The irony of it all is that I love romancey chick-lit'ish movies, I dig the occasional romance novel (Jennifer Crusie), and I like relationships even though I'm not in one (and I'm not good at them). But, I don't do romance. Romance, in the traditional hearts and flowers and candles way, makes me uncomfortable and giggly. Giggly in an awkward I-can't-keep-a-straight-face way. It all sounds very good on paper...in a novel someone else wrote or a movie that someone else produced...but when it comes to putting romance into action, I fall short. I cook special dinners, I say nice things, but when the sap is aimed at me, there are problems. One reason I detest Valentine's Day, and sappy romance in general, is the conventionality of it. Sure, it's nice to get a card and some roses, but it's all so standardized. Some of the most romantic things that have ever been pointed in my direction were unconventional, tailored, and that makes me swoon. I'm also not a huge fan of "things." Things from the heart are special....the obligatory cheesey card is not.
My friend Paul used to send me little dinky surprises in the mail. Mix tapes, letters, a book on soccer once (just to share because he loved soccer). On my 22nd birthday, in the throes of my Dave Matthews Band obsession, he sent a gawd awful tie-died Dave Matthews shirt, circa 1996. His favorite Dave shirt, as a matter of fact. I had pictures of him in it, he was usually wearing it when we talked, and he sent it to me so I'd feel closer to him. I almost cried when I got it. It was worn and really really ugly, but it was his.
He wrote a song for me once. Actually, what made it so special was the fact that it was a song about me more than for me. I was going through a tough breakup and feeling very lost and lonely. I sent a long, pensive e-mail one night, and a few days later he'd taken my words and woven them into a gorgeous song. I have it stashed in a journal and pull it out occasonionally to take a gander.
My friend Jeff said something to me years ago that still sticks. It's the first thing that comes to mind when I think of all the sweet things anyone has ever said to me...."I hate that you know what 10:30 feels like before I do."
And perhaps the best way to ask a girl out...when I was a sophomore in high school a junior asked me to his prom with the following question: "So, when are you going to ask me to prom?" Just the right balance of awkward and hopeful.