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romance is no answer
2004-04-08 - 2:10 a.m.

Had a conversation with idontexist last night which set me thinking about romance. I have mixed feelings about it because she said to me, everyone is a romantic person. I wasn't sure whether or not I was, but she said, no, everyone is.


And later I thought, believing in romance is like believing in Santa Claus. Everyone starts out that way, but then you see how it's done, you see the actions that produce the illusion, and then it's gone and you can never take it seriously again.


Then I changed my mind. She's right, I thought, everyone believes in romance, it's just that they believe in it at different levels. When you go through that first romance, that first beautiful, happy, blissful love affair, and then have it turn to ashes in your mouth, you stop believing in Santa Claus... but, with time, you find that you still believe in the possibility of something. You realise that love doesn't need perfection, that you don't need perfect moments, or that perfection comes and goes, is fitfully transient...


I don't know if this is right, but it occurred to me that maybe we all go through these failed love affairs because we need to find the version of romance that won't collapse under the weight of reality. Maybe some people never leave that first layer... their touch on the world is light enough that they can live in the fairy-floss world of Santa-Claus romance. But for the rest of us... each layer that we tear through on our way down is another step towards the layer that won't give way beneath us, that will be tough enough to survive the kind of love we need and are able to give... but it's still a vision of romance, no matter how bitterly it's been won, no matter how many disappointments you go through on your way to getting there.


I'll give you an example. An argument or near-argument between me and the ex. I was talking about monogamy and I said something like, I used to believe that monogamy was a reprehensible throwback to outmoded tradition, but now I think I've realised that polyamory isn't workable in practice; monogamy is workable, it's much more practical. And she said back, did you just say that you're only monogamous with me because it's practical? And then, before I could answer, she said something dismissive, I can't remember the exact words, but it was something like, you know, silly boys and their crazy ideas.


The thing is, I think I'd offended her because she thought that what I was saying wasn't very "romantic". Because she still had a very... this probably sounds patronising, but a very hollywood kind of idea of romance, I think. A very Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts movie idea of romance. But what she didn't realise was that I was trying to be romantic... because the way that I saw it, saying "being with you is what works best, and though I might want to be unfaithful sometimes, I don't believe it would make me happier than I am being faithful to you" actually was a romantic thing to say. I was trying to talk about the way that love works in reality... where she wanted love that had nothing to do with mundane reality... as though the two could somehow be kept separate.


Bah. It's not fair for me to write about her like this, she can't answer back. Maybe she'd have a different perspective on that conversation... if she even remembered it now. We've been apart for longer than we were togther. Isn't it always the way? The echoes of a relationship seem to hang in the air much longer than the duration of the relationship itself...


"Romance is no answer

And a candle can't conquer dark

And in England a Valentine

Is signed with a question mark

They're saying, guess who?

But also, who knows?

Those ambivalent brits

Their soft lower lip shows" - Loudon Wainwright III

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