“What’s the most romantic thing you’ve done?” I ask my very complicated on-again-off-again guy...
We’re sitting in a local Panera for dinner.
He thought for but a moment and started in on a litany of things he’s done.
“One girl, for our second date, I flew to Tahoe for snowboarding. There was the time I surprised a girlfriend by calling her out of work and took her to Manhattan...” He wasn't done there. “... There was that time I took one girl to Catalina. There was a friend I took to Hawaii, but we never dated or anything, she just mentioned it was romantic!”
I instantly regretted asking. We had been off and on (mostly off) for the last year and a half and we were very recently, slowly reconnecting. I had always been there for him, supported his stupidity, held him during his lows...pleasured him when I probably shouldn’t have...all because I loved him and still do. He loved me too, he said, he just wasn’t ready for “commitment” because he had a lot of damage and baggage.
Granted, he wasn’t wrong. He had been in an emotionally manipulative and abusive relationship. The pain I saw this woman put him through broke my heart in half... Even being out of the toxic mess, for several months, he was learning sad truths about his ex that truly scared him. His work life was no better... Having devoted so much time to his “relationship,” his entrepreneurial spirit had dwindled to the point where he was low on cash AND self-esteem...and there I was, dutifully by his side because...love, I guess?
“What about you, what’s the most romantic thing you’ve done?” He asked.
I was silent for a moment...I wasn’t sure I had done anything romantic for anyone...had anyone ever been romantic to me?
“Oh, let me guess, you’re a woman so it’s the man’s job to do the romantic gestures?” He posed.
I was embarrassed but I responded... “No, it’s not that,” I hesitated, heat rose to my cheeks. “I just, have never had a chance for me to do a grand gesture, and no one has tried to be romantic with me, to be honest.”
Not even you, I thought. My heart sank right there.
It wasn’t for lack of wanting, of course, I wanted to be romanced, whisked away, taken someone beautiful... In my 26 years of life, growing up in a strict Christian home, and being from a tight-knit family, I just never had the chance. I was always told to be a “good girl” and wait for God’s timing. Even after moving out at 23, it proved difficult to find love, even though I was no longer under anyone’s rules.
The embarrassment I felt gave way to sadness, I knew why the man I was with hadn’t been able to do a big romantic gesture... He didn’t have the money... Though I wondered if he did, would he? I thought about the emotional damage he truly had... Would he ever be okay enough to try and be better with me?
I wish I could say everything worked out. I cannot say that because I am still navigating this question. As innocuous as it seemed, it was so heavily loaded. I know I deserve to be romanced and so does this guy. The question at hand is will he move toward healing so we can try...? Or will I move on and find the guy who will?