Chick LiteralThe Grand Gesture Is Actually Just CreepyAndrea Greb

I’ve spent most of my life thinking that romantic comedies have done me a terrible disservice, as far as relationship expectations are concerned.  The most life ruining trope of this genre, for me, has always been the grand gesture.  I remember actually citing the ends of both Good Will Hunting and Garden State to my long distance boyfriend of several years ago, as evidence that he should quit his PhD program to prove his love for me.  In my non-defense, I was 22 and an idiot.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the only one who’s been done a disservice by the rom com mentality.  More and more, I’m seeing guys that have taken the male rom com plotline to heart – if you meet a girl who’s not interested in you, just keep pursuing her and eventually you’ll win her over.  Or, if things with a girl end poorly and you want to win her back, you can accomplish this with a grand gesture.  This sort of persistence is supposed to be seen as romantic.  In actuality, it’s just plain creepy.

This was first pointed out to me in a seminar I took on Sex And The City in college. (Yep, it was a real class.) We were watching the episode where Steve and Miranda first meet; Miranda dismisses the encounter as a one night stand, but Steve keeps pursuing her:  showing up at her apartment, coming out to drinks with her friends.  We’re supposed to see this as evidence of what a nice, caring guy Steve is, and how much he cares about Miranda, and that’s how I used to see it, until the instructor pointed out that in actuality, what he’s doing is tantamount to stalking.  Miranda’s said she’s not interested, but he keeps trying.  We’re supposed to think, “Oh, but Miranda’s so cold and jaded, he just knows what she’s really looking for,” but what that’s actually saying is that women can’t be trusted to make up our own minds, and we should just wait for guys to tell us how we feel about them.

When a little light stalking isn’t enough to convince a woman that she really does like a guy after all, then a grand gesture is just what the doctor ordered.  In order for a guy to need to make one, one of two things needs to have happened – he’s committed a horrible offense that’s led to the end of the relationship, or the woman has decided she doesn’t want to be with him.  And so he comes up with some bold, romantic move to show her that he’s sorry or that she should give him another chance.  This often involves convincing someone not to move across the country, or chasing them across the country if they’ve already gone.  Again, what’s actually happening is that as women, our opinions are being totally disregarded.  If a lady says she never wants to see you again, she’s saying she never wants to see you again, not that you should do something extravagant so she can changer her mind.  And yet time and time again, this works in the movies – How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and Say Anything spring readily to mind, but the examples are many..  On rare occasions, the grand gesture fails, and it’s sort of refreshing.  There’s a plotline in West Wing (spoiler ahead if you’re watching on Netflix) where Toby tries to win back his ex-wife by buying her a house, and I remember being sad when she didn’t accept, but it’s actually really, really great to see a show depicting a woman sticking to her guns and not giving into a male opinion or cheap romanticism.

I know it sounds like a non-problem when I go ‘oh, this guy won’t stop pursuing me, it’s the worst,’ and 90% of the time the response is ‘well why don’t you give him a chance.’  And the answer is, I’m not interested, and I shouldn’t have to explain it any further than that.  If I’m not interested, for whatever reason, I should feel no obligation to give a guy a chance just because he won’t leave me alone.  Life would sure be swell if we could all get people to like us just by doing stuff, but that’s not the way the world works.  We’re all entitled to our opinions, so no number of love letters or boomboxes held over heads should necessarily change them.

I’m not advocating an end to all romance; flowers or a thoughtful note for someone you’re dating, or hoping to date, can be wonderful.  But once someone’s expressed that they’re not interested, any further action is unwanted and intrusive.  At some point, this isn’t about saying what the recipient wants to hear, but a method of just saying what the sender wants to say. That’s not romance.  That’s just selfishness.

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  1. I am sorry to read that you appear to have confused grand gestures with acts of desperation and stupidity. When a man closes his eyes and ears and blindly pursues a woman who has rejected him, that is not a grand gesture. When a man tries to fix a broken marriage with a house, that is not a grand gesture. And when a man gives up his PhD program to appease his girlfriend, that is not a grand gesture. Those are desperate, creepy, last ditch efforts of men who have failed, abandoned their senses, and resorted to a brute force approach to fix an already lost situation. Those are the solutions of monkeys trying to fix Humpty-Dumpty with sledge hammers.

  2. Love this topic. I have a guy-friend who has really fallen prey to this grand gesture notion. He told me and our female-friend about how he was really into a girl with a crappy boyfriend. On one intimate day after listening to music in the car and her complaining about said long-term boyfriend, he tells her that he’s in love with her. Immediately, me and my female-friend face palm. Yeah, it didn’t work. But hey, she thought he was brave!

  3. The frustrating part for me is when guys do this we’re meant to think it endearing and cute but when a girl does this she’s straight out labelled pathetic and stalker!

