I'm A Strong Woman, But I'm Tired Of Pretending I Don't Need Romance

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woman holding rose

I was raised by a real gentleman. Born in North Carolina to a strong woman, my dad raised my sister and me to expect men to open doors for us, pull out our chairs, and buy us flowers unexpectedly. 

My dad knows how to be romantic, though I don't think he'd ever put it that way. He is forever buying my mother magnolias (the flower that was central to their wedding) and telling her that he adores her out of the blue. Because of my father (and because of fairy tales), I have always had a soft spot for romantic gestures. 

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Guys running in the rain to get my door, a flash mob wedding proposal, heart-shaped food, and breakfast in bed — these dorky silly little things are the sort of romance I ache for.

But my father didn't raise me to be a pretty princess either — he raised me to tough, strong, and a general kick-butt kind of lady. I never realized that being that type of woman would mean that men might assume I'm not into romance. 

Sadly, it's also not the kind of romance I have in my life. As much as I love romance, I tend not to be attracted to romantic men. I chalk this up to living in New York where the popular logic is the bigger the beard and the rounder the glasses, the worse the man. 

I'm a strong woman, and the men I date seem to think that this means I don't want a nice greeting card for Valentine's day. They are wrong. Guys my age somewhere picked up the notion that feminism means they don't have to do stuff like hold our hands or tell us that we look beautiful. Instead, they tell us that they read Jezebel and hate their dads and that's supposed to be true courtly love. 

I respect their respect for equality, but I don't like the utter lack of romance. I've dropped subtle hint after subtle hint, but the closest I get to romance is when a guy remembers that I am carrying our groceries and doesn't let the door hit me directly in the face

I know that romance and love are two very different things, I'm not a total idiot. A man can buy you flowers every single day of the week and still be an emotionally unavailable jerk. 

The man who used to love buying me boxes of candy is the same man who told me that if I lost weight I would have no problems in my life. Jerks can be romantic, it turns out.

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These days I am in a relationship with a man I adore. He adores me right back. We treat each other as equals. I do not think it would ever occur to him to surprise me spontaneously with something he saw that reminded him of me.

Not because he's a bad guy, but because he's not built for that kind of display of romance. Maybe I'm a cynic but when I see a man buying flowers my heart screams "romance!" Maybe instead it should be screaming "what did you do wrong?" But I can't make myself go there. 

I don't think it's hypocritical of me to want to make just as much money as a man AND still be surprised with a handful of daisies for no particular reason. I'll admit that I'm a romantic, and I'm constantly picking up little things to gift the sweetie in my life, or sending them songs that make me think of them. 

Romance isn't about a fake, grandiose gesture, it's about embracing the very real cheesiness of being in love. There's something so rare (there must be) about knowing that even for an instant you mattered enough to be on someone's mind when you weren't around.

That they have carved out a special place in their mind for you to live inside. ​A rose presented to you isn't just a rose, it's a symbol that says "even when we aren't together I am thinking of you, and loving you," and there's nothing remotely anti-woman about that to me.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. Her work focuses on relationships, pop culture, and news. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.