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Love & Sex
My husband has been going the extra mile lately. We've moved house. I've been stressed. More friends are leaving town to pursue bigger dreams and cities. Work's been hectic. So there have been dinners made, rooms cleaned, boxes unpacked, bubble-baths run, things organised, candles lit, fresh flowers, frequent messages carrying love and kindness - despite days gripped by a season of sparse satisfaction, I've felt nourished, special, and romanced.
And these feelings surf along on warm waves of gratitude. I give thanks. I give praise. But I also ask, 'what would I do if he were me?'
"Simple," he says with a cheeky grin. "Just turn up naked with beer and the football."
He's joking. Isn't he? Don't men want to be romanced as well?
"That would be romantic," the blokes at the office tell me. "That's what men want - we really are that simple."
I find it hard to believe. All this effort, and time, and thoughts about which flowers are favourites, just to show they care, and all men want in return is a bonk, beer and ballgame? Seems a little unbalanced - seems a little limiting.
And it's got me thinking about the apparent differences between men and women, and how they influence the way we're encouraged to behave. Especially when it comes to demonstrating love and affection. Does your gender determine how you romance your lover? Can a man be romanced? And how?
Let's begin with the ladies. We all know women can be romanced. Indeed, to a degree, they expect to be. How do you romance a woman? By doing the things she would do for herself, and some things she would do, but prefers you would. Like buying a beautiful bouquet of new blooms, or baking a cake covered in chocolate kisses. Things that are pleasing - things women know a lot about.
That's because women are taught to please, and to be pleasers. From a young age, women are encouraged to be pleasing to talk to, to be with, and to look at. In part, this is a negative hangover from a patriarchal era encapsulated in the sinisterly laughable Burt Bacharach, Hal David 1963 song 'Wives and Lovers' (Don't think because/there's a ring on your finger/you needn't try anymore). Of course, being pleasing is also a part of being civilised. It's nice to be nice, no matter whether you're a man or a woman.
However, I wonder whether it's harder for a modern woman to figure out how to properly romance a man, and for a modern man to be romanced in a fashion that goes further than flesh, because romance is about doing something that is out of the ordinary, and it's considered more ordinary that women are nice, and pleasing, than men?
This brings us back to the difference between the way men and women are raised. While women are taught to please, men are taught to take. They are encouraged to seize days, seize jobs, seize the world - seize women. Niceness enters into it as a means to an end, not the mode of daily occupation. Perhaps this is where romance comes from - the way a man gets his girl is by being, in a sense, like a girl. By being nice, and pleasing - by giving, not taking.
And perhaps this is why the female response has always been sex. It was, historically, the one thing she had to give back in return.
But times have changed. We've moved past the Bacharach age. Women aren't being wooed for the sake of sex. Men aren't being shagged because they conquered. We have modern relationships made up of partners determined to stand on an equal footing. We have husbands who are keen to please because it's the decent thing to do, not because they're keen to collect sexual favours. We have women who are keen to ravish their men because they enjoy it, not because they want a diamond ring.
Yet there comes a time when a little bit extra goes a long way. There comes a time for romance. As writ, my guy did all the things we normally share responsibility for - housework for example - which meant a lot, as it took a load off my back. But he also expressed his love in other ways - the candles, the hot baths, and so forth. How do I reciprocate that?
"Your time, my love," he'd say. "That's what really counts."
Time... for a weekend away we can both enjoy... in, and out, of bed.
But what do you think? Do you think men have been short-changed in the romance stakes? Do you think women can be romantic, with their clothes on? How do you understand modern romance, and does gender still determine the way it plays out?
- Sydney Morning Herald
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