- A Little Sisterly Advice
- Cheeky Reads
- DRD aka Donna's Blog
- Gunner Marnee's Blog
- J.K. Coi: Living with Immortals
- Just Janga
- Killer Fiction
- Kimberly Killion
- Maggie Robinson
- Maureen O. Betita
- Megan Kelly
- Pam Clare
- Renee Lynn Scott
- Romance Bandits
- Romance Dish
- Scapegoat's Blogspot
- Smartass Romance
- Terri Osburn Writes Romance
- Tessa Dare
- Vauxhall Vixens
- 2013 (161)
- 2012 (206)
- 2011 (237)
- 2010 (325)
- 2009 (307)
- 2008 (254)
- 2007 (66)
I've always been burdened with high expectations.
When I was little, they implemented that policy where students were to bring all the students in the class a card, whether they liked them or not. Politically correct Valentine's. Thus I was the recipient of relunctant valentines like, “You’re a good friend” or “You’re a little special I guess” spoken by lame cartoon characters like Tweety Bird. When I was 7, I didn't notice this trend so much; but by 6th grade, I was so aware of my lack of loveability on the valentine scale. I would stare at my heart's crush's valentine and try to read a seething passion beneath the banality of the "You're sweet" written there.
But everyone knows that "You're sweet" is the kiss of death in Valentine speak. I might as well have been told I had a nice personality.
Things did not improve with age. In high school, the height, breadth, and depth of my teenage love and angst, I was madly in love with a player of the basketball team. (The same crush from 6th grade. You couldn't doubt my loyalty.) FFA used to sell Valentine cupcakes for .50 apiece, and you could do it secretly. And what better way to win a guy than through his stomach right? Only I wasn’t the only one with a “secret crush” on Jay-Bird, and by the time Valentine’s had passed, it was a wonder he hadn’t gained twenty pounds. My .50 cupcakes never won him over, as you might have guessed.
My expectations sufficiently dashed in high school—and the 1% left for college, rubbed out in the first year—I have arrived to my thirties with a much lower expectation of the holiday. Actually no expectations. And when I see the decorations rolled out in December, I wear a perpetual sneer until the day passes and I see the candy marked 70% off, which I then buy for myself. I do gain twenty pounds. Now the sneering, negative expectations, and twenty pounds probably contributes to my lack of valentines, I may concede, but honestly, most of my married and dating friends aren’t faring much better.
And quite honestly, I’ve seen men at Christmas shopping, and they’re worse on Valentine’s Day. Women think about Valentine’s Day around December when those damned decorations are rolled out. Men think about it in the gas station line on V-Day, while glancing at the wall calendar and going, “Shit, is it Valentine’s Day today? She’s going to be pissed. Quick, what can I buy her here?” Upon glancing about the store, he arrives at this obvious choice. God help the man I’m dating if he ever hands me one of these nifty little things. Nothing says “Shit, I forgot” like polyester underwear rolled into a ball and stuck on a stick.
Okay, there was that one year I was dating the gay ex-boyfriend; and he went the whole shebang on Valentine’s. I got dinner; flowers, six boxes of chocolate; a present; and a card. I did not get any sex the whole time we dated, though, so I still didn’t enjoy that Valentine’s quite as much as I thought I would. Which goes to prove that there is no pleasing some women.
Kidding. Actually it made me think: I had every trapping of romance I’d been expecting, but I still didn’t feel loved. (I’m going to get a lot of emails about how sex does not mean you’re loved, aren’t I? You know what I mean. There’s just something about having a guy who acts like he constantly wants to take your clothes off that makes you feel, well, a little bit desirable. And less like this woman. And believe me, opening every box of chocolate that day sorta made me feel, “He so doesn’t want to see you naked.”)
I think that’s what it’s all about in the end, isn’t it? It’s not necessarily the romantic gesture—which doesn’t have to be flowers or diamonds or dinner at an overpriced restaurant—but the fact that I feel loved. Desired. Cared about.
A guy who will come and get me at three in the morning and change my flat tire, without fuss—that’s love. That’s a romantic gesture I’m looking for. Anybody can get candy.
A guy who can’t bear to see me cry who makes me laugh again—or better yet, just lets me cry on his shoulder until I’m done, and doesn’t tell me he thinks I’m a complete lunatic because I’m weeping over Budweiser commercials—that’s love. I can buy my own damned flowers.
A guy that greets me at the door when I come home from the gym and treats me to a round of against the wall lovemaking that would make the lovers from The Notebook envious. That’s what I want. You can keep your panties on a stick, Phillips 66, I have the real deal.
Now that I’ve gotten my 800-word rant about Panties on a Stick out of the way and done my public service announcement for all the men out there (“No panties on sticks!”), what the hell does this have to do with writing? Everything. The hot sex in books is great. I’m glad we’ve pushed boundaries; I’m glad of all the hot sex, I am. (Did you read the part above about the gay ex? Okay.) But I find more and more books are cutting to the sex and forgetting the Romantic Gesture. You know, the flat tire one. (Okay, there are lots of wall-lovemaking, but no other gestures.) And I’ve noticed we’ve been jumping into bed with our heroes a lot sooner. I mean, what happened to the good old days when we used to wait 15 years before we gave in? Sexual tension is an awesome thing.
I think one of my favorite Romantic Gestures or “What I Did For Love” moments in a novel was Whisper of Roses. The heroine is injured in a riding accident and can’t walk. She refuses to be a burden to her husband and has her parents take her home, saying mean and nasty things to her husband so he won’t miss her. (Hers is not the Romantic Gesture.) She doesn’t walk; she doesn’t try—and she grows meaner and more bitter, and also more fragile and sad. Her husband comes back into her life and nags the crap out of her. Dumps her out of her wheelchair. Flashes her legs to half of London at a dance party. Torments and teases her. And she ends up walking again. Of course, those two nearly blow it again with a Black Moment that outdoes the “I won’t be a burden to my husband” moment, but my goodness, what a nailbiter. And how romantic! I mean, he helped her get her spirit back, her ability to walk. When I’m sick, I can’t get a man to nuke me a can of chicken soup. But if I did, I’d brag about it.
And I want the same thing in my books. I haven't thought of anything truly brilliant for Adam and Eve yet. But then I haven't written far enough into the book. I suppose Ben’s big gesture (in Girl on the Grecian Urn) is that he steps in front of the bullet. But I was equally fond of the way he’d show up and bring ice cream for no reason; how he’d come again to the apartment even after they fought (didn’t hold a grudge); how he thought all that costume making was probably a little Martha Stewarty, but she was still sexy as hell. And the boy was a talker. He rarely brought gifts, but he was never without that silver tongue of his.
So. Unload here. What are your expectations for this Valentine’s? What are you hoping you’re not getting this year? What are some of your favorite romantic gestures in literature, or best romantic lines? Anything you’ve written in the romantic gesture category you want to share, or real life stories to share?