A Personal History of Doomed Romances

I just want someone to treat me like a goddam princess! Is that too much to ask?

Well, after a fair few decades of experience it turns out that, in my case at least, it is.

Romance has been on my mind all day. Last night the husband and I, old fogeys that we are, watched a documentary about Nicholas and Alexandra, the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia who were executed by the Bolsheviks. They had a grand passion for each other, one so all consuming that there’s a good chance the revolution could have been avoided if they hadn’t been so wrapped up in each other. It seemed so sad that history forced them into such an elevated position, when they would have been much happier as an ordinary (if slightly creepy) couple. But whilst I don’t much fancy ending up bayoneted in Siberia, their overwhelming passion did lead me to wonder (as we sat there in our Jim jams with toast on our laps)…

Where have all the Great Romantics gone?

You know, those lovers who remember that you mentioned how you adore Elmore Leonard and dig out a first edition for you. Or happily row you down a dreamy river on a hot summer day without complaining about their bald patch burning. Or even (not that I’m being mercenary) turn up with a Tiffany box (not empty…) for no reason whatsoever. And this is a genuine question as I don’t know where they’ve gone or where they ever were because I’ve never met one.

I’ve known Great Love and Great Sex but I have never known Great Romance. The fairy-tale, story-book kind. The Meghan walking down the aisle to her waiting prince kind. That Royal Wedding has a lot to answer for as it made me realise that at my advanced age, it’s likely to be too late for me.

The problem is I am a Great Romantic. I have dug out first editions and rowed down rivers and spent hours tracking down the perfect rare Japanese Whisky for my love. Only to be met with “You shouldn’t have” … and they actually mean it.

Here is a non exhaustive list of my romantic failures;

Number 1 was dark, exotic with huge soulful eyes. He didn’t speak much English so it took a while to work out he was utterly stupid.

Number 2 was dark, exotic with huge soulful eyes. He didn’t speak much English so it took a while to work out he was utterly gay.

Number 3 was pale and Celtic with huge soulful eyes (are you sensing a theme?) He adored me and this is closest I ever came to the dream romantic, possibly because he was too young to know he could get away with so much less. We were torn asunder by going to different universities where he soon learned to adore someone else. I googled him for the purposes of this post and he’s pretty much bald now.

Number 4 was the most handsome man I had ever seen in my life. He was an artist. He had a square jaw and perfect lips, was tall and broad and being cradled in his arms made me feel like a kitten rescued from a thunderstorm. Turns out he was also a violent alcoholic who tried to shoot me. His paintings were crap too.

Number 5 was an Australian singer with soulful eyes. You’d have thought I’d learned THAT lesson already.

Number 6 seemed like a tender-hearted bad boy with his motorbike and tattoo. He talked a good romantic talk. But soon he didn’t like this and he didn’t like that and boy, what a big baby… those huge soulful eyes virtually brimmed with tears when he didn’t get his own way.

Finally Number 7 was The Great Romance. He even had a famous ex-girlfriend who described him in a newspaper interview as her “Mr Romance”. What a recommendation! Except she obviously had a lot more going for her in that department than me as he was just my “Mr Booty Call.” One who thought an empty Tiffany box was a frightfully funny joke….

To any of you dullards out there who want to chastise me for my shallowness and tell me about true love being hard and gritty but ultimately rewarding … I would like to say; yawn. I’ve been married for 17 years and I’ve been with my husband through riches and poverty and definitely through sickness and health (you have to love someone whose inch deep post operative wounds you learned to clean and tend daily). I know what proper love is and I know I’m blessed to have it in my life. That’s not the point…

A guy called Gary Chapman wrote a book called “The Five Love Languages” in which he described how people have different ideas of what’s the best way to express their affection. They are Time (spending quality time with your love), Acts of Service (doing the washing up, organising the holiday etc.), Gifts (non empty Tiffany boxes or tiny thoughtful ones both count), Physical Affection (sex and hand holding) and Words (“May my love rain down upon your shining soul” as Alexandra said to Nicholas just before the Bolsheviks broke down the front door.) Often a lack of romance is simply two people speaking a different love language.

But sometimes it’s more than that. Falling in love with my husband was wonderful but he’s the first to admit he’s a pragmatic man who’s idea of romance is making me a cup of tea. Of course having a good marriage was a better choice than a series of crazy guys on motorbikes. But … now, nearing 50, will I ever experience the grand gesture, the running across a mountain top, the breathless, heart stopping, stomach flipping wonder of being swept off my feet?

I have an idea… There’s an app for of all flavours of sex, one for infidelity, another for sugar daddies/mummies. Why not one for great romantics? You don’t have to be single, it isn’t about cheating. It’s just about people who want to fill hotel rooms with roses, sing to balconies and go rowing in the sunshine. I think it could be winner.