Today is Valentine’s Day! Russians have taken to this holiday with gusto! You can’t move in Moscow today without tripping over something heart-shaped or red.
St. Valentine was a Roman who performed the Christian marriage rite when Christianity was about as legal as gay marriage. He was imprisoned and…well, you know the rest.
So as today is given over to whole-hog cheesy romance stuff (at least I hope it is: HRH is flying back from The Regions where the shopping isn’t all that hot) I thought I would share with you a short piece I wrote for a young man at the request of his moms for a “Wisdom Book” they put together for his high school graduation. I thought it was a lovely idea, and my contribution was on how to be romantic. The recipient does very well for himself in the romantic department, I’m happy to say, and has been kind enough to thank me for some of these tips!
Romance: A Primer
By Jennifer Eremeeva
As you venture into adulthood, I am sure you are weighted down with advice, counsel, and warnings on things like fiscal responsibility, the ongoing importance of flossing, and the advisability of getting your oil checked every 30,000 miles. I want to talk to you about something equally practical that will inevitably serve you even better: romance.
A man, energetically attempting to entice me back to his place one evening once told me: “Sex is the icing on the cake of love.” If that’s true, then romance is the moment when you combine the butter and the sugar in the Kitchen Aid mixer until it is smooth and fluffy before you move on to add the other ingredients and bake the cake. Romance is an essential step that ensures the success of your attempts to capture the affections of the one you love or desire: The Object of Your Affections (“The Object.”) There are those who say romance is dead, or out of fashion, or irrelevant in the age of Facebook, The Bachelorette, or Internet Dating, but don’t listen to them. Romance is the real deal. Nothing is so effective nor, indeed, efficient.
Romance is the perfect fusion of emotion and imagination. Good romance combines the muscle groups of both heart and head pumping at full throttle in harmonious tandem. Great romance demands putting off convention and letting the grand and dramatic have their head. While romance does not always ensure enduring results, the memory of it never fades: it is the key to a tiny safety deposit box of immortality. To be romantic, one must place The Object in a luminous halo of attention and admiration. Bombard The Object with communication – not the single staccato syllables of text and tweet, but pages of prose put down on good paper stock with a fountain pen. Affix a stamp. Make them so plentiful and so memorable that The Object procures a red satin ribbon to tie around them and keeps them until death. If you have no words of your own, you can always borrow some: Lord Byron, William Shakespeare, Ovid, or The King James Bible spring to mind.
To be romantic, one must act boldly and memorably (see opposite for some suggestions). A well-timed and carefully planned gesture is worth more than (most) material goods. Catch The Object unawares – bring in the Sunday Times in a downpour with freshly brewed coffee, send two-dozen long-stemmed red roses to the object’s place of work. Steal The Object’s passport and blue your savings on first class tickets to Paris. Paris is never a mistake. Romance is mostly a marathon, not a sprint. It is a slow braise, as opposed to a quick sear. Great romances build in intensity over time. Unless, of course, you have just spotted the hitherto unknown object of your affections across a crowded room about the leave the event. In that case, spring forward, accelerate, and pounce! Articulate the urgency of what you feel. At least get an e-mail address.
Being romantic is work. You must remember birthdays, Valentine’s Day, and the anniversary of your meeting. You must pack picnics that include fresh strawberries and ice-cold champagne. Being romantic is all about paying for the premium parking lot at the Arrivals Hall, not suggesting the airport van. Being romantic takes expert planning and execution. You must hunt down a copy of “An Affair To Remember,” or whatever cheesy movie The Object most adores, you must learn how to cut French toast slices with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Being romantic is hard work, but the kind that so engrosses you that you do not notice how hard it is. Romancing the object of your affections is doing whatever you need to do to ensure that the object’s palm will begin to tingle in the way that you will come to recognize as a sure sign of being in love.
Romance is always and ever a two-way street. Where there is action, expect reaction. If not, move on, but never ever abandon romance. It really is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Romantic Books, Films and TV Series:
“Casablanca” “An Affair to Remember” “War and Peace” (the book, not the films) “Pride & Prejudice” (any version but especially the Colin Firth version) “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” “Brideshead Revisited” (see especially the cruise ship scenes and note excellent picnic tips from Sebastian Flyte.) “A Tale of Two Cities” “Roman Holiday” “Wuthering Heights” “As You Like It” (contains some excellent advice from The Bard on love letters) “A Room with a View” “Love Actually” (see the Colin Firth storyline for the art of the grand gesture) “When Harry Met Sally” “The Sound of Music” “Persuasion” (the book and the BBC series with Amanda Root) The poetry of Rupert Brooke, Percy Bryce Shelley, Ovid, Lord Byron, William Shakespeare, Andrew Marvell, The King James Bible (Song of Songs)
Paris, Cape Cod, or any small coastal town off-season New York City (The Carlyle, The Pierre, The Sherry Netherland) Venice (off season), the top of something (curiously effective unless The Object is afraid of heights) Hong Kong, the deck of something – almost anything. Really, anywhere you have set up a getaway except your parents’ house. Not romantic.
Floral Tributes (roses are always safe, but lilies often smell better,) Champagne – always brut, preferably French, thoroughly chilled, best served on the bedside table, Love letters (the ones with stamps on them,) Clean Sheets home-cooked dinners(see Julia Child’s “The Way To Cook” for further directions,) customized playlist for the object of one’s affections, surprise Meet & Greet from travel or work, the carefully planned and well-executed spontaneous event.
Asparagus, artichokes, fresh berries, mangos (quite frankly best consumed in the bathtub), oysters, quality steaks, exquisitely crafted artisan chocolate, French patisserie, double cream (as in whipping cream but never in aerosol form)
Cool, soft jazz (Bobby Short)
Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares for Me.”
Christmas music (where and if applicable)
The soundtrack from “Sleepless in Seattle”
The love songs from anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
You Can’t Go Wrong With:
Chanel Number 5
Almost anything from Cartier
Well, readers. Do you have anything to add? Of course you do! What’s your idea of a romantic courtship? What’s your ideal romantic scenario? Hit the comment button below to celebrate romance!
This post is part of The Stunt, an exhaustive examination of Russia’s extensive celebration of public and professional holidays. I will still be at it in 2020.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the kind e mails, tweets, posts, and pokes about the publication of Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis and Mayhem in Moscow! It was a super launch for the book and I am so pleased to hear that you are enjoying it! If you haven’t yet had a chance to get a copy, visit the book’s web page where you will find links to all of the retail options. Click here to download a free copy of Chapter 1: Finding Comrade Right. Thank you so much for your support!