Isn’t It Romantic?

by Valerie Nusbaum

“Randy, when you have a few minutes I have a couple of questions for you,” I called to my dear husband.

He walked slowly into my studio where I was doing some cleaning up, and he sheepishly asked, “What is it you think I did?”

“Nothing. Did you do something? Oh, never mind. I need to know what you’d consider the perfect romantic evening.”

He made that face—the one that’s a cross between fear and smelling something awful—and replied, “I don’t know. You can’t just hit a guy with a question like that and expect the right answer.”

I assured him that there are no “right” answers to the question. I simply wanted his opinion, and I urged him to say the first thing that came to his mind.

He thought about it for a minute and told me that his perfect romantic evening would start with dinner at home, preferably nothing garlicky and no raw onions, and also nothing that causes gas. He asked why I wanted to know. I replied that I was doing some research.

“For a column? Or are you planning to romance me?” he asked, and he did that thing where he wiggles his eyebrows, which is silly because that always makes his head hurt.

I pointed out that dinner at home would be fine as long as I didn’t have to do the cooking. It’s not that I mind cooking a nice meal for Randy. I do it all the time, but we women sometimes like to enjoy a meal that someone else has prepared. Right, ladies?

In my research, I really was just trying to get a handle on how we look at romance and what we find romantic. Do men view romance differently from women? Do men even know what romance is, or do they care, for that matter?

For me, something as simple as Randy leaving me a note beside my teacup in the morning is romantic. He fills my tank with gas without being asked. If he sees that I’m cold, he gets a blanket for me. It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture, although, just once, one of those would be really nice, too. I explained all that and Randy asked what I meant by “grand gesture.” I said, “A weekend in a luxury suite in a posh hotel or a trip to Paris, big pieces of jewelry or dozens of roses—things like that.”

He replied, “I did that whole luxury suite thing, remember? And it didn’t go well.” He’s correct. It wasn’t great, but mainly because we’d heard about the hotel/resort from Randy’s former boss and the place turned out to be not all that luxurious. Plus, I knew about the trip from the start. It wasn’t a surprise and grand gestures are supposed to take one by surprise.

“You don’t like surprises. You don’t handle them well at all.” He’s right about that, too.  It’s just that we women get tired of having to tell our men what we want. Why can’t they figure it out on their own? I know Randy isn’t a mind-reader, but he lives with me and sees me every day, so shouldn’t he know what I like and don’t like? Granted, if I tell him what I want and am very specific about it, I usually get exactly the present I’m looking for, but it’s not a surprise. Oh, I pretend that it is. We women all do that, don’t we?  Wouldn’t it be nice just once not to have to go through all those machinations to get “the gift”? In truth, Randy has surprised me with really great things over the years, and he’s come up with good ideas on his own. I’m one of the lucky ones because I have a man who makes the effort. He just isn’t always sure what he’s looking for or why he’s doing it.

I, on the other hand, am like a dog with a bone. I hear Randy say he wants or needs something, or would like to do something, and I look for it until I find it. I like a challenge.  He has to be careful around me, because sometimes he makes a joke and ends up with a pair of black satin shorty pajamas. Oh, yeah, I found those babies and he wore them.

Sometimes, I get it right without meaning to. For Christmas, I wore myself out shopping and wrapping and trying to find things that would make Randy’s face light up. It turned out that the gift he liked best was the little slot machine bank I’d bought on impulse as a joke. I got the beautiful necklace that I’d described and asked for.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Randy is right. It makes sense for us to plan trips together and to discuss buying tickets to concerts and plays, because we don’t always know how the other is feeling. OK, I know how he’s feeling and what he’s thinking, but he can’t read my mind. We’ve already established that. It’s usually a good idea for us to choose a restaurant together, too. Please don’t tell him that I said he was right. That would really put a damper on the romance.

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