The most romantic gesture ever.

The Most Romantic Gesture Ever | Giving Up on Perfect

In my high school Valentine’s Day was quite the floral spectacle. Like adolescent boys everywhere, my classmates knew that buying flowers on that infamous greeting card holiday was mandatory if they hoped for any chance of having a girlfriend on February 15.

Rather than interrupt class with deliveries all afternoon, some wise person in charge of our school decided that the best course of action was to simply place all flowers and gifts on tables in the cafeteria. Then, following the last bell, students were responsible for checking the tables.

That meant that if you had even an inkling that someone might have sent you flowers, you had to walk slowly, casually by the tables, eyes darting back and forth, searching for your name on a box or bouquet. It was an outrageous form of teenage torture, and I can’t even believe it was legal.

As a long-time victim of Just a Friend Syndrome who had recently acquired a Boyfriend Who Is Not Romantic At All, I was fairly certain my name was not on any of the smelly flowers. And yet, I hoped.

I don’t remember exactly how I found out there were flowers for me on the table. Did I see it as I walked by, oh so casually, after class? Or did someone else see it and tell me? I don’t know. But I do remember exactly how I felt when I saw the roses.

The world stopped. My heart soared. Angels sang. You get the picture, right?

Mark gave me a dozen red roses that year – and also gave my mom a rose, too. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Could anything possibly be more romantic than that?

At 17 years old, I thought not. Clearly, this was The Most Romantic Gesture Ever.

A little over a year later, I went to the lake with about half of my class a few days before graduation. We water skied, swam, shopped in the tourist trap town and even got one of those old-timey pictures taken. And after dinner each night, we gathered in the resort’s dance hall for an awkward, are-we-in-middle-school-again dance.

As we hung out, waiting for the second night’s party to start, one guy punched me in the arm and asked me to save him a slow dance. Since this particular guy is one I’d had a crush on since middle school, I said, “Sure.” And I said it real cool-like, you know. Even though I might have possibly been shrieking in my head, “I WILL SAVE YOU ANY DANCE YOU WANT!”

{And yes, for those of you keeping track, I did still have that one-time rose-buying boyfriend who would become my husband. He was at home. I was at the lake. I have no excuse or explanation for those treacherous and embarrassing shrieking thoughts.}

So the dance started. And it was kind of lame. My friends wanted to go back to our cabin and hang out, but I couldn’t leave. I had promised that guy a dance! So I waited. And waited. I waited as he danced with pretty much every girl in the room EXCEPT ME. Finally, I snapped out of my idiocy and realized this whole thing was stupid. As one more slow song started and that guy grabbed Another Girl Who Was Not Me, I turned (in a huff, I am sure) and walked out.

I ran to catch up with my friends, who had wisely decided not to wait for me. And then I heard, “Hey! Wait!” I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I turned around. THAT GUY HAD FOLLOWED ME OUTSIDE. And he said, “Let’s dance.”

Had more romantic words ever been spoken?

Look, I know. But in the moment? It was Billy Crystal running across New York City at midnight. It was Tom Hanks taking Meg Ryan’s hand on top of the Empire State Building. It was John Cusack holding up that ridiculous boombox. It was romantic.

{Yes, even though it went nowhere and meant nothing. I promise. For those of you keeping track.}

For years I held onto memories like this and stories like that. The roses and the stupid dance and all the things we’re programmed to “need” – that was my definition of romance. And every time my husband (he of the dozen plus one roses, remember) failed to live up to that definition, I felt so disappointed, so ripped off.

Where were my flowers? My surprise getaways and weekly date nights and notes just because I love you? The dances under the stars, the carriage rides in the park, the champagne and mix tapes and feeding each other chocolate on a Thursday?

Yeah, I wasn’t getting any of that.

And it took me a long time – TOO LONG – to figure out that those things are not all they’re cracked up to be. Those things mean nothing compared to someone who kisses you and never mentions your morning breath, who puts up with your mom and says of course your best friend can go on vacation with you and adores your daughter like nobody’s business, who holds your hair and goes to the store for feminine products and brings you a glass of water when you throw a grown-up tantrum and cry yourself dehydrated.

