It turns out, romance has everything to do with it.
I have had two Grand Gestures in my life, and both happened in the same month by the same man.
It had been a rocky two-year relationship. I chased, he pushed me away, I tried to leave, he pulled me back. This cycle went on until I couldn’t handle it anymore, and so I ended the relationship for good. He didn’t believe me at first. I remember he laughed a little when I told him it was over. Not in a mean way, but more out of incredulity. “Okay, Red,” he said, with a grin. His laughing made me laugh, and things were so relaxed that afterwards we went and grabbed a bite to eat. Then we went back to his place, had ex-sex, and I left. I remember saying, “Wow, that break-up went way easier than I thought.”
A week later he wanted to talk again, because over the course of the ensuing seven days, he realized that I really had pulled away. This wasn’t one of our fake-ups. This was the real deal. I went to his house and confirmed his suspicious. I remember how angry he was, and how uncomfortable I felt. I was already interested in someone else (It was a rebound but whatevs) and I knew he had his suspicions about it. He started raising his voice. I left.
The fact that we worked together and shared the same circle of friends did not help the situation. I was moving on, feeling free of the yo-yo string he kept me on for so long. It was around Thanksgiving when all of this went down, and pre-break-up I had arranged for a Christmas gift to be delivered to his home. He called me up one night saying I needed to pick it up immediately. I was sick with a cold and asked him if it could wait until I felt better. He said no, and so I drove to his house in my pajamas, feeling shitty and annoyed.
I walked in and he had his living room lit up with Christmas Lights. In another situation it would have been romantic, but my annoyance was at its max and I just wanted to get in and get out. He was dressed nicely, wearing a new button down shirt and his dress shoes. I was pissed, thinking this was his way of letting me know he was about to go on a date in an attempt to arise jealousy in me. “Just give me the dollhouse,” I said, exasperated, my head aching and my nose stuffed and my eyes puffy. He told me to sit down, and he sat across from me. He pulled out an eleven page letter he had written by hand. He proceeded to read it, crying, telling me how much he loved me and how sorry he was. He had a bouquet of a dozen pink roses, which were waiting for me in the other room.
I honestly can’t describe the rush of emotions I felt in that moment. Anger, sadness, surprise, disbelief. I was so overwhelmed. This was all I had wanted from him, and after two years of being made to feel like I would never have his heart, I finally had the strength to walk away, and that finally gave him the strength to fight. I told him no, and walked out to my car. He ran after me, grabbed on to me, crying, and I tried to push him away. Tears were streaming down my face. “Just let me go,” I cried. He sank down to his knees begging me to take him back, telling me he wanted this to end in a ring.
I managed to pull away from him. I got in my car, drove around the corner to an adjacent street out of view of his house, and sobbed. I was devastated, knowing I couldn’t go back, and angry that it took me leaving to make him realize he wanted to be with me. I don’t remember how long I sat there. Minutes? Hours? Eventually, I made my way home.
That was Grand Gesture #1. Grand Gesture #2 came at 11:00 at night a couple of weeks later. I walked out of Outback Steakhouse after my closing shift, smelling like Bloom sauce, my Bushman’s shirt (yes, that’s what OB server shirts are called) was speckled with steak fat stains, I had potato toppings underneath my fingernails, and my face was shiny from sweat and grease. He was waiting by my car. I sighed. “What are you doing?”
He told me this was his last-ditch effort. I sat in the passenger seat of my car, as he knelt beside me and read me a new letter, this one just one page. He promised me the world. He said he would have the means to take me anywhere. Told me I would never have anything to worry about, that he would take care of me. He then pulled out the small gray box. I laughed, not out of cruelty, but because it was a Shane Co. box, and our inside joke was that my ring had to come from Tom Shane. “Mark, don’t…”
He cut me off. “I’m not going to ask, because I know at this point you will say no.” He put the box in my hands. “But you have to take the ring. I’m not going to take it back.” I tried to protest, but he said that either I take it home, or I toss it into the bushes.
Well, shit. “Okay, I’ll take it home,” I said. There was no longer any animosity. Just two people who could never make it work, and the realization how broken we were.
I shivered from the cold, and then it started to hail. We both laughed. “It figures,” he said.
We then said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways. Not for long, as we were never really able to stay apart for more than a couple of weeks, but that is a story for another day.
I share this tale because Grand Gesture #2 is the story I always use as a reason for why I loathe Grand Gestures. I put on my tough girl exterior, telling men that if you feel the need to pull a GG, that means you have screwed up and the relationship is probably already over. “Don’t let it get to that point,” I would warn, “because I won’t want it.”
But I have a dirty little secret to tell. Something that I buried deep down out of shame, bitterness, and resentment. Something that I am now going to reveal to the world.
I LOVE grand gestures.
You read that right. L.O.V.E. It’s time for me to come clean and air this dirty laundry.
