Whatever Happened to Romance?
A good friend of mine invited me to a New Year’s Day Zoom call to talk about our 2021 intentions. There were five women there, and I knew them in varying degrees from very close to not-at-all. Our friend had shared a pie chart, sliced by the areas of our lives we might want to consider. The categories were not unexpected: work, family, spiritual growth, etc. When I got the pie chart, nothing about it leapt out at me as controversial or difficult.
After we each named our intentions, though, one category stood out as the most difficult for each woman to discuss. Romance. One woman, who is single, was able to articulate that she would like some romance in 2021 and that she was telling the rest of us so she’d come to mind if we met any single men. I talked about my standing date night with my husband, and how I thought it was successful in keeping us connected. I intend to keep date night going this year.
The other three women didn’t touch the category, although they discussed every other area with openness and vulnerability that was unexpected in a group of acquaintances. I started to wonder about it and realized that among all my female friends, there’s a surprising lack of attention to romance. Why?
At first blush, I thought it might be the word “Romance.” It calls to mind bodice-ripper paperbacks, with Fabio clutching a buxom blond in a smoldering embrace. Or is the word too Victorian and chaste? Maybe Romance sounds like flowers and having the door held open, and that’s not moving the needle anymore. What we really mean when we say Romance is Sex, and Sex is an off-limit topic even among women friends once you reach 45.
At 45, we are starting to go through puberty for the second time. Our bodies are changing and they are starting to feel “weird” and different. We aren’t sure what we want (and I mean, sexually). Or we are afraid that what we want is different from what our partner wants. Or worse, that what we want is something other than our partner.
Or maybe everything is fine. Nothing to see here. Totally fulfilled. Move along.
I don’t have remedy for these issues. And by “these issues,” I mean, I don’t any sex advice and I don’t know how to get women to talk about this topic. I’m not all that comfortable with the topic myself. I worry about this enough to have done a little research though, and I can offer the following as starting points. Books: We Love Each Other, But . . ., by Dr. Ellen Wachtel and Mating in Captivity, by Esther Perel. It feels slightly corny to say this but take a Five Love Languages quiz and identify the ways that you and your partner express and receive love. It’s pretty eye-opening to realize that your efforts to express love are not received by your partner that way. It also might help your partner to know that you like acts of kindness rather than a gift of flowers, for example.
I hope that 2021 is a year where every woman spends a little time thinking about what romance looks like for her. Everyone is entitled to love, and to give it and receive it from a place of joy and comfort. If that isn’t one of most important goals in life, it should be. Let’s talk about it.