I had a conversation last week with an old lover — you know how those conversations go. They start out innocently enough, catching up with some small talk. You discuss work, which leads you to talk about life, which invariably becomes an open dialog about the failure of your relationship.
“We will work out as a relationship the day you realize that romance is about inconveniencing yourself,” I said to him.
I’ve said this before, but it never hit me as clearly as it did at that moment. I thought about all of the things I’ve done in the name of romance. Love surely is the most inconvenient thing in the world. It blazes through plans, it reschedules meetings indiscriminately, and it turns priorities on their heads.
I’m weary of compromising the big things, the things that make you who you are. But at the same time — have you ever boarded a flight just to sit next to someone for five hours? Nevermind that you have no idea what you’re going to do once you reach the destination, but who cares? Just to spend those five hours beside someone, and take however many kisses you can steal between lift-off and landing — that’s all that matters. That’s enough.
That’s romance. Yes, I imagine we could schedule our interactions for conferences where our schedules overlap — love is patient, love is kind, love waits its turn, right?
Whatever. I don’t want a measured love, where we mind each other’s schedules. I don’t want to meet you somewhere convenient for me. I want to go out of my way, and I expect the same from you. I want to fight the burden of reality for this incredible thing that we’re experiencing, this blossoming thing that sweeps across our field of vision and patinates every aspect of our existence so everything is brighter and more textured.
I don’t want to mind the constraints of space and build a relationship however it may fit into my life. I want to take a wrecking ball to my existing world and rebuild an existence where our relationship has a proper, sprawling space. I want a Taj Majal in the middle of an otherwise crowded urban landscape.
Once upon a time, a dear friend of mine thought he might hook me up with a friend of his. He thought we’d get on famously. He was recently divorced, I was recently divorced; he’s a writer, and I’m a writer. It seemed like a no-brainer. So the friend — let’s call him Hank — and I started to text.
I am not one to expect offerings of any sort during courtship. They can be wonderful when they occur, but they’re a risky proposition when you don’t know someone well enough. But Hank wanted to give me a gift. He asked me what my favorite flower was. I told him it wasn’t necessary, but when he insisted, I told him I loved orchids.
He then made a critical error — he asked me if I could find out where he could get these for cheap in Los Angeles, because all the places he had researched online were really overpriced.
I’m not saying I think he should have shelled out for flowers if he didn’t have the means. Romance may be about inconvenience, but it’s not about bankruptcy. Of course, romance isn’t finding deals for your suitor, either. More interesting than a trunk wrapped in exotic orchids that sets you back a few thousand is a heart-felt letter. Or some origami flowers.
My father used to sneak into my mother’s office, always careful that she never saw him, just to leave candies on her desk. I like this because of how simple it is — nothing extravagant, just candies. But he took time out of his day to creep around her office building and leave the little candies just so she could find them at some point and know he’d come by.
Simple, I know. But it ties into the inconvenient aspect of romance. He could have used those two hours to have lunch, but instead, he spent those hours making these little deliveries.
When people say “it’s the thought that counts,” that’s what I think about: how much thought someone puts into something. It’s not an excuse or justification. It’s a vital component of what the gift should be, a reminder that someone is thinking about you and hitting pause on their busy day just to let you know.
The best gifts, without a doubt, occur when one least expects them. I was reminded of this recently when my friend Jason gave me a book of equations. He saw it while he was at a bookstore, thought of me immediately and bought it because he felt I had to have it. That’s the best gift. Not the sort that happens on a birthday or a holiday because it must, but rather, because someone happened to think of you at a completely unrelated moment.
That kind of thing says, unequivocally: you’re on my mind.
A few months ago, a dear writer friend of mine, Rita Arens, e-mailed about a new piece she was working on about the power of the written word, which prompted me to dig up love letters that I had written over the course of a decade.
I shared some of them with her, commenting how curious it was that most of these letters dealt with longing — meaning they’d been written during periods of separation.
It reminded me of another conversation I’d recently had with another former lover about how his need to discuss everything in our relationship didn’t extend to any of the positive things in our interaction — only the negative things.
For example, he had once mentioned he felt objectified by me. The comment was so shocking and horrifying — it had been said one evening that I was trying to seduce him away from his work — that it had caused me to become intolerably self-conscious of any form of sexual expression toward him.
During our recent conversation, he apologized, saying my openness with regard to my sexuality was one of the things about me that he had appreciated most — surprising because I’d never heard any feedback to this effect while we were dating.
I wondered, as I looked over these love letters, most of which were odes of desperate want, whether they were similar to conversations about only negative aspects of a relationship. What if instead of crying out because a lover wasn’t available, I praised him when he was right beside me? How about a love letter on a pillow with no reason other than to remind him that I’m happy he’s sleeping beside me?
Being a creature of the Web, I immediately opened a new tab in my browser and, after a brief pause, I logged in to Tumblr, a platform that allows you to make a digital scrapbook with images, video and audio, and I began composing what I like to call my interactive love letter.
This monument to romance is populated with memories, with images that remind me of things or inspire my desire, with songs, with quotes from other people who freely explore their desires, and in so doing inspire me to find my own bliss, however different. It’s both things that turn me on and warm my heart.
What I find most compelling about the interactive love letter is that one can invite contributors. A couple can literally post to the same scrapbook from different accounts. Imagine that. Imagine an ode you write together, for no reason other than to share adoration — one you can access from anywhere you happen to be and take it with you in your pocket via your choice mobile device.
Oh, but that’s a bit time-consuming, isn’t it?
Why, yes. Yes, it is. The inconvenience of stopping your day just to catch that thought about someone and put it to words, or copy that image or upload that song that reminds you of him or her -– that’s the stuff of lovers. Do it. Take a chance. Inconvenience yourself.
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A version of this post first appeared on BlogHer.