The holidays are officially over, which means the “seasonal” aisle at CVS has already been transformed into a veritable Valentine’s Day blood bath. I’m all for pink confetti nail polish and any excuse to send my loved ones heart-shaped envelopes covered in stickers, but while we’re on the topic, there are a few supposedly romantic gestures that give me a serious case of the full-body cringe. Just hearing about these heinous-yet-oh-so-common occurrences makes my heart vomit. Yes, the human heart can vomit. Here’s how:
Using My Full Name to Add Romantic Emphasis to Whatever You’re Telling Me
Not sure what I mean? It’s the simple difference between a boy saying, “I love you” (usually awesome, depending on the boy), and a boy declaring, “I love you, Sarah Heyward” (I literally get bad-chills just typing this). There’s also the in-between of “I love you, Sarah” which, to me, is still pretty terrible, but depends more on tone. My issue with this kind of full-name-declaration-of-love is that it seems to imply that whatever is being said is made more special by having my name attached to the end of it. Oh, so you weren’t talking to the squirrel outside my window or my elderly mailman. You said the name “Sarah Heyward”! By golly, that’s me! You love me! I think it’s patently ridiculous that adding someone’s name to the end of a sentence is supposed to make the sentiment any more personal. It actually feels less personal to me – like we are fulfilling some expectation taught to us by Kate Hudson movies and back issues of Cosmo. Think about the scene in American Pie when Tara Reid is about to lose her virginity but not before her boyfriend tells her, “I love you, Victoria.” This is a character we have known as VICKY throughout the movie. Suddenly she’s about to have sex so she must be called “Victoria”? So calling her by some weird formal name you’ve never used before makes your love seem more legitimate? Not a chance. This pet peeve is so pervasive in pop culture and I hate it so much that it’s gotten to the point where if my boyfriend calls me “Sarah” under any circumstance, I assume he’s really pissed at me.
Asking Me to Dance in an Unconventional Setting without Music
Another misguided attempt to be romantic for which we have to thank bad romantic comedies everywhere. You know how this goes – the guy and the girl are doing dishes in their kitchen, or standing on a mountaintop, or in the middle of a supermarket. Maybe they just had a fight or a particularly sweet moment together. The guy gives the girl a loving glance and whispers, “Dance with me.” The girl responds, “But there’s no music.” The guy presses a finger to her lips. “Just dance with me,” he says. And they dance. Wherever they are. With no music. But here is the thing! In movies, that’s exactly when they TURN THE DAMN ORCHESTRAL SCORE UP AT FULL VOLUME. So yes, we are aware that the characters supposedly aren’t hearing any music while they dance this beautiful dance together in the dog food aisle, but since we, the audience, are hearing music, it doesn’t look as weird. Well guess what, it’s weird! Have you ever tried slow dancing with no music? It’s just un-rhythmic, silent swaying, and it’s really not that fun. Once, to be funny, Chris and I tried to dance in a gazebo in the middle of a small town square in Mexico, and even doing it as a joke made me extremely uncomfortable.
Serenading Me in Public
Just don’t do it. I know, it’s a big scene in a lot of wonderful movies including Ten Things I Hate About You (RIP Heath). But in real life, it’s just embarrassing. You probably aren’t going to go to the trouble of figuring out how to get a microphone or set up the speaker system. You might break something or hurt someone when you hop up on that table in the middle of the cafeteria. Chances are, you don’t know all the words. Maybe you have a terrible singing voice. And I know for a fact there won’t be a team of high schoolers accompanying you with a choreographed dance routine. But even if you do tie up all the loose ends and plan a really amazing serenade, it’s still a serenade. In public. And I am distinctly not interested.
Leading Me Anywhere with a Trail of Rose Petals
This one isn’t actually so bad on its own. I like roses a lot and harbor some serious Flower Fairy fantasies about living in a dewy garden grove somewhere. But because the rose petal has inarguably come to symbolize Valentine’s Day, marriage proposals, and general declarations of love, I’m over it. Does any girl in the world come home to an apartment in which candles and rose petals form an arrow leading to her bedroom and NOT know exactly what is about to happen? Actually, a really funny joke would be for a boyfriend to do that and have nothing waiting on the other end. That’s the kind of rose-petal use I could get behind. But doesn’t everyone recognize this as a cliche by now? Can’t we think of some other pretty thing to jazz up our marriage proposals? Personally, I’d follow a path made out of doughnut holes and call it the best night of my life.
Asking Permission to Ask Me to Marry You
I know a ton of people will disagree with me on this one, but I had to include it. To me, asking a parent’s permission before asking your significant other to marry you falls in the bad-romantic column. Obvious exception: when said parent is seriously old-fashioned or traditional or religious or actually has expressed that he or she wishes to be asked first. But even then, I’d probably argue back. Here’s my thinking: the decision to get married should (hopefully) be something the couple has been talking about for a long time before the proposal actually takes place. In my version of things, nobody should be totally surprised by the question (I know that people often are, but that doesn’t seem like the absolute smartest way to enter a lifelong commitment). So if those weeks, months, or years of discussion are preceding this wonderful, romantic moment, why does a parent even have to factor into it? Frankly, I’m excited for the day when I get to call everyone I’m related to and tell them the amazing news. It’s a little less exciting if Mom or Dad had to give permission first. I completely get that every family has their own traditions and values, and for some couples the whole getting-married thing has to follow a strict order of events. But to me, all decisions about the future should stem from the couple itself, and on a more general note, everyone should at least think for a minute before simply perpetuating these undeniably outdated conventions. Of course, when a gigantic dowry is involved…
Now that I’ve publicly declared myself a romance grinch, let me add that I’ve gotten down and dirty with the corniest of moments. The thing about cliches like the ones I mention is that they’re common for a reason: most people love them. And I’ll admit, there are at least a few romantic tropes I’d dismissed as silly until they happened to me. If you’ve ever sheepishly found yourself cuddling while watching a sunset, you know what I mean. Let the cringe wash over you and then let it go, like a rose petal on the wind.
Image via briderose.org