Why the hell would you want to be romantic?

By Wayne Elise

Imagine a summer day. You lead your lover into the park. You spread a blanket on the grass and have her lie next to you while both you lie on your backs holding hands.

"This is a test," you say. "Let's see how aware we are. We'll close our eyes and count the sounds we hear."

She closes her eyes. "Okay. I have the first one. I can hear your voice."

"Right, I'll count on my hands. That's one for you."

"And I hear my own voice."

"Sure. Every sound counts. I hear your breathing."

"The birds."

"Yeah. The birds chirping. I can also hear them in the trees, on the branches moving around."

Your hands relax. She rubs the tip of her finger nail around your palm. It tingles.

"The traffic in the distance."

"The wind."

"People talking over that hill."

"The blanket is making a sort of crinkly sound."

"Yeah. I like that sound. It's still decompressing from being stuffed in my backpack I think."

The clouds move away and the sun's rays warm your feet and ankles where they stick out from the shade of the tree you lie under.

"I can hear my pulse in my ears."

"That's cool. I can't hear mine. What else?"

"Nothing."

The breeze blows through your hair. You can feel the vibrations as your lover swings her foot back and fourth.

"I think I need to spend less time on the computer."

"Probably a good idea."

"I hear people. The ones we passed who were having a picnic."

"Oh yeah."

"I hear thumping."

"I don't hear it."

She squeezes your hand rhythmically. "There it is. There. There. There."

"Huh. I don't hear it. Maybe I'm have bad hearing."

"Getting old."

"Hey." You jerk her hand.

She laughs. You roll on top of her.

Romance is like that. But is it just the stuff of girl fantasies?

****

Guy meets girl.

Guy says, "We should hang out sometime."

"Sure," she says. "Take my number."

I'm shaking my head as I'm watching this.

I text my friend Jeremy about it.

Wayne: I got another one. I really don't know how the human race continues.

Jeremy: It's not. Japan leads in this sort of thing. Birthrates are down. Guys there would rather play video games and watch porn than hassle with girls. The gov is coming out with PSAs promoting sex. Not safe sex mind you. Just sex. Get laid they're saying or our country's going to have some shit problems. But it's probably too late.

Jeremy's one of the smartest people I know. He's got a hot girlfriend too - whom I'm pretty sure he has sex with.

WayneYou text a loot of words fast. See - I'm no good at this compared to you.

Jeremy: Ha. I sucked in sports in school. But I was just ahead of my time. Turns out my short fingers and unimpressive physique are perfectly suited for iPhone typing.

Wayne: Sí. You're a mother fucker at that.

Jeremy: :)

This discussion got me thinking. Is sex dead? Is romance dead? Can we have sex without romance? What is romance anyway? Is it really too much of a hassle to deal with people in the flesh? Are we destined to become a species of masturbators?

I blame women of course. They let us men get away with lame shit.

The story continues...

The girl knows what the guy wants. He wants sex and maybe a girlfriend. She wants romance, fun, heat, desire, sex, a shower, more sex, breakfast in the morning followed by more sex and then maybe a thoughtful note hidden in her bag that she will discover later and which will make her smile.

She wants a story she can feel proud to tell her girlfriends. No girl wants to tell the story about the guy who invited her to 'hang out' and then they got drunk and he felt her up until she got horny and wet enough to fuck. That's called minimum wage game - as in 'put in the bare minimum to get the job done' game. It creates hook ups sometimes - when a girl feels desperate, down, lonely, depraved. But it's such a bad experience for a girl that she hides those feelings away. She gives up hope of meeting sexy men and having adventures. "Just a bunch of lame dickheads,' she writes in her journal.

"What? It's not like Sex and the City?" her sister says in the car. Her sister and her sister's husband haven't had sex in four months. He works on Wall Street and runs marathons.

"Well no. It's not. I tried to be a slut but there aren't any takers."

Her sister turns into the cupcake shop. "I find that hard to believe."

She shakes her head. There aren't any real men. Just a bunch of, let's hang out guys. Fucking, grow a pair. Or maybe they have no idea what women want. It's transactional. Show me a fun time and I'll blow you all night.

Her sister puts the car in park. "You know you said that out-loud right?"

"No. You're just a weird, psychic, older sister."

"I don't mind hearing about this, you know. It makes me feel less jealous, of your youth and beauty, to know your life sucks."

"What do girls do?'

"They get a boyfriend and work on making him more fun. Or they go to Krispy Kreme and eat their feelings. There's a lot of girls doing that in Thailand. Skinny girls going fat."

"I don't want a boyfriend."

"You know, it hit me one day," her sister says. "I was lying on the mat after yoga class - kinda half meditating, half day dreaming. I realized things didn't work out with Kurt or any of the guys I met in Boston because I had unrealistic expectations. I decided right then to lower what I would expect and tolerate from men. The next day I met Roger."

