American Heritage Dictionary defines romantic as “having, showing, expressive of, or conducive to the feelings of love or romance.” Dictionary.com calls romance “not practical, unrealistic, fanciful.”
I thought about my relationship to the romantic recently while attending a book club. We were discussing the book Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers. In it, the protagonist finds herself married to a woman she had only met for one night in Las Vegas. As love stories go, the young woman, who had just graduated from college and was experiencing a post-collegiate identity crisis, decided to ditch her pre-formed job plans to instead go live with the woman she married in New York City. She finally let go of the rigid expectations held over her life and allowed herself to experience love and romance, as impractical and fanciful as they might’ve seemed.
I relate to “honey girl.” I’ve erected many roadblocks to the romantic in my life. By romantic, I’m speaking expansively beyond romantic relationships, although that’s a part of it. But I’m thinking more holistically about what it means to romanticize living – to feel, smell, and enjoy life’s sights and sounds. For so long, I’ve mistakenly dismissed the necessity of romance for all aspects of living.
In her seminal essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” Audre Lorde wrote, “it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt.” Just like we need poetry to imagine ourselves outside of what restricts us, we need romance to prepare us to feel the love that we may not yet know but still believe to be true. As I type this, the fragrant warmth of a candle reminds me I am a sensing human being. Though it isn’t necessary for my survival in this moment, engaging in what feels good beyond practicalities signals to my body that it is okay to pursue those good feelings on a grander scale for humanity.
In a society where systemic oppressions repress us into believing we are only as valuable as our ability to produce, living romantically offers a necessary antidote. Lacking the knowledge of what makes us feel good and loved leaves us unable to recognize when we are the victim of love’s opposite – exploitation. Reorienting my relationship to the romantic allows me to see that reclaiming love and romance foretells a reclamation of my right to feel life’s abundance and reject the fear of scarcity. Writing, after all, is a romantic idea – the fanciful notion that I can commune with a stranger by sharing feelings through words on a page. But no matter how many times I doubt, the romance of the muse wins abundantly.
This post is part of my January “300 for 30 Challenge.” I’ve challenged myself to publish a 300-word creative nonfiction essay every day for 30 days. This exercise is part of the development of my writing practice. These are not meant to be “complete” and you’ll probably see me pick some of these back up to create longer pieces later. Thanks for reading!