The other night, prompted by something or other he’d seen on Facebook, my husband turns to me and asks, “What’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever done for you?” Easy, I think, because obviously the most romantic thing he’s ever done for me will leap to the front of my memory and right out of my mouth. An awkward silence ensues, followed by hemming and hawing, until eventually, and visibly disappointed, he says, “Well, whatever it was, it must not have been that romantic.”
In truth, our daily life is not exactly a series of Grand Romantic Gestures. And your friend who acts like hers is? She’s lying. But I find romance in the little things. In the occasional springtime bouquet of irises he’ll bring me, which he knows are my favorite flower because they are purple. In coming home from a trip to a candlelit apartment and a glass of wine. Hell, I think it’s super romantic when he brings home Popeye’s without me asking him to and he gets my order exactly right; for a writer of gay romance, I’m not especially hard to wow.
And it’s in these little things that I found the big answer to what turned out to be a trick question, for the most romantic thing he’s “ever done” for me is actually something he does all the time. See, for our first Christmas together, he gave me a very simple, very handsome sterling silver chain bracelet. I was thrilled to get it — no man had ever bought me jewelry before. Certainly not jewelry that cost more than fifty cents and didn’t come out of one of those gumball-lookin’ machines that they have on your way out of the Dollar Tree or Casa Bonita. He gave it to me in front of my parents and I loved it and then we went and had Indian food.
On my days off, when I’m just hanging around the house or running around town, I never wear any jewelry besides my “wedding” ring, which matches his. (We haven’t had the actual party yet, hence the quotes.) I quit wearing earrings years ago, and I don’t have anywhere to be, so I don’t wear a watch. But I wear a watch to work, and as long as I’m dressing up and spraying on (knock-off) cologne, I wear my silver bracelet, too — to class up my look a little bit, you know how you do. And every time I get ready to go on a trip, if he is at home — and I’ll wake him if I have to — he puts it on for me. When it was new, I fumbled with the clasp, it was just easier to have him do it, but I’ve been wearing it three days a week for ten years — I can get it on myself in a pitch black hotel room at two in the morning in two seconds. But if I’m at home, and I’m getting ready, and I go to just strap it on myself, he’ll insist that he do it, and it’s become a ritual. I hold out my wrist, he puts it on me, makes sure it’s sitting right, and I give him a little Thank You kiss. And yeah, it’s a Thank You for fastening the clasp, but it’s also a Thank You for giving me the bracelet in the first place. And for being sentimental and sweet enough to insist on doing it still after all these years. It takes two seconds, but they’re two seconds that we come together; two seconds that we remember that once our love was new and exciting; two seconds that we remember how badly we wanted to be together when we lived 50 miles apart; two seconds that a gesture that affirms our love, even as it lives and changes, is our focus. Two seconds that might not add up to much in the Grand Gesture department, but that remind us that the little things count.
So yeah, I was at a loss for a big Hollywood moment; we’ve never taken a bath in champagne, he didn’t ask me to marry him on the Jumbo-Tron at a hockey game, he’s never tied a big red bow around a car — partly because he knows I hate to drive and a new car would be a terrible present because I’d rather spend that money on any number of millions of other things and have him drive me around. Frankly, after ten years together, it needs to be hard to think of one “most romantic” thing, cuz if it’s on the tip of my tongue, Janet Jackson might have been on to something: what have you done for me lately? But if you do something for me every time I leave the house that reminds me and shows the world — or well, its airplane passengers, anyway — how much you love me? That right there is pretty much the most romantic thing ever.