But even though I [eventually] figured that out, I didn’t immediately become immune to Romance Envy. It flares up every now and then, often when reading gag-inducing Facebook statuses or watching unrealistic chick flicks. (Am I alone on this??)

However, I think I was cured for good this spring. It seems like this year has been the “big” anniversary of so many couples we know. Ten, fifteen, twenty-five years our friends have been together, and they’ve celebrated right. Vacations, cruises, flowers and wine and all that jazz. Oh yeah, probably jazz music, too.

Mark and I celebrated our anniversary in May. Well, not so much as “celebrated” as “made it to.” The weeks leading up to the big day were filled with arguments, threats, silence and tears. So on the 13th anniversary of our wedding, we went to our first counseling session together.

It was, BY FAR, the most romantic thing Mark could have done.

He made the appointment. He vowed, all over again, to stay with me forever and do whatever it takes to make our marriage work. The issues that brought us to that point aren’t important to this story, and we both share the blame for it all. What matters is that we chose to stay, to fight, to find love again.

Most. Romantic. Gesture. EVER.

What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for someone?

This post is part of 31 Days of Giving Up on Perfect. All month long, I’ll be writing about my fight against perfectionism and my quest to get on with life, already. For more 31 Days, visit The Nester.

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25 Comments The most romantic gesture ever.

  1. Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home October 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Mary, I’m sure this was a hard post to write and I admire you and Mark for your commitment to each other. I’m praying a sweet season for your marriage. (I totally understand what you mean about the big anniversaries on FB. They’re everywhere! Our anniversary is next week, but it’s not in the budget to do anything.)

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect October 12, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks, Dawn. :) I’m so grateful that God has held us close over the past few months and I believe we’re headed straight into that sweet season you prayed for. Happy anniversary to you! May you receive beautiful gestures of true love on your big day and every day.

  2. Lisa-Jo October 13, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Oh Mary, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read by you. I’ve suffered from similar romance envy. Growing out of that was hard. But I’m learning that rises die and a man that stays up with the puking 4 yr old is forever.

  3. Sarah October 13, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Mary, this was just beautiful and perfectly written for me. I mean, I have at times been the envy of all the girls with the romantic gestures of my husband. For goodness sake, the man proposed to me at night, in PARIS, along the Seine River with the Eiffel Tower as one back drop, the Notre Dame as another, and glittering lights every where. So yeah, that pretty much made me hated by all my girlfriends.

    But now? 7+ years, 3 kids ages 4 and under. Not a lot of romantic gestures flying around these days. Yet, replacing the grand gestures is a sweetness that courses through our marriage. A ‘in sickness and health, for richer or poorer’ sweetness that beats all the romantic gestures. Knowing, when I see other marriages failing, that my husband is putting his everything into what we have to make sure that we stay the course – now that is romantic. The long nights he spends doing work and his MBA just so he was able to spend time with us in the evenings – that is romantic. Ok, I’m getting all teary just writing this. HA!

  4. Amy October 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    One of my favorite posts, Mary, and so true!

  5. Shelly W. October 13, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Mary, you are so brave and so beautiful to write this encouragement to probably more people than you know. I have not been an easy person to be married to, and romance is not my husband’s love language (!), but we’ve gutted it out for 27 years. One day, a few years ago, I realized that we weren’t just “gutting it out” anymore–that we really liked each other, even though our marriage didn’t look like everyone else’s (or so I thought). I’m so glad we got through some hard years (especially the ones when our girls were little) because now we are reaping the rewards. Hang in there, dear friend. It’s so worth it.

