My husband Tom once accused me of being unromantic. As much as I hate to admit it, I think he might be right.
It’s ironic, too, because I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy, even the cheesy ones that get rerun on cable stations. I’ll watch them over and over and enjoy it every time. And a romantic novel? I’ll stay up way too late reading those, too.
But when it comes to real life, I’m more practical. One time in college, a friend told me about her date during which the guy sang to her and read a love poem he’d written. The other girls listening to this story swooned over how amazing it must have been. I, on the other hand, was thinking “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Had I been in her shoes, I would have smiled politely and silently prayed for the earth to open up and swallow me whole.
Maybe it’s just me. I’m easily embarrassed. Growing up, my parents were not at all “gushy.” Even the small church where we attended was incredibly stoic. If a person in the congregation said a spontaneous “Amen” during the sermon, we’d all remember it as a particularly rowdy Sunday.
Regardless of whether it was nature or nurture that made me this way, I sometimes wonder if Tom wishes he’d married someone who appreciates things like rose petals on the bed. If petals ever showed up on my bed, I’d immediately think “Who’s going to clean this up? I bet this would clog up the Dust Buster.”
I like romance in subtle, small doses, like a protective hand on the small of my back as we navigate through a crowd. Or an inside joke only we understand. Even the most mundane, daily chore can be endearing. Ask any woman over the age of 30 what she thinks of a man who voluntarily folds or hangs up the laundry before it gets wrinkled, and she’ll tell you he’s hot. Smokin’ hot.
When Tom and I were newlyweds, we’d sometimes notice an older couple sitting in a restaurant, not talking to each other. We’d comment on how sad it was, wondering if their relationship had gone so stale that there was nothing left to say besides “Pass the salt.” But now, having been married for more than 17 years, we know there’s more to the story.
Sometimes you grow to know each other so well that you instinctively sense what the other is thinking. A single glance tells a whole story. A well-timed smirk delivers the punch line. You laugh even though no one said a word. When you reach that point, you don’t need much chit chat because you’ve learned the difference between awkward pauses and comfortable silence.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing bad about being in love and shouting it from the rooftops in grand romantic fashion. For some couples, that’s exactly what feels natural.
But for others, there will be no rooftop shouting or viral videos. In fact, some of the best love stories are the ones you won’t hear about – the kind of relationships that don’t need validation from acquaintances on Facebook. They’re not showy, but they’re solid. The two people who share the bond might be the only ones who know just how special it really is.
In a world where everything is documented, posted, tweeted and “liked,” that might seem like some sort of sad failure. But in my humble opinion, that kind of private connection is refreshing, extraordinary, and – dare I say it – romantic.
From my heart to yours, Happy Valentine’s Day.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.