A romantic conversation…
“I was listening to a Thanksgiving playlist, and it had all this Bing Crosby and old-timey music, holiday stuff, and it was all ‘You’re so beautiful, no matter where you go, I’ll go and find you!’ It’s so devoting”, she takes a moment to sip her coffee, “Music today isn’t like that, its all ‘These hoes ain’t loyal.’ I keep asking myself, what happened? Where did we go wrong?”
“Well there was a lot of ‘romance’ in music back then.”
We are sitting in a small cafe in the lower east side. We push our bodies up close to a heating pipe wrapped in twine that sits between us. Trying to find warmth from the winter chill that bustles in with every customer’s entrance. I haven’t seen her for almost a year; the energy behind her eyes is paramount. Her questions, her passions. She’s NYC, born and raised.
“Was it romance? Don’t you think romance is dead?” she asks me, holding on to a hot water pipe for dear life as a couple with two kids walks in, “do we need it?”
The little girl, maybe about three, is holding the door open. Her parents have already walked inside, but she is still holding the door ajar. Waiting to be acknowledged, to receive a thank you from two people she loves more than anything. A few patrons shoot the parents dirty looks as the cold NY air continues to blow in and they hurry her inside with a frustrated tone.
“I think romance is alive, but we confuse it for something else. If you define it as chivalry, then yes it’s dead and it should stay that way. Chivalry is steeped in sexism, ‘‘I’m going to open this door for you, but really its because I think you are too weak to do it.’ All those ‘romantic’ songs we used to listen to back in the 40's and 50's, they were rooted in misogyny and sexism. Women back then had no rights, no place to work other than the kitchen or as a secretary or a teacher. Where were men going to follow women, when women couldn’t go anywhere?”
“Romance,’ I go on, ‘is a thing we get to define. I view romance as respect and support, a deep rooted desire to uplift and empower someone you love. That’s romance. I don’t think it should be defined as saving or rescuing someone or needing to view your partner as less than you. Bing Crosby may have sung about chasing after or saving a woman, but I don’t need to be saved or chased. I want to be respected. Don’t open the door for me because I’m a woman, do it because it’s a kind thing to do. That kindness is romantic to me.”
We talk for another two hours, effortlessly navigating through topics that are digging questions in our hearts. We talk about being labeled a bitch when you know what you want, and how damaging and frustrating that is. We share frustration over the x’s we add to the end of our emails so people don’t think us too aggressive. We contemplate how to navigate this world without losing yourself. We mourn losing support when you’ve given so much to a relationship, personal and business. We discuss love, loss, careers, dreams, fears, hopes. We talk until our eyes grow heavy and for long after our cups have been empty.
“Write about this” she says. “You are such a good writer.”
“You can do this.” I tell her. “You were made for this.”
We hug, make sure we have each others numbers and walk in the same direction for a while before parting ways. The air is cold and biting, and I hurriedly work to put on my gloves. I spin around frantically, having forgotten my manners. “Thank you for the hot chocolate!” I yell back across the street. She laughs and waves.
Bing Crosby may have sung about going to the end of the earth to find love. I have reached across a cafe table to a familiar hand and found that warm heart in a conversation.