Everything in life is a game of risk, and romance is no exception.
I mean, I won’t say I hate it. I don’t.
I just consider it (at least on its own with no other substance to it) completely and utterly senseless.
Flowers, trinkets, and fancy dinners hardly matter when they’re not followed up by proper love, respect, sensibility, and compassion. Romance is not always real, but respect absolutely is.
It has to be. Otherwise, nothing else matters.
I once wrote a poem called “Prick.”
It’s about the simple fact that someone can buy you all the roses in the world, but it doesn’t matter if they’d rather see you bleed.
I know, I know…
“Prick” is angsty, old, and probably belongs in the past.
It’s weathered teen angst at its finest. I 100% get that.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not still important.
I wrote this poem in the Fall of 2018 when I was twenty-three years old, published it just a few months later in my debut poetry collection, and moved on with my life. That should’ve been the end of it.
But it wasn’t.
It came back to haunt me just a few nights ago. Now, here I am a year and a half later and nearly twenty-six years old, sucked back into the vortex of my first collection when I probably should be working on Books No. 7 and 8 instead.
Because my little poem still matters; the romanticization of romance matters because it can also be dangerous — especially for women.
The sinister implications of a love interest bringing me flowers or surprising me with a night out will never leave me. I say this despite the fact that my last major dalliance with romance was a pretty long time ago.
Romance can be beautiful, sure (well, probably). But it can also serve as an avenue for people (mainly men) to manipulate, deceive, gaslight, and abuse others (primarily women).
I know this because it’s been my experience with romance almost every single time someone’s hurled it my way in my life.
It was never just about the flowers or the dinners with these men; it was about imprisoning me, possessing me, brainwashing me, grooming me, keeping me down, reeling me back in every time I nearly acquired the sense, guts, and/or means to leave forever. They could sense it, and they used romance as a tool to shut it down.
Moreover, they knew I wasn’t a romantic, but it still worked anyway because of my tendency to feel guilty and eternally obligated to anyone who treats me well.
These carefully calculated gifts and gestures usually felt suffocating, and I know that was mostly a “me” problem, but I’m also pretty sure romance isn’t supposed to feel so horrible all the time. I know I wasn’t perfect, and I know I still have a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a jolt of discomfort anytime I’m on the receiving end of generous gestures now…
Even when they come from my own parents.
And it’s pathetic.
It’s pathetic that I have to remind myself what an innocent, loving, and considerate act it when my mother surprises me with roses, and that roses, red ones especially, are among my favorite things in the world. It’s pathetic that I have to remind myself to be pleased about roses, of all things.
Roses are literally in the name of my website, my blog, and two of my social media handles (@eyebrowsandroses). They constantly appear in my writing, my visual art, and even on the cover of my aforementioned debut collection, Amaranthine.
For God’s sake, I even have a giant one tattooed right on the back of my neck.
It seems logical to assume that my reaction to receiving roses would be pure, uncomplicated bliss. I should love to receive roses and, in turn, give them, too. It makes perfect sense.
Yet here I am, years later, still writing about the intricacies and terrors of romance. This is despite the fact that I’ve been happily single for a while now and very rarely care to date men these days.
It’s not easy to remove yourself from that mindset when you and your trauma are constantly met by pieces on the Internet about narcissistic lovers, gaslighting, toxic love stories, sociopaths, and the inevitable rise of domestic abuse during the quarantine (like it wasn’t already horrible enough before the pandemic).
Meanwhile, there’s suddenly a woman in my life who inspires me to be better. Yet, I’m still struggling with the thought of getting her a bouquet of flowers when this is all over.
I respect her; it seems she respects me. I like her in the right way; I think she likes me in the right way, too. She loves almost every kind of flower; I mainly love roses and peonies, and know next to nothing about the rest.
She’s a hopeless romantic.
This shouldn’t be a big deal at all, yet I’m making it one.
I might be a little cynical about romance, but I’m also sick of letting my messed up past dictate the terms of my present and future.
Sure, 2020 has been a mess. But it’s a new decade, and it’s up to me to make it something special…
So, the first thing I plan on doing when this quarantine is over is going see my brother and his girlfriend. The second thing I plan on doing?
Buying the girl I like a bouquet of flowers.
Romance can be horrible, but maybe it doesn’t have to be if it stems from the right place and goes hand-in-hand with respect.