My little ‘research project’ revealed to me that romance is something of a game. The romantic songs were all about one transporting the other into some wishful world. Being carried away and all of that. Often the one to whom the song was sung was resistant but couldn’t keep from surrendering to the other’s charms. (Charm…get it? Magical stuff!)
Most of the richer descriptions were written by females. (The males were pretty clueless). The romance resulted from what appeared to be planned spontaneity. He planned something that would come off to her as spontaneous but also would show that he knew what she loved without her having to tell him. The planning showed that he had been thinking of her in her absence. The spontaneity introduced an element of surprise, which often fosters memory of the event. The fittingness of it showed he knew her heart because he had, unbeknownst to her, been paying attention, which suggested that she was numero uno. The aim of the game was to move her toward intimacy with him, to the ‘woo who’ moment.
However, beyond that, I have wondered whether romance , and all that goes into fostering it, has something to do with enabling us to go on in the face of the difficulties of life. I think it is no accident that people speak of the ‘fairy tale romance.’ And, I cannot read that phrase without thinking of Tolkein’s essay on fairy tales.
Without getting too far into it, Tolkien claimed that we ‘escape’ into fairy tales not so as to get away from either the grinding ordinariness of life or the sharp-edged suffering that often emerges in it. We ‘escape’ into fairy tales so that we may re-enter this ordinary and hard-edged life transformed, enlarged with wonder.
However, the difference between sheer romance and fairy tales is that romance trades on illusions and wishes while fairy tales plunge us more deeply into the very reality we have escaped.
But why am I going on about this? What has this to do with the cup?
I’m not mad at romance. However, it is romance that sets us up for deep suffering when it comes to the hard loss of your beloved. You may recall my reverie over scrambled eggs and how it all but gutted me. Romancing a memory or a spirit who cannot penetrate the thin veil between our and that other realm is a recipe for anguished longing.
Romance may be a necessary component of living a meaningful life with someone you love. It may play a subtle role in the procreation of our futures. We may need those moments of escape to remind us that wonder is not just a Disney production but an aid in us knowing more fully that we walk in mystery every second of our lives.
But, as much as I cherish the cup because of the moment in which it was given, the saying printed on it is BS. “The best is yet to be’ asserts that we can know what we cannot know. It sets us up for disappointment. Dreamy sayings, as beautiful as they may be, are still dreamy.
We had no idea in the Publix parking lot what the future held.
We just thought, that whatever it held, it would be ‘the best.’