I’ll get right to it. I consider myself an over-romanticizer. I spend a fair amount of time imagining what an “ideal” love would look and feel like. I’ve even gone as far as to start writing (shitty) poetry to capture a vignette here and there. Kind of a keepsake, should I ever fall out of love with the idea of love.
I’m talking about the kind of relationship where two people are so deeply intertwined, seemingly on a cosmic level, that nothing could tear them apart.
Now, is this kind of fantasizing just an exercise in self-torture and ultimately future sabotage, or can something like that exist or be sustained? Finding it is a different animal. I’d be content for a while just believing it could happen, honestly.
Romeo, 26, Indiana
I applaud you for being a dude these days who is not simply looking for someone to lick your balls three times a week and exchange funny texts with but never go out in public together on a real date. That is a rare thing! Deeply intertwined cosmic love? That’s a tall order, bruh. Do you want a girlfriend or a muse?
That said, I can think of an example of the kind of love you describe. Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) in the Blockbuster hit Titanic, which my older sister saw 31 times in the theater in 1997, would absolutely meet your standards as a couple “so deeply intertwined, seemingly on a cosmic level, that nothing could tear them apart.”
They have everything against them and everything for them simultaneously. She’s rich; he’s poor. She’s engaged; he’s poor. In spite of this, they are inextricably drawn to each other, and have the same curiosity about the world that allows them to have unstuffy fun dancing in the bowels of the ship and “flying” on the bow. Together they find a plucky resolve to be together that could only happen in a movie selling exactly the kind of ideal, romantic love you have clearly bought into, hook, line and sinking ship.
But what happens next is a perfect metaphor for the love you want: it’s not the ship sinking — that’s too obvious. It’s the fact that the dude freezes to death on a floating hunk of wood that clearly had more than enough room for the two of them.
No one knows exactly why, outside of prescriptive Hollywood romance, that Jack couldn’t have climbed the fuck up, or why Rose couldn’t have moved the fuck over. This demonstration proves as much:
Even though the real reason is because movies, it still illustrates the kind of weird cross-purposes that derail real-life romance all the time. Here, it’s clearly something to do with a lot of highfalutin nonsense about honor, propriety, and the sort of stuff you’d write about in your shittiest poetry vignettes. (He even sketches her naked, which like, c’mon. I bet you love that.)
You’re not wrong to want the first part, the courtship stuff of love, and I don’t know exactly what you think it “looks” and “feels like.” But finding overly romanticized love, at first, is a cakewalk compared to what comes next: the realization that anything can derail it. Maybe your Rose is a conflict-avoidant weirdo. Maybe she decides to be polyamorous. Or go to grad school in another city you can’t move to. Or is a pathological liar, who happens to love poetry. Or she’s married but decides to stay with her husband, even though your love is clearly bigger and brighter, and he’s clearly a grade-A piece of shit, but, you know, he’s her grade-A piece of shit, and life is complicated.
Or, she’s just like you, but you’re both so consumed by the idea of perfect moments that the second she forgets it’s your 16-hour anniversary of the first time you noticed her dimples, you’re screaming at each other in the street. And someone nearby is live-tweeting it.
There’s nothing wrong with anything you want here. It’s just that it sounds like you have no idea what real love is. Maybe it’s that you’ve never been in love, or maybe it’s that you back away in horror the first time things don’t go cinematically perfect. It doesn’t sound like you want a real woman, either: Someone who has period stains in her underwear, and gets pissy for reasons you might not grasp, and is sometimes boring. Who cares about other shit besides looking perfect for you. Who can be difficult, or inexplicable, or great, but also a total bitch. Plus, not all women dig that Casanova shit; a lot of them just want to, like, watch season two of Stranger Things and order some Thai food. You know, an actual person.
I believe fervently that even though shitty poetry would make most sane women run screaming, that some women want and dream of the same shit you do. But even so, you’ll still have to figure out eventually that real love is as much about the perfect lighting at the right dive bar on just the right beer buzz as it is about being able to make hanging out at the DMV for three hours fun.
It’s not that your Juliets don’t exist: Might I suggest moving to the South if you don’t already live there? Where I grew up in Tennessee, the first thing you’d do after getting a boyfriend was go get a couples photo made at a Glamour Shots place. Phase two: matching airbrushed t-shirts in Gatlinburg.
It was utterly revolting, but I couldn’t deny being mildly envious that it was that easy for some people. When two people find each other whose idea of love involves matching airbrushed T-shirts, the rest of us may as well go jump into the sun.
So bare minimum is for you to find a woman who really loves such gestures, and if they say they don’t like it, believe them, and move on. Part of all that romance stuff is that it’s very gendered and prescriptive, and women tend to have to stand there pretending to swoon when men bring them roses, even if they hate roses, and told you they hate roses, just so no one will call them an ungrateful cunt. But bring a rose-loving gal roses? You’re just two airbrushed t-shirts away from the real deal.
Second: Will you consider asking yourself some really hard, honest questions? Why is your bar so high? Why aren’t you jazzed about just hanging out with some ladies and seeing where it goes? What happens if you fall in love with a beautiful woman who thinks it’s hilarious to burp the alphabet? For the record, my sister—who watched Titanic 31 times, clearly some kind of crazy romantic—can.
One last note: The story of Jack and Rose is of course pure fiction. There were real people who died on that ship who’d loved each other for decades, like this one couple, married and inseparable for 40 years, who were found dead, holding each other. That sounds romantic in a big way, even though they died and everything, but earlier in the marriage, they had endured losing a child in infancy.
Think about that. I bet if that couple had found themselves floating in the icy North Atlantic with a hunk of wood between them, that after 40 years of devoted marriage, they would’ve figured out how to share that goddamn raft, even if they had to bicker about it first. That’s cosmic intertwining. No poetry needed.