*everything* that’s considered romantic has been conditioned by society, it’s performative, like the emotion can be genuine but romantic *gestures* are a societal construct, chocolates, flowers, rings, there’s no inherent act of romance, the purest form of what is conceptualized as “romance” can probably be boiled down to emotion + intent, and the manifestation of that combo’s gonna be different for everyone
an action evoked from a feeling of adoration and the need to express it can be constrained by what society provides, but once it’s made irrelevant the meaning becomes tailored to those experiencing it; someone giving fancy chocolates to their s.o. because it’s ‘the thing to do’ can’t measure up to someone giving the chocolates because they know their s.o. thinks the boxes are nice and really likes hazelnut fillings, same gesture, but former lacks ‘inherent’ romance because romance isn’t ‘inherent’, the later has a standard approach but it goes beyond what’s considered ‘romantic’
Hello I am a big fan of Obstinaterixatrix’ Romance Meta and I’m just gonna add to this bc it’s a good post.
I feel like what makes the difference between something being romantic and something being What Society Says Is Romance is the connection between people.
Let’s say two people arrive on my doorstep. One of them has a bouquet of expensive roses from the florist. The other one has a dead bird in a plastic bag. We all know which one is to be considered the romantic gift (hint: it’s not the corpse)
And it’s not like I don’t like flowers or am allergic or anything, I would probably be flattered. But I have no connection to roses, and like, you can give roses to more or less anyone
Dead birds are not a standard gift, for pretty obvious reasons. A person bringing me a corpse in a plastic bag had to know me well enough to know that I collect bones and process them myself, and you don’t go shopping for birds in the Dead Bird Shop around the corner, so that means this person didn’t go out with the intent of getting me something and came back with an Appropriate Gift, they probably stumbled across something and thought about me (this ‘something’ just so happens to be a dead bird, because I’m weird) And then they had to go through the process of picking this bird up and bagging it and bringing it to me, probably pretty spontaneously and without a calendar event that says Find Dead Bird For Raptor with a timeslot between three and four pm.
You can’t have Corpse I Found In a Ditch be romantic without some sort of connection here. Roses can be romantic, but it can also just, be a formula. Two plos Two Equals Romance. A shortcut for ‘I care about you‘, even though the person might …. not, actually.
If it’s someone who loves fresh flowers in their home but rarely has the money to buy large arrangements, or like OP’s example where person A gets the chocolates because they know their s.o. thinks the boxes are super cute, then we have Standard Romantic Actions actually be romantic, but they might as well not be.
This is where my squad has the joke of someone posting a picture of a dead rat to the skype chat and goes ‘Raptor I saw this and thought of you‘ and I go -exaggerated gasping noise- “how dare you blatantly flirt with me right in front of my girlfriend“ from (and also THIS JOKE that bunch of people were confused about).
Because there’s INTEREST and CONNECTION there. They’re obviosuly not actually trying to steal me from my gf, but there is a human connection and a knowledge of who I am and what I want to be associated with.
The humor then comes in from the self-awareness that this could very much be the opposite of a compliment in, like, probably most other situations ever.
So TL;DR: Things can’t be romantic without the connection between people, no matter how ‘inherit‘ people claim the gesture is. However, more or less anything can be a romantic gesture if there’s the right connection and consideration behind it. Taking out the trash can be romantic. Bringing home a dead fox can be romantic. There’s no Romance Shortcuts. You have to actually care about the other person (sorry, Writers Of Like 9 Out Of 10 Mainstream Movies), there’s no way around it.
So basically: Care about each other!! If you’re writing, write characters who care about each other!! And if you don’t know what character A could do for character B, you might wanna look into whether or not you’ve made a Cardboard Love Interest, like I feel many mainstream writers do. But that’s a whooooole ‘nother can of worms.
There’s so many cans of worms.
Oh god there’s so many worms.
I’ve wondered for a long time why so many fictional romances feel forced and this is the exact reason. So many main couples in media only express their love through performative romance.
This is also why a lot of platonic fictional relationships are seen as romantic because for some reason screenwriters have a habit of making friends express their love for each other with actual thought and intent to their actions.
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