My husband and I have our twenty-second anniversary this July. We met while working for Camp America. I was the art teacher at summer camp and he was a run of the mill pleb who looked after the vacationers. He couldn’t speak very much English at the time and I couldn’t speak any Dutch. Now that I think about it, the lack of communication made it pretty much the perfect relationship! Three weeks after camp we were at the top of the Empire State building when he proposed to me. His proposal went something like: “I’m wondering what to do with you. I can’t leave you alone after I go back to Holland. You will probably end up living on the street or dying in a gutter in Mexico. I think you need to come with me. We have to get married.” I improved the English he used at the time, but you get the gist!
Overwhelmed by the romance in that conversation, I refused his proposal (funnily enough!) Being a typical alpha male, he just rolled his eyes and made plans for our life in Holland. I didn’t pay much attention to his muttering, I was still stuck on the “you’ll die in a gutter in Mexico” thing. My plans for after summer camp had been to teach English in Mexico. Being from Glasgow, with a strong Scottish accent that even people in English speaking countries failed to understand, this might not have been the best plan. Gutter death was a definite possibility.
In the end, I went back to Holland with hubby. His family were bewildered. There were comments along the lines of: “Other people bring back T-shirts, you brought back a strange Scottish woman.” I’m pretty sure, even after twenty-two years, that my Dutch family are still bewildered as to why we’re together.
Over the years my husband’s approach to romance has been hit or miss. There was the Valentine’s Day where he didn’t say a word about it all day so I thought he’d forgotten. Not caring much about the holiday, I didn’t really mind. Then I went to bed that night, put my hand under the pillow and came out with a pink pearl necklace. Yeah, he got lucky that night. And for many more after it! Then there was the Valentine’s Day where I woke up to an excited hubby who proudly presented his present—a treadmill. You can imagine how that went down.
It took me a while, oh seventeen years or so, to realise that men don’t have a clue about romance. My husband thought a treadmill was a caring and thoughtful gift—I thought it was a comment on the size of my backside! Romance, happy ever afters, love at first sight, instant connection—these are all things that women believe in, understand and have no problem finding real life examples of. Whereas most men (about 99% in my highly scientific and accurate assessment) really don’t have a clue what we’re talking about. They think the inside of our heads are decked out in pink glitter and cotton candy. But the thing is, romance is real. I’m living proof. When I first saw my husband there was an instant connection. About a week into our relationship I knew he was the one for me. (Then I waited for him to catch up. It took five weeks. Not bad, but still…) Now we’re living our happily ever after. I just stopped writing to check that with him, he rolled his eyes and muttered that after twenty-two years I still need a keeper—I’m taking that as an agreement.
I think the reason romance books strike a chord with women is that we’re smart enough to know romance is real. True love does exist. Happy ever afters are possible. And love at first sight happens all the time. The only difference between real life and fiction is that in fiction the story is often better written, with less messy plot twists and fewer arguments about whose turn it is to clean the toilet!