Everything is relative. When we look back at “romance” we look back with rose tinted glasses. No mention of women as property, no mention of all the people who never had a chance to find love, but only to find like, no chance to figure out their sexual interests or if they matched. For many black people in America, until recent history showing public affection was seen as inappropriate, our love and affection constantly equaled sex. Recently I spoke to a gay male friend of mine and we agreed that so many people see him kiss his boyfriend or hold his hand and immediately think of intercourse. Years ago the same acts were associated with people who looked like me because we were inherently sexual and sexualized in the common narrative. Kissing was indecent and making yourself a target. Let’s not forget the many who had no choice in who they loved or whether they could leave or go. Many things have changed and to say the old way or the new way was better across the board is a bit myopic. Today people have a lot of choice and perhaps we abuse or misuse it to a certain degree, depending how you measure. Maybe we focus too much on “happiness” and not on “contentment” like eastern cultures and how every culture used to.
Sex has become a gimmick to things. Commercials, movies, and yes Undressed or Sex Sent Me to the E.R on TLC all treat sex like some novelty and not a point of fabulous exploration and raw human experience, if not connection. Meanwhile romance is something defined by whoever feels they have the best definition at a given time. For generations now people have been bemoaning the death of romance as technology, free love, and sexual freedom have become more normalized in western society. It can’t be denied that some things have been sacrificed in the face of technological ease and connection. I can’t be denied that plenty avoid romance by swiping to sex and seducing…even lying for it in ways that’d be unimaginable decades ago. Still we cannot say what has changed the fundamental concept of romance except people’s attitudes:
Women have options now that women 40, 50, 60 years ago did not.
More people travel constantly and often, moving from place to place, making it harder to find connections at all let alone love.
Because of people exploring more and experiencing more they require more attention to those who can understand or be willing to understand that fact.
Divorce isn’t as frowned upon, and perhaps this is not so beneficial in some ways. Why? So many people pine for the ideal romance, partner, and relationship without realizing in the old days you had to make do. So many ignore or destroy good things in search of a perfection that will never and can never exist. We say “Don’t ever settle”, but then never want to admit that if you want certain things you have to settle. You have to accept another human being for all their good points and bad whether you love them or hate those points if you want to be with them. You have every single right to say “No”, but we have this real problem now of saying “Never settle” and in the same breath saying “You you need to have a “real” reason to reject someone”. If you can’t deal with someone’s issues or if you don’t want what they do a lot of times you become the bad guy even as you’re told to not settle for what you can’t stand. What we need is contentment in our romance. Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is a moment of time, but contentment occurs even in unrest, it is the willingness to say “I am fine with this relationship and situation, and enjoy the continuance of it” instead of “I want to just constantly stay happy and the moment I’m not everything is wrong”. Very technical I know, but I’m being technical so you can see the difference.
Years ago if you got divorced some people wouldn’t give you the time of day….and at the same time plenty of people engage in aimless sex and wake up wondering why they feel used. How we talk about sex and romance is so limited, so driven by structures and intentions we can’t even see because they’re “normal” to each generation. Romance evolves and changes, and we need to evolve and change with it. Does that mean romance is dead? Did it in the 1960s? 1920? 1990s? I think not…but it does change in ways big and small…but everyone’s relationship and romantic views differ.
I kissed on the first date. I had my first kiss when I almost had my first…everything else. I am a libidinous woman, but I love holding hands on long walks. My lover brings me flowers sometimes. Other times he greets me with a hug so fierce my back pops and all I can do is laugh. We met on OKCupid which still shocks people and even disgusts some. The internet isn’t real to them. It is this technological thing separate from life when it is really interwoven in a lot that we do. I’ve met some of my most important connections that way. Some I’ve known almost a decade if not more, and that is more than most “friends” I’ve spent time with in the same room. My view of technology is human centered. It isn’t simply a tool, but a process dependent on quality human interaction, use, connection. The internet would be nothing if we couldn’t send pictures or messages about our kids, pets, and family that could make people feel something! Anything. I spent way too much time online as a teenager…but I had more friends over private messanger and on video game servers than in real life. I had more romantic overtures there by shy peopl who liked my spark and my ability to listen than in the small pool of bullies, anti-black people(which includes other black people btw), and small mindednes I was surrounded with in my school and county. Was that good? For personal growth yes, and I know I am not some unique case. People find ways to connect however they can.
As humanity has grown and changed we have adapted new ways of connecting. Perhaps we’ve lost others that were uniquely valuable. We should continue to praise and teach that value. A love letter can mean more than one ever realizes. I gave my lover a homemade birthday card a few months after we started dating and he told me he takes it out every now and again when he feels alone or depressed. We can also text, and do, every morning and night when we’re too tired to talk with words. Monday we spent the evening making a delicious fondue with a recipe we found highly rated online, and it came out great because people shared their tips and tricks. We had an awesome date because of that.. Technology, sex, romance, and humanity…we’re still figuring those things out. Heck we’re just now acknowledging all the people in the world who don’t have sexual urges, who don’t see someone and go “I wish I could kiss them”. We figure these things out as we go. It is the only thing we can do, but to bemoan the death of romance is to ignore all the new ways it manifests for different people and all the ways people still hold tight to old ways.
Romance is in the hands of those who want it.
It is not a series of specific acts or actions.
It is a series of acts or actions specific in the intent and meaning of those engaged in them.
Playing video games with a lover seems horrid to some and like paradise to others.
Going out to some stuffy restaurant is uncomfortable to some and a dream to others.
Walking along the lake seems like pointlessness to others and heaven to some.
We cannot guess the realms of love, or limit them for others with measures that cannot possibly capture the ranges of expression.
Inspired by this nice little post Is Romance Dead? Though I obviously disagree with some points I think it is an important viewpoint and read and consider.
Also if you’re interested in random comics stuff and why I posted so many old Romance Comics…I’m an avid collector.
I highly recommend checking out Sequential Crush an online archive and analysis of girls romance comics that explores any and all facts and details of these protoypical romance stories in away that is entertaining, personal, and quite frankly fascinating. I’ve been a long time fan of the site and think they do a lot for preserving an often over looked part of the romance genre. The runner of the site is the granddaughter of Green Lantern creator Martin Nodell, and she does more than live up to the family legacy by offering unique takes that really have helped me understand romance better from a perspective I didn’t know about until reading more.
If you’re interested in comics in general check out this fascinating read too:
I Used To Sell You Comics: Kids Love Comics (And how that makes comics better for everybody)