Reader, I've been watching some of the films recently that highly encouraged the romantic ideals that formed me as a young un. The Slipper and The Rose, The Princess Bride, Ten Things I Hate About You, Star Wars (shut up, and again, shut up. Hans Solo for the win.). And it made me think-did romantic gestures die out or did they ever exist to begin with?
The thing is, I grew up with really romantic parents. My dad proposed to my mum by taking out a full page ad in the newspaper, and had to wait a week to get a response. She never got an engagement ring, because they were so poor back then, but then years later, at Christmas, he surprised her with the most beautiful bit of bling you ever did see. He brings her flowers on a whim, they go out on dates and she scuba dived and skied for him (things that never caught her interest but that she did because he loved them). Quite often I'll walk in on them laying on the sofa all cuddled up and laughing uproariously at a private joke. They've kept nearly every anniversary card they ever sent to each other and recently my mum told me that whenever she goes out for work evening events or away with friends, she is always thinking about him and can't wait to see him again. They set me this incredible example of what love can be, so my standards are quite high. But is it my standards that are high or the standards of the rest of the world that are low?
I'm at an age now where a lot of my friends are getting engaged, and some of the proposals have taken my breath away. Not because they were the biggest, or the flashiest, but because the proposers knew exactly how their proposees had dreamed it would happen and had managed to outshine whatever they were expecting with their thoughtfulness. Similarly, one of my university friends is with someone who isn't scared to openly say how excited he is to spend the rest of his life with her, who asks her what she'd want out of a marriage and who sacrifices his one holiday to spend it with her family, not because he feels like he should, but because he really wants to. They race home to see each other every evening and sunshine practically gleams out of her when she talks about him.
On the other hand, there's also a chunk of my generation whose love lives are almost exclusively meeting up with people for a quick shag. I was talking to a friend the other day whose romantic life has been purely based around hook ups sourced from the internet, who told me she felt like true romance was dead and that she may as well enjoy herself sexually. She also confided that if she was still doing this when she was thirty she might move to Mexico or have a nervous breakdown, but since she's in her mid twenties she felt like it was still acceptable. Another male friend told me romance was dead, and that I should just get used to it. Big gestures, he told me, just didn't happen any more.
Now, maybe I'm wrong, but when I was growing up, I never wanted my life to be a series of one night stands. I knew that it was unlikely that I'd meet the man of my dreams and have my first kiss with him and then we'd go off to his palace and get married and have lots of perfectly well behaved babies, but I expected to have at least a great deal of romance in my life. Instead, I find myself midway through my twenties, single once more, slightly shellshocked and wondering what happens next. After a break up and some romance disappointments, how do you wind up not being the bitter fairy at the party?
When I first became single again I told my housemate that in order to survive, I had to think of life alone as simply a new life filled with hope to meet the great love of my life, but I think I'd forgotten about all the inbetween bits. The thing is, contrary to fairy stories, true love doesn't just pop up out of nowhere. You meet someone, you become friends, you date, you either want to rip their clothes off straight away or it's more of a slow burner, then love sort of blossoms. And how do I reconcile my dreams of the fairy tale ending with the beginning bits of awkward flirting and not being sure stage of meeting prospective dates? Cinderella certainly never had to put up with this bollocks-although she did have to deal with her only friends being rodents. And there's so much more to consider nowadays! When I was last single and dating (at the tender age of 21), I never bothered worrying about how I would be considered and how I acted in a relationship might affect the velocity of said relationship. I just sort of got on with it. Now I keep getting told that there are all these rules. Be unavailable (not really an issue for me given how crazy my schedule is), let them ask you out, never make the first move, don't be too intimidatingly well dressed (difficult given my wardrobe is almost exclusively 50's dresses and high heels). There's a whole bloody rule book that no one told me about! You're not allowed to just sit on the couch and make out any more, you have to go on proper dates! It's perplexing! And none of the fabulous single women I grew up reading about and watching on the screen are single any more. Carrie has Big. Bridget has kids and a toyboy. Even Jennifer Aniston is engaged. I'm part of this generation of boomerang kids who are all getting engaged and settling down and for the first time in a long while, I'm single, but it seems I'm one of the only ones. Although this does present a couple of nice things. I get to flirt with the gorgeous men that previously I would only dribble at from afar. I get to be a single bridesmaid (always fun, and includes bouquet catching and dancing like a nutter whilst drunk on pimms). If Nicholas Hoult comes knocking, I'll be free for a date (I'll be waiting for that call Nicky boy). I can focus on my acting without feeling guilty. I can eat a tub of Phish Food frozen Yoghurt for dinner and not be told off for it. Christmas is going to be a lot cheaper.
I haven't given up on my belief in true love and romance yet Reader. Even though my happy ending hasn't quite happened yet, I'll go on thinking that anything is possible and being moonstruck at weddings and happy for my loved up friends. Because life is too short to be spent being the bad fairy, especially when you can be the brilliant tea drinking, chicken owning, sparkle wearing fairy godmother in The Slipper and The Rose!