence of romantic feelings aren’t caused soley by vanity.

The definition of the word romantic includes the following;

1. of, pertaining to, or of the nature of romance; characteristic or suggestive of the world of romance: a romantic adventure.
2. fanciful; impractical; unrealistic: romantic ideas.
3. imbued with or dominated by idealism, a desire for adventure, chivalry, etc.
4. characterized by a preoccupation with love or by the idealizing of love or one’s beloved.
5. displaying or expressing love or strong affection.
Those are a whole lotta definitions that haven’t really helped me reach any conclusions. However, I give credit to Papu (as we affectionately call him) for making me think about romance in new and different ways. Feelings, emotions – and the reasons behind them – play an important role as I outline a story. And when I’m writing, I keep Papu’s questions in mind as I take myself, and my characters, on their romantic journey.
Happy Hump Day, everyone!

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6 Comments

  • madeline iva
    January 16, 2013 at 8:46 am

    I’ve never enjoyed the traditional props of romance. Long stemmed, red roses, diamonds, etc — nope. Never done it for me. Give me tulips and dark chocolate covered ginger instead.

    The traditional romantic props are signs and symbols. Red roses = romantic interest in you. But I’ve always found it much more romantic that a suitor is into me. ME specifically, not just my appearance (which is why one-night stands have never done it for me) or his idea of who I might be.

    With really knowing who I am on the inside comes intimacy. And it’s intimacy that makes my heart go pitter-pat. Suddenly all those feelings your father-in-law speaks of come into play. Why? Because with intimacy comes vulnerability–and suddenly something is at stake. To me, that’s where romance begins. I think that’s why so many romance books try to start in a way where someone is caught with her panties down (metaphorically speaking.) Because it’s a way for the hero to see more of who the heroine really is straight off the bat, even if it’s unflattering.

    Meanwhile — candles and poverty. Candles are very flattering, not just to people, but to rooms, and they create a glamorous darkness. You have to be closer to people to speak to them–thus they also work upon creating a sense of intimacy.

    The idea of nobel poverty in Victorian times, is, I would opine, about creating a sense of love that comes from pity. It twists the heart. They are poor, but clean, (like the rain washed streets) and they are trying to stay afloat by selling flowers. It seems that noble poverty had to play a crucial step in accounting for the equalizing of the classes that was happening at the time. (Notice the word ‘noble’.) If the upper classes believed they were upper because they were superior, then they’d have to account for why some of them were falling so hard, and why some of the previously poor were rising so fast. The idea that some poor were ‘deserving’ of greater things because of their noble natures helped to give an explanation for the change going on everywhere. At the same time, mostly women writers were the ones bringing to light (along with Dickens) the horrors of poverty and social injustice, and this too, was bringing about a change in opinion in the public.

    Great post, Elizabeth. Lots to chew on obviously! 😉

    • Elizabeth Shore
      January 16, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      I find it an interesting topic because people often associate romance in a superficial way, but the emotions behind it, and even more so the reasons behind the emotions behind it – intriguing!

  • ellaquinnauthor
    January 16, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    The most romantic thing my husband ever did for me was to draw me a bubble bath, give me a glass of wine, take the baby and do the dishes.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      January 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Sounds pretty darn romantic to me!

  • LizEverly
    January 16, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I just finished reading avery romantic novel that is not a romance. 😉 Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is fabulous!

    • Elizabeth Shore
      January 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Liz, thanks for the tip!

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