Romance isn't overrated; it's wonderful. Really. But so is eating caviar off a stripper in the back of a limo (well, for some people). In terms of time, in terms of money, in terms of inclination, romance is just unaffordable in this economy, when you've got three crappy jobs and two underwater mortgages and a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.
Casanova himself couldn't keep up with the ideals of romance set forth by today's helpful movies, and every year the gap widens between what handsome, rugged Hollywood millionaires can pull off in stunning HD—surprising you with the house of your dreams, filling your sorority lawn with daffodils, racing along the beach on horseback with your piano, risking their secret vampire identity to stop you from getting on that plane—and what little old you can.
When you don't have time/money/inclination for romance defined by such wide-screen dreams, the risk is that you fold up your tent and do nothing at all. Out here in the post-recession real world, if romantic gestures mean hours of setup time and an unbreakable credit card and police permits and a crew of carpenters, it simply ain't gonna get done. And no romance at all is a dangerous game to play for any forward-thinking relationship.
But hypothetical help is on its way! If you find yourself intimidated by keeping up with the Bridget Joneses and settling for nothing instead, we have just the thing for you.
We'll call them "RoMints," delicious, bite-size nuggets of romance anyone can pull off for tiny scraps of cash and commitment. It's not the rebuilding of the 200-year-old dream home from The Notebook … it's more the holding up of the cue cards from Love Actually. RoMints are wafer thin, and significantly less filling than the real deal. But they taste great, and they remind your significantly ignored other, in a small but achievable way, that you really are thinking about them, even if you don't always drag out your cracked and battered credit card to prove it.
Surgeon General's warning: RoMints have no nutritional value. They are not meant to substitute for a healthy recommended allowance of actual romance—they are just slightly better than nothing.
Ideally, RoMints should cost less than $20 and take less than 20 minutes to execute. You literally can't NOT have time for them. Here are a couple of RoMints ideas: mostly gender-neutral, all theoretically achievable. And feel free to share your personal experiences in the comments section…It's us vs. Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock, and we're all in this together.
1. The Post-It Parade (5 minutes, 0 dollars)
Write a series of three Post-It notes that start confusing and end up touching. Something like 1) "Do you know why I love you?" 2) "It's not because you're beautiful" 3) "It's because you make my whole world beautiful." Then hide the notes in three logically successive places, like 1) on the coffeemaker, 2) on his favorite mug, 3) in the dishwasher where he's going to put it when he's done (if you have the sort of man who puts his coffee mug in the dishwasher). Seeing the first note will confuse, the second will intrigue, the third will endear.
2. The Virtual Vacation (15 minutes, 0 dollars)
Find yourselves at work in separate cities on some random Wednesday? Take him on a distributed little fantasy trip. In the morning, under a subject line like "Lunch today?" send him a link to a restaurant in Turks & Caicos. Whatever his reaction, if any, just after lunch send him another email, recapping what a great lunch it was, and how nice it is to get away ("cuz work was killing us!") and offer to meet him by the pool after his massage. And so on. Be bold, go erotic, see if you can get him to play along.
3. The Stocking Stuffer (10 minutes, 10 dollars)
Why wait until Chrismahannukwanzadan to give those quick little thoughtful gifts that say I am ALWAYS thinking about you? Try to get in the habit of picking up a very little something that's small but personal—a jar of local honey if he has allergies, an iTunes gift card if she says she hates her music, etc.—and tuck it away. On some random day (NOT after a fight…this isn't about making amends) you can poke it into one of his socks for a little next-day surprise. You can tie a ribbon around it if one's handy, but don't wrap it (an iPhone hoodie is adorable, but not if one thinks one is opening a Tiffany's necklace). 12 Free Romantic Gifts
4. The Phone Switcheroo (10 minutes, 0 dollars)
This is a good one for when you're waiting in line at the DMV, or otherwise have nothing but time and strangers to annoy. On your cellphone, change your own "Hi, I'm not here right now…" answering machine message to a long ramble on what you want to do to her body. Then, when you know or suspect she's free, call her and hang up. When she calls back, confused, let the machine pick up. IMPORTANT: Don't forget to change it back, or you'll have some serious explaining to do to your boss, your mom, and the Roto-Rooter guy.
5. The Foot Massage Plus (15 minutes, 5 dollars)
Foot massage is an equal-opportunity pleasure, but all too often, we treat it like quid pro quo. Take the extra five minutes and set up an environment to take your standard foot massage to 11. For him, crack a cold beer and put on SportsCenter. (Don't overthink it, sister…it's cliché because it's true.) For her, maybe it's HGTV and one of those decadent brownies they pimp by the cash register. And a candle—really. (For her…probably not for him.) Make it clear this isn't reciprocal; just a gift from you to your loved one. It won't be forgotten.
6. The Magic Finger (1 minute, 0 dollars)
On his bathroom mirror, or on his shower wall if it's clear, with a soapy finger, write "You Look Good Naked" so it'll be readable next time it gets steamy. (Not if you haven't slept together yet, though…that's just creepy.)
7. Make The Move (1 minute, 15 dollars)
Take something from her conversation and calcify it into a gift…right now, while you're thinking about it. If she mentions a show she never has time to watch, record it on her TiVo. If he's having a crappy day, take ten minutes and find five hilarious YouTube videos you can send him. If she's jealously raving about the book her pal is reading, order it on Amazon…from your phone, in the dive bar bathroom, before you forget. Later, when your thoughtful gift shows up and proves what a great listener you are, you can buttress it with a true story of how their wish is your command.
8. The Beauty Parade (15 minutes, 0 dollars)
If you can get a peek at her daily calendar, organize it so that ten random people tell her she's beautiful, all on the same day. The mailman, her lousy brother, the woman at her coffee shop, her parole officer—you figure out the details. The message is that you love her and you want to make sure she knows it all day long. It won't be easy, but it's free, and a story she'll retell forever. And yes, you can be number eleven.
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