Beyond Grand Gestures
Scientists were baffled. Theories abounded: it was due to electrical charges from rogue solar flares; to cold fronts thawed by heat waves; to the cross-pollination efforts of some very busy bees. Yet there was no consensus, no logical and rational explanation for that illogical and irrational event that came to be known as ‘The Day of Romance.’
“It’s A Pandemic!” screamed newspaper headlines. “Love Flu Affects Billions!”
In the United States Senate, a heated debate on immigration ended when Harry Reid, slamming down his gavel, said, “Let’s stop dancing around the issue and just start dancing!”
Piped-in Latin music and a bubble machine turned the Capitol Building into a dance hall and senators swept up one another in their arms, mindful not to criticize any lack of rhythm or clumsy footwork. In a rare, unanimous vote, the Democrat Barbara Boxer and the Republican Saxby Chambliss won the title, ‘Best Dancers’ thanks to their soulful Tango and provocative Cha-Cha.
Odd things were happening in Hollywood too, as was evident in this phone conversation between two studio heads.
“How’s about we put a moratorium on all these comic-book-inspired-special-effects-extravaganzas,” said Paramount’s chief, “and make movies about real people doing truly wild and crazy things, like falling in love?”
“You won’t believe it,” said Sony’s top gun, “but I just cancelled production on ‘SuperMan vs. Spider Man vs. Iron Man!’ Instead I’m throwing millions into this sweet little sequel called, ‘When Sally Left Harry…And What He Did To Get Her Back.’”
A blue ribbon panel of doctors and nutritionists urged daily readings of Emily Dickinson as well as second helpings of red wine and chocolate for optimum heart health.
Around the world, rose petals were strewn on mattresses, on tatami mats, on beach hammocks. Balladeers, strumming guitars, mandolins and sitars were hired to stand under balconies from Des Moines to Dubai, serenading loved ones. Untold diamond rings sparkled on the bottom of champagne glasses and just as many small planes were hired to fly banners reading, “Pierre aime Sandrine!” or ‘Horst liebt Hildegaard!’
But of course, it couldn’t last longer than twenty-four hours.
Big dramatic gestures – what many people consider the hallmark of romance — are like the effervescence in sparkling water, ultimately unsustainable. It’s the tap water, the regular, day-to-day stuff that quenches the real thirst.
My mother, widowed at sixty-two, told me that what she missed most about my dad were the little things; the way he’d drape her coat around her shoulders, the way he’d sit at the window waiting for her when she worked late; the way, when she started to go grey, he’d shampoo in her hair color. And how, after all their years together, he’d still call her, ‘my girl.’
It’s the same with my own husband; it seems the real romance is in the small, kind gesture, repeated again and again. The garden bouquets he makes me every summer. The dumb stuff we do together, like read movie credits backwards, or bet on how much time is left in the parking meter at the dog park. Our private jokes. (My husband will look deeply, lovingly in my eyes and say, ‘You are so beautiful,’ only he says it with an odd little accent so ‘beautiful’ sounds like ‘pitiful.’ It makes me laugh every time.)
Rose petals strewn across our California King? Nah; they’d probably stain. A diamond ring in my champagne? No doubt it’d chip my tooth. And all the fuel needed to get that bannered airplane up? Uh-uh; wouldn’t be environmentally conscious.
So here’s to those small gestures that add up to real romance…although I’d love to see our Senators taking the occasional dance break.
Questions for the Author:
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
A friend gave me a beer stein too heavy and ugly to drink out of (the face of a Norwegian goddess leers on the front of it, and her wild hair twirls around the handle). So I use it as a pencil holder.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
‘Hey Man, We’re All in This Together!’ (It would be an uplifting, heart-breaking, soul-searching, mind-bending docu-drama/romantic comedy about luck, feminism, adventure and belief in self and the world, when self and the world doesn’t seem to particularly care.)
Who would play me? A young, blonde Claudia Cardinale and an old, grizzled Max Von Sydow.
What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
My Aunt Orpha gave me a packet of letters my mother had written her, including the one she wrote from the hospital a day after I was born. The beginning sentence is, “I finally got my girl!” And of course, all the lumpy clay dogs, smeared drawings and Mother’s Day cards my daughters have made me.
If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)
Hmmm, it might be the scene in ‘The Tall Pine Polka’ where Fenny and Big Bill marry in the desert and he makes a ring for her out of a desert flower. I always say I don’t like to write autobiographically – for me the fun is making things up – but there are occasions when I’ve lifted things out of my real life and put them in my novels. This is one of them.
My husband and I married out in the Mohave and my wedding ring was one he fashioned out of a yellow desert flower.
As a reader, I find romance in all books in which the writer is in love with her material and creates a full, deep world. F or example, ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett.
Lorna is generously donating one copy of Desperate Housewives Eating Bon Bons and one copy of Oh My Stars to give away (U.S. only, apologies to international readers.) To enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both. (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.) Comment entries must be posted by midnight EST Aug 6 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
Lorna Landvik is the author of nine novels, including the best-selling, ‘Patty Jane’s House of Curl,’ ‘Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons’ and ‘Oh My Stars.’ You are cordially invited to ‘like’ her Author page on Facebook, or just like her in general.