Scrolling through Instagram I see that 7 minutes ago, Joel posted a picture. It’s cute. I go to his feed and see that he’s posted three pics (a little trait he’s picked up from me); a picturesque yellow wall with a disheveled green shrub, a video of our trip to a waterfall in Upstate NY, and the yellow wall again, from a different angle. It’s Romantic.
However, in none of the posts does he mention me. Not a witty or clever inside joke or quote in text box underneath, nor a shoutout on the waterfall video. (I WAS the one to suggest the excursion there, after all).
I’m disappointed and start to cast my eyes back over his other posts to find that not for 9 weeks has he even hinted at a mention of me, and the picture I do find was just to credit me as the photographer. I’m taking this personally. My ego is wounded. And in this state, my neurotic mind begins to wonder whether his lack of consistent public IG-based affection for me is a sign that he’s trying to remain with one foot in the ‘single-guy’ door.
Whilst I know it sounds petty and downright pathetic, I feel like the love and devotion he shows me IRL should be mirrored on his social media efforts, because that’s where it matters. Instagram is where his past resides: his closest friends, girls he used to fuck, the people interested in him and his (portrayed) life. The truth of the matter is, in this exact moment in time – in 2015, if it’s not documented on social media, is it even real?
And that’s when I crumble. Who have I become? The sad reality is that my life has become a contest, with little love hearts and “likes” and “favorites” marking my triumphs (and failings).
My relationship is no longer about being present, being in love or enjoying the moment, it’s about keeping up with the Joneses (or should I say “Kardashians”).
In 1787, the German writer, Goethe published the very first, original romantic novel titled, ‘The Sorrows Of Young Werther’. In it, Werther falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Lotte despite knowing that she is already engaged to someone else. Although this causes Werther great pain, he spends the next few months cultivating a close friendship with the couple. His pain eventually becomes so immense that he is forced to leave. Every day serves as a torturous reminder that Lotte will never be able to requite his love. Out of pity for her friend and respect for her husband, Lotte comes to the decision that Werther must not visit her so frequently. He visits her one final time, and they are both overcome with emotion after Werther’s recitation of a portion of “Ossian”.
Werther had realized even before this incident that one member of their love triangle — Lotte, Albert or Werther himself — had to die in order to resolve the situation. Unable to hurt anyone else or seriously consider committing murder, Werther sees no other choice but to take his own life.
We, the readers admire Werther’s passion, despite it being entirely impractical (and resulting in death).
Goethe’s novel dramatically changed the way that people thought about or showed love previously, and created a stage for dramatic outpourings of feeling, over previous, more traditional, classical concerns for class, lineage and money. But I fear we’ve come full circle.
It has been said that, “to be a romantic is to take the side of nature against industry, consumerism and technology.” But, if we’re all unequivocally attached to our various means of technology and luxury comforts, how are we able to manifest the antithesis to this, i.e. romance?
Even romance itself has succumbed to technology with the development of online dating. (Swipe right for prospective love). Never disconnected, our potential for grand gestures has literally followed in dear Werther’s footsteps, and kicked the bucket.
If Romanticism ‘stands up’ for the simple life, we are living in the most complex era to date; never before has Facebook’s relationship status option, “It’s Complicated” made more sense.
I read somewhere, “To be a romantic is to find relief from the pressures of competitive city life in the natural grandeur that transcends all human achievements and concerns.” But how does one find such relief when our entire lives exist and move in a direction where we’re basically sitting ducks in a giant, bubbling hot pressure pot?
Worried that my relationship will suffer without making a concerted effort to acknowledge the underlying issues, I press the point and ask Joel what romance means to him.
He ponders for so long, that I wonder if he’s thinking about the question or plotting my death. He finally responds, “Exclusivity.” He says that knowing that everything I’m giving him, my love, passion, sensuality, my devotion and affection, “knowing those actions are exclusively for me, that no one else gets that side of you but me, that is romantic.”
Considering this, I wind up totally confused. If he feels that merely me being his girlfriend is the ultimate sign of romance for him, then why am I doing all the other stuff? What’s the point? Why do I text him a loving sentiment minutes after he leaves the house. What’s the point in slaving over a hot stove and cooking his favorite meals most nights? Why surprise him with sleazy fishnet bodysuits and leather chokers? If I take these practices away, will he still love me as much (a legitimate concern of mine)? According to his logic, he will.
But what about my needs? Wouldn’t the ultimate gift of romance come from him being romantic towards me, because that’s what I desire. Men always argue “we’re not mind-readers!”, so perhaps I just need to tell him to write me love notes or take me on dinner dates? I guess I have to explain that Netflix & chill (legitimately chill) isn’t my idea of seduction. Should I be ‘that girl’ and straight up ask him to post pictures of me (or us together) on Instagram, because if you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?
Wrong. According to my research some people just aren’t that romantic, and you can’t expect to change someone. However, the thing is, and I have to ask the question and ask the question and reiterate and re-ask several times before Joel can articulate this to me, but he thinks he IS romantic. The hand-holding every time we’re out in the street. Asking me if I want anything any time he goes to our kitchen. Pointing out beautiful clouds, grabbing me passionately at random when we walk past each other in our apartment. Deleting Snapchat. Deleting Tinder after 2 weeks of us dating, his hand on my thigh when we drive… This is his big version of romance. These are his grand gestures. This is the stuff he only shares with me. It might not be Champagne and roses, but it’s genuine and these gestures come directly from his heart.
To be romanced is to have things done to or for you and Joel is totally participating. The real problem might be that I’m just a little too consumed with the what the Joneses are up to fully appreciate it.