****

Two days later, the guy texts her.

Him: I'm super busy but i'm going to a party at Jay-Z's cousin's house. It's gonna be epic. You should tag along.

She laughs out loud reading the text. I'm too idealistic, she thinks. I want a a man to make me feel the heat of desire. To make love to me against the wall of an alley in the warm rain after spending the night laughing over sushi and sake.

She weighs her options for Friday night. No possibility of romance, of getting turned on, of being comfortable getting laid. She might sleep with him if she got drunk. His party might be fun. But it might be uncomfortable. Lot's of unknowns. On the other side - she might get other options nearer to the end of the week. Best to keep things open.

Her: ok sounds fun but msg me on friday a.m. please :)

Him: okay. ill pick you up at 8

Her: ttyl :)

Him: bye

The next day her friend invites her for a girls' night out on Friday at a Cuban bar.

"Count me in." she says.

"There's going to be lots of hot Latin guys hanging up in there."

"Yum. Eye-candy. Can't wait. See you there bitch."

"Later hoe."

She digs through her closet looking for that Latin dress she bought a couple years ago for just such an occasion.

The guy she had agreed to go out with slips from her mind. But no worries. She anticipated that happening. She's not going to stand him up. After all she told him to text her Friday morning. It's a safety catch girls the world over apply.

Friday...

At his Bat Cave, our guy has made a tactical decision to wait until after Noon to text her. This took will-power. But he feels determined to demonstrate he's not too eager.

He texts her at exactly 12:35 PM.

Him: ready for tonight?

She responds thirty minutes later.

Her: sorry i cant make it. I have a paper i have to work on.

It's god damn Friday, he thinks. Who works on a paper on Friday that couldn't possibly be due until Monday.

Him: bring it. we'll finish it together.

He heard a similar response from one of the dating gurus on his pick up all-stars DVD. The line got applause from the guys gathered in the room. It was gold.

Her: you're nice :) but its complicated. :(

He drummed his fingers and pondered a few minutes before writing back.

Him: you're not the kinda girl to go back on your word are you?

Her: no but I'm not doing that. i told you to text me. i didn't know for sure if i could go.

He thinks. What would his favorite seduction guru Brad F say? What woud the guys at Late Evening game dot com say? Right. They'd all say that chicks test us and I need to be the fucking man."

Him: I'll pick you up at 8. be ready.

She doesn't text back.

****

This sort of thing is happening all over the world. Jeremy was right. It starts in Japan. The Japanese are dying out. There's a kid there going through the same thing there right now.

He stands on the corner of Shibuya Crossing. Imagine our camera zooming in from outer space. You can see Earth. And then we zoom into the Asia/Pacific Rim. Then the island of Japan. Then Tokyo. Then closer we see Shibuya. Then the crossing. Then the kid. He's twenty. He wears glasses and carries a case under his arm with his paint brush kit inside.

The world moves around him in slow motion. He feels sad. Manami didn't return his SMS. He said he would come by her house at 7:30. Should he do that knowing she won't be there, or should he step out against the light and let the traffic take him? No. He decides to turn around and go home. He'll plug into Dragon Quest for like ten hours and everything will be alright.

****

The sun breaks through the clouds again. It warms your back. You feel happy. This is as it should be. Feels like the natural order.

She rolls you over and mounts you.

"Someone's been studying Jujitsu," you say.

Her hair falls onto your face. It tickles your nose.

"I'm glad I met you," she says.

"Why's that?"

"You know."

"I want to hear it."

She looks around to make sure no one's eavesdropping. "Because you fuck me good."

"Well," you say. "I fuck you well."

"Ha. You didn't correct my grammar last night."

"Yeah, about that…"

She digs her fingers into your side. "Don't repeat anything that I might have said in the heat of the moment."

"The throes of passion?"

"Yeah."

"You mean like…"

"Don't!"

You call out to an old woman too far away to hear. "Excuse me ma'am. Is it grammatically correct to say 'me needs spanking like your school girl with a bad attitude?'"

"I didn't say that," your lover says.

"Oh right. That was me. I'm glad you didn't notice."

She laughs.

You look at her seriously. "Did you think we would end up like this?"

"No. Tell the truth. I didn't like you at first."

Then why did you agree to go out with me?"

"Because you described the things we could do together. I guess you sold me that we could have fun together. I could see feeling romantic with you. Most guys just don't do that. They aren't that creative."

"Oh I see. The competition was weak. Good for me."

"It was just my time to meet the right person I guess."

You smile and run your hand along the back of her thigh. You give her a smack on the butt. "Let's go. I can teach you the funny walk game as we go."

"What's that?"

"Top secret until I show you."

"You just made it up now, didn't you?"

"Maybe I did and maybe I didn't."

"Okay but we might have to alter the rules to make it faster. I may need to take you home and have my way with you."

"We can play the shortened rules version."

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