For Vincent Varney, romance sends shivers down his spine. The creepy, “run for your life” kind of shivers.
I’m sitting on my bed, phone in hand – the same thing I’ve been doing for the past 20 minutes. My text message has been meticulously worded, yet when I hover my thumb above “send,” it shakes anxiously. This isn’t the sort of message you fire on a whim because the consequences are so grave. Whether I fling it across the airwaves or bury it in the digital cemetery known as my drafts depends on one thing – am I being romantic or am I being creepy?
Despite my agonising, the answer is quite simple: I’m being both. Some people (read: women) will tell you there’s a fine line between a wildly romantic gesture and a creepy one, but this is pure fantasy, because as you try to separate the two, the line becomes blurry at best. For every saccharine and lovey-dovey act, there’s a shady and depraved underside that makes it far less charming.
Romance is creepy.
Imagine this: You arrive at work on Monday morning to find a bouquet of flowers waiting on your desk. Opening the card, you a find short and cryptic note addressed from an anonymous devotee. Your initial reaction might be, “Ooh! I have a secret admirer,” but shouldn’t you be more concerned that a shadowy figure knows where you work? And that there’s no way to be sure of what else he or she knows? What began as a delightful gesture is no longer as promising, and with the risks considered, you’d best be saying goodbye to your loved ones.
Some will be quick to call me a wet blanket or accuse me of trying to undermine any would-be Casanovas, but these people have been brainwashed into craving wildly romantic gestures. For this, we have the romantic comedy to blame – a phenomenon that exists purely to make shady and depraved behaviour seem acceptable to a rational person. Perhaps more aptly titled “romantic horror,” the audience will laugh and cry as they follow the mishaps of a love-addled and even deranged individual, all because of how the situation is framed.
In film, the director gets to determine the frame and how the characters are portrayed. If it’s decided that the romantic-but-questionable deeds will be put on a pedestal, then they will always seem reasonable. That’s why it was okay in Love Actually for Britain’s Prime Minister to knock on every doorstep in London in search of the woman he yearned for, or for How I Met Your Mother’s Ted Mosby to sneak into a woman’s apartment with a string quartet in tow, patiently waiting for her to arrive home.
Reality, however, never frames such behaviour quite so kindly, and any attempts to replicate the above behaviour would range between absurd and unlawful. So while you might leave the cinema or your living room post-rom-com dreaming of being whisked away by that certain someone – “Will they show up on my doorstep on a lonely night and profess their love, or will they lead me blindfolded to a picnic in a picturesque woodland hideout?” – the feeling is temporary.
Firstly, I know a girl who had a guy show up on her doorstep and she said it was frightening, particularly when he screamed “Love me!” for 15 minutes straight. As for the picnic, just remember that dragging a blindfolded guest into the bush is illegal. If someone does that, they’re neither romantic nor creepy – the widely accepted term is “serial killer.” As soon as such a situation arises, you’ll realise that time is best spent with someone who doesn’t treat the word “love” synonymously with “insanity”.
Despite these warnings, some people will insist on keeping their faith in romance, but that would be to live in a fantasy world. By definition, that’s all romance has ever been – a fantasy. It’s why the Romantic Era of literature yapped on endlessly about the countryside; it’s why teenage couples dream of eloping; it’s why a rom-com can make a deranged protagonist likeable. It’s also enough to make a person fantasise about someone romantically breathing down their neck…
Then again, the phrase “breathing down my neck” also has some suspicious connotations, and this is the exact reason why wildly romantic gestures are creepy. Why would someone resort to trickery to win the affection of another? It’s all a bit too shifty, foregoing sensible behaviour and making their intentions known through a smoke and mirrors routine – surely it means they have something to hide? These gestures use the thrill of the unknown to hide a dissatisfying truth.
So maybe I’m writing off the would-be Casanovas, but if they’re going to rely on such sinister methods to get their way, why should they be trusted? Next time someone tells you they wrote a poem about you or they painted your portrait, you should already be running, running for your life.