From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul

Romance Isn’t Always Roses—
Sometimes It’s Mulch

I’m easy prey for advertisers. As soon as the soft blur cuts across my television screen with the familiar diamond merchandising logo I glance balefully at my left hand. No sparkling solitaire there. Diamonds may be forever, but for me it’s a plain band of gold.

Perfume commercials provoke dreams of swirling in chiffon, waltzing on terraces and gazing out across an azure sea. I drool over lingerie catalogues; the more Victorian lace and slinky silk I see, the more convinced I become that women in expensive negligees are more beloved than ladies in flannel. I’m definitely flannel clad most evenings and attired in painted, splattered sweatpants during the day.

I devour romance novels, and it’s the romance that lures me. I sometimes even skip the sex scenes to get to the “good part”—the part where the hero tells the heroine how unique she is, how her humor, vulnerability, independence, sensitivity, strength or (fill in any other quality) draw him to her side. I especially love the authors who spark their love scenes with witty dialogue, clever Noel Cowardish banter far removed from, “Do you need anything at the grocery store?” or “I’ve got to fix that toilet.”

When my helpful computer pops up Internet ads for flowers, I press my nose to the screen. When I surf into spots advertising bed-and-breakfast inns with in-room Jacuzzis, fresh flowers and chilled champagne, nasty demons of resentment swirl through my head.

I forget that I don’t even like champagne. I can convince myself that I’m not loved, and that is so far from the truth. Outside my window are hundreds of roses, their spring-borne scent filling the evening air. My wealth of blossoms thrive in raised flowerbeds that my husband built, their roots protected by mulch he makes from autumn leaves. Hollyhocks and hibiscus line the fence he put around the yard to protect the tiny beagle I wanted for our son. We’d negotiated with our kid—a dog in return for improved grades. The report card wasn’t up to par, but I thought that every dog needs a boy. It wasn’t my labor that put up the fence. I didn’t drive fifty miles out of town to find the perfect puppy. Yet I was the one that wanted it to happen. That’s worth a bit more than a waltz on the deck of a cruise ship with a few hundred strangers.

My husband doesn’t waltz. He fixes the shower ceiling, takes out the trash, checks the oil in my car and goes to the grocery store.

We’ve never spent a night in a bed-and-breakfast touting fresh-baked cookies on your own private terrace. We’ve backpacked through Europe staying in inexpensive pensions with the bathroom down the hall. We’ll never have luxury, but we’ll always have Paris—usually on frequent flyer miles.

About that diamond? I’m married to a man who wouldn’t blink if I took “my money” and bought a diamond. So while I succumb for an instant to the image of the romantic hero presenting the smiling heroine with a glittering jewel, I value the space in my marriage.

I can spend hundreds of dollars on my hobbies. Buy fourteen pairs of black shoes or spring for weekly facials. He would never say a word. I’m married but completely free to do what I please and be who I am. It really is me that slides my feet into scruffy tennis shoes instead of high-heeled slippers. I laze around in flannel instead of dolling up in satin. Romantic dreams are a longing for appreciation.

Years ago a wise woman told me that, “He treats you like you’re made of fine china. That wears well.” Indeed it does.

Is romance roses? It can be, if you like pruning and mulching. Is it cruises under the stars? Well, we both get seasick. Romance is not in photo-op moments, it’s in the day-to-day kindness that makes life comfortable. Is romance candlelit dinners with hovering waiters? My husband does a super stir-fry.

I need to turn off the television and put down the novel. I have all the romance I need.

Diane Goldberg

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