Life&Style Writer Anya Logue discusses the place of romantic gestures within modern society

Written by Anya
Second year history student at UoB
Images by Ben Kerckx

Hollywood has done a fantastic job of somewhat ruining our concept of true love. All too often, movie plots equate romance with persistence. This can be seen in so many popular films and TV shows where the narrative revolves around a man fighting to win over a woman through his sheer determination and devotion to her. This plotline shows up again and again on our screens, from ‘The Notebook’, where a guy gets a girl to agree to go out with her by threatening suicide, to ‘St Elmo’s Fire’, where a guy literally stalking his love interest is portrayed as sweet and harmless. But in real life, if you have already been declined once, continuing to pursue someone will not be received as romantic. This behaviour is annoying at best and scary at worst, turning into harassment if it continues. Anyone who has had experience with someone who just can’t take no for an answer will understand this.

Even within a romantic relationship in which both partners reciprocate interest, some would argue that certain kinds of romantic gestures are at odds with the modern feminist movement. Some people may find that gestures like buying flowers or chocolates for their partner makes the relationship into too much of a transaction, as if buying a gift should be in return for affection and love. The commoditisation of romance is particularly clear around Valentine’s Day, where every relationship is made to seem incomplete without some kind of spending involved.

You have to think about whether you’re trying to brighten up the person’s day, or whether you’re really just trying to make the situation about you

Another possible problem with certain grand gestures is that they put all of the limelight on you and your relationship. Sometimes what you may think of as a romantic act may just be seen by your love interest as you inserting yourself into every part of their day unnecessarily. For example, going into your partner’s workplace to surprise them with a picnic may be taken as simply too much of you trying to take over every aspect of their life. When it comes to gestures like this, intentions matter. You have to think about whether you’re trying to brighten up the person’s day, or whether you’re really just trying to make the situation about you.

But perhaps criticising every little romantic gesture like this is feminism gone too far. Speculating about what makes one particular couple happy seems like a pointless activity. Maybe being given flowers is just a lovely reminder that you are valued and appreciated, even if it is on Valentines Day. And while some may find it too intense to be surprised by their partners at work, for others it may be an amazing break from their stressful day. Constantly policing peoples’ own personal ways of showing love will not achieve anything for the feminist movement. Perhaps, you just have to know your partner well enough to figure out which romantic gestures they will enjoy.