During this entire baby/miscarriage/breakup process, the ex has said more than once that he thought about a grand gesture, but he knows I don’t like them. I just nodded my head, feeling the burn in my chest, knowing how much I wanted that from him, but not having the courage to admit it out loud. I was already feeling so vulnerable, and couldn’t bring myself to reveal my true feelings, that I wanted him to pull out the stops to win me back.
Please, please pull a grand gesture my mind pleaded, in futility, to no one but myself.
I need to admit something else about myself that goes hand in hand with the Grand Gesture, something that I like to pretend I have barely any interest in, but the truth is that I am a hopeless romantic.
A hopeless, unbridled, impassioned, romantic.
Perhaps I can blame romantic comedies and television shows, the internet, and/or fashion magazines for feeling like I want to be swept off my feet. The media has indoctrinated me into wanting to be a princess and a Barbie doll and a fashion model and any other symbol of beauty and desire.
I have rebelled against the idea because I don’t want to be a cliché. I tried to cover up my desire for romance by being the “cool girl.” I would make jokes about romance, as if I didn’t give two shits about it. I would say, “I don’t need flowers. Don’t spend money on something that will just die.” I picked this up from my mother, who would look down her nose with disdain at flowers. “I can just grow those. Bring me a bottle of wine instead.”
I artificially adopted that attitude as well, looking smugly at 1-800-flowers advertisements and the pre-made bouquets in the grocery store. Hmmphf. Who needs that?
I need that.
And I realized just how much I need that after finding the Humans of New York Facebook page a few days ago. I was mesmerized, scrolling down through photo after photo, absorbing nuggets of life wisdom like a parched desert wanderer who just found a tangible mirage. When I came to this one I stopped.
And it hit me like a wrecking ball (a Miley Cyrus-free wrecking ball) that this is what I want. I want to be surprised with flowers just because my man saw them and thought about me. I want romance. I want to be taken out on dates. I want to feel wanted and special and desired. I want all those Wee Little Gestures. Love notes, ‘Thinking of You’ texts, donuts on my office desk before I make it into work, kisses on the forehead, homemade breakfast in the morning, and other things that show me I am was on his mind.
And when things go awry, I want the Grand Gestures, too. I want the ending of When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, Sixteen Candles, Dirty Dancing, Pride and Prejudice, Moonstruck.
I know that in most cases, the endings of those movies would never have worked out the same way. Real life ends more like The Break Up, with Vince Vaughn realizing he wants to make things right with Jennifer Aniston, but it’s too late. She cries, and tells him, “I don’t have anything left to give.” And it’s tragic and heartbreaking, because you just want them to work things out. At the very end of the film they run into each other on the street, and the audience is given the distinct feeling that there is still something there between them, and that with the passage of time, they may be able to rekindle their love.
But how often does that happen? What are the chances of you randomly runing into the object of your heart’s desire? And if it does happen, what are the odds that the stars have aligned for you to possibly make it work again? Have they let go of the past? Have you? Has the bitterness and pain been replaced by acceptance and forgiveness? Are you able to move on together with the trust and devotion? Or will one or both of you revert back into their old harmful relationship patterns, and heartbreak will occur all over again?
And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Someone can return and declare their love, but you don’t really know how long it will last. So in order for it to work, the Grand Gesture-er (man or woman, as this is gender neutral) has to have the right motivation behind his or her actions, meaning they aren’t just going after what they can’t have, but that they genuinely want to do the hard work to repair whatever has broken. In return, Grand Gesture-ee must find enough sincerity and faith to allow that person back in his or her life. It takes a lot on both sides, not just swelling music and cute dogs (thanks, You’ve Got Mail) but real, hard, gritty, painful, work to find happiness again. You can never go back to the way things were before. Instead, you move forward and find a new place to be.
In the end, the Grand Gesture isn’t the fix, but rather it’s the declaration that you want to fix it, and the promise that together you will do what needs to be done if real love ever existed. It takes two strong people to fight through the bullshit in order to fall in love all over again. Forgiveness must be given. The past has to be let go. Not just your past together, but whatever baggage you originally brought with you.
Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. –Carl Bard
I have decided that when I re-enter the dating world, I’m going to embrace my romantic side, because it is a part of who I am. I’m going to look for a partner who appreciates giving and receiving gestures of love, big and small. I don’t expect romance all day, every day, but I need it in my life. I need words to be supported by actions. At the end of the day, I just want to feel special and beautiful. I want to know that I am more than just a pretty face with a nice rack to the man in my life.
For now, I’m going to continue to embrace this side of me, and I will keep telling myself that there is someone out there for me, someone who practices romantic gestures, who will treat me right, and who will stay with me when times are hard. Because let’s face it- a person who stays by your side even when you are not at your best, even when things get hard, is pretty damn sexy and romantic. Am I right, ladies and gentleman?
So, a toast to all you singles out there who have romantic hopes and dreams. Embrace it, but stay realistic about it as well. Romance and chivalry are only dead if you believe that to be true. I believe they are alive and well, and I won’t settle for anything less.
Cheers, and until next time ~ B