  4. I am so grateful that I am too broke for a grand gesture.

  5. Very good point. However, Danny Concannon is most definitely the exception to this rule. Worked out for him. :). (Maybe using a grand gesture to embarrass yourself…through a goldfish perhaps….is the way to go.)

  6. Try having never dated a guy and having him tell your friends he’s in love with you. It’s a whole different level of difficult when (for you) there was nothing there in the first place but friendship, and you never gave the idea there was anything more. I ended up feeling pressured to consider beginning a relationship with someone i had never thought of that way; mainly because in the Rom Com context it was romantic. In the end i had to deal the fallout of a break up without having even dated the guy.

  7. When I told my BF (ex now) who didn’t treat me very nicely and told me I should wear more makeup and then he couldn’t make his mind up whether he actually wanted to be with me that I didn’t want to see him any more and I was moving on because well…the reasons above are enough! Suddenly he decided I was the love of his life phoned me everyday, turned up at my flat at about 3am then wrote me a poem for every day we were apart, maybe he did love me in the end (I’m pretty hard to live without :p I joke.) but I’d already given him one last chance and my mind was made up, I’d moved on. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 3years and still this other guy will occasionally pop up and say I’ll be there and get you back if you and him ever breakup…..creepy much?!

    So yeah huge romantic gestures especially after he’s been a tool is seriously creepy.

  8. God, I hate the grand gesture. I remember telling a guy after four dates (FOUR!!!) that this wasn’t really working for me. This unleashed a barrage of text messages, hand written letters, and showing up on nights out. No matter what I said, he just insisted he would “wait” for me. All of which I think I was supposed to be flattered by or something. In reality I was so pissed off and frustrated that in the end I had to send one of the most brutal text messages I have ever written, and I ended it with “and furthermore, I am furious that you have made me have to speak this way, because it is not in my nature to be this harsh but you have left me with no option”. Give it up!!!! Life is not a film!!!

  9. Totally agree! Thank you for writing this! I love rom com (all kinds) but in reality, I feel very awkward with people who are trying to pursue me but I’m not interested.

  10. This reminds me of the time when a man who pursued me relentlessly sent me a present when I was visiting my father in his new home seven hours away from my town. The man, a grown man in his forties, looked up the address of my father, Google street viewed it, sent me a photo of the front of the house where there was a bench, sent me an email with the picture of the bench stating that at some point in time he would like to sit there with me, sent me a little present via express post with a stamp on it to say when it was picked up. I was gone for a week. Yet this is what I had grown up with, the grand gesture of love and affection. When I actually started dating this man, I told him the gesture was a bit much and I didn’t require the grand gesture, he didn’t listen and it got more and more crazy. I cared for him, but he didn’t listen.

  11. Huh. This article game me a lot to think about and I’m really wishing I could have taken that Sex in the City class too :) Thank you.

  12. I was about a paragraph into this when I began thinking of The West Wing so I’m glad you came to mention that. There are a few storylines in Sorkin shows that are problematic for this reason – Charlie’s pursuit of Zoey even after she tells him to stop, Danny and CJ, Toby and Andy, and Danny in Studio 60 with Jordan. Only in the latter does the pursuit/stalking culminate in a gesture (or gestures) but still.

    Can someone please tell Aaron Sorkin to stop with this trope?

  13. I’m SO GLAD I’m not the only one who feels this way! I also think that some men fall on the grand gesture as a crutch (an ex of mine comes to mind…) so that they can slack on a relationship until it’s almost disintegrated, then go and whisk you off on a surprise mountain getaway (maybe too specific? it’s true) and think that everything is fixed. Then, a month later when things are bad again (worse! They’ve created expectations they can’t live up to) they are shocked when the relationships ACTUALLY FALL APART. “but… I’ve been so good to you! I took you here, I whisked you there, I bought you eighteen thousand flowers that one time…”

    Grand gestures are a terrible thing in disguise. Kind of like high heels.

  14. Agreeeee agree agree! The grand gestures should only really be used when you are in that relationship, not to get in it or back into it. But thats the kicker, once they are in all that goes out the window. That is the message that needs to be sent out, if she says no, it means no, if you’ve already got her don’t get lazy because you already won. The grand gestures need to make a come back in actual relationships where they will be more than welcomed.

    • YES! I was thinking the same thing the whole time I was reading this, because I think the article makes some good points, but seems to hate the idea of grand gestures all together. You are so right. Grand gestures shouldn’t be a last ditch resort to get someone or win them back, they should be used to strengthen the love that is already there.

  15. Hi Andrea, I really enjoyed reading your piece. I am 21 and will turn 22 this July, I love romantic movies, romantic novels, romantic anime etc. I have also felt that all that kind of romanticism is just not true, unfortunately, for me. I still have ridiculously high standards for men thanks to all this, but I thank posts like yours that are helping me “grow up” and let go of all the information I have been feed by the media (of whatever kind) on how perfect men should be. Thanks!