  6. Emily October 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I have just started reading your blog as part of the 31 days series, and I have to say that I will keep reading after November hits! :) Thank you so much for a great blog, and such openness on the web. I love it! :)

    Great post today – my hubby was the one who bought me flowers all the time & actually wrote me a song before we got married. Then afterwards, nada. Zip. All over. And while I do occasionally remind him to do such things, it’s a bigger deal to me when he cleans up the living room on a day off or takes the kids to McDonald’s for breakfast so I can sleep in! :) We’ve just passed 17 years – congrats on your anniversary and a happy year to you!!!

    Emily :)

  7. Becca October 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    I LOVE this post. Seriously, love it :-)

  8. karen October 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Welcome to the romantic marriage counseling club. :)

  9. Kristen@Chasing Blue Skies October 13, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Oh Mary, I couldn’t love this more. The longer I’m married, the more I value the “practical-if-unromantic” gestures over those of movie melodramas. I can’t remember when I last got roses myself, but my man changes my car’s oil like clockwork and cleans up the kitchen for me. It’s a hard fought lesson learned, but I can honestly say I find that positively dreamy!

    I love you girl ~ what a gem you are!

  10. Kat Lee October 14, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Beautiful post, Mary!!!

  11. Jessica @The Mom Creative October 14, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Yes, romance is more than roses, isn’t it? THAT movie needs to be made. Great post, friend. Praying for this new season of romance.

  12. Jennifer {StudioJRU} October 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Vowing all over again, to do whatever it takes to make your marriage work… this is the *most* romantic gesture ever!! And what a great gesture to begin on your anniversary. Praying for a wonderful new year for both of you, Mary!

  13. Missy June October 15, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I married the grand-gesture guy … and sadly learned it meant nothing in daily life. Real love and commitment are the daily things that will keep you together. Now I’m hoping for a man who is true to his word, dependable, honest and kind – those are romantic to me!

  14. Robin Dance October 15, 2012 at 10:33 am

    The most romantic thing I’ve ever done? Here’s the thing–it took me YEARS to figure out what spoke romance to my husband (of course, NOT the same thing that speaks it to me!). Anything that is service-related, the type things I don’t enjoy but matter to him. Raking leaves, making the clutter disappear (I don’t count that as cleaning, but it’s the #1 priority to him), or cleaning out the car. Seriously, that cranks his motor like no tomorrow :).

    Mary, the wisdom in your post is overflowing. Oh, how I hear your heart! You get it, friend…you get it. And Mark does, too. Y’all are growin’ up <3.

    Wonderful post!

  15. ohamanda October 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    This is the most beautiful post ever. It’s perfect. Yes, I realize that “perfect” to describe a post about giving up on perfect is a little off. But it truly is.

    Thank you for sharing hard things. And to Mark for letting you share it–and for being truly romantic!


  16. Erin October 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    LOVE this post! Love, love it!

  17. Sarah L October 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    First of all, that Valentine’s Day high school activity seems horrible. My high school actually read a list at the end of the day on the intercom with anyone’s name on it that had received flowers that day. The school only had 600 people, but it seemed like a lot of girls got flowers…I never did. I do believe that many girls had their parents send them something so they would make the list.

    I agree about the grown-up romantic activities. I really appreciate that my husband will immediately change a poopy diaper these days because he knows the smell gets to me in my “super pregnant” state. He’s always pulled his weight in this department, but I truly appreciate the practically automatic gesture these days. It certainly makes the dirty diapers that I encounter while alone much more managable. I also love it when my husband turns on the exterior flood light when I’m out past dark. It says “Welcome Home” to me.

    I enjoyed reading this tremendously!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect October 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      I appreciate it when my husband turns on that outside light for me, too. Also – it seems like having a list of flower recipients read would be pretty awful, too!

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  19. Heather February 15, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    This post brought tears to my eyes. May your marriage offer you many more years. Trials and tribulations are given to us to build us up, not tear us down. <3

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect February 23, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      Thank you so much, Heather!

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  22. Alia Joy February 12, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Yes, most romantic gesture ever. No matter what Josh and I go through, his decision to be with me through it all continues to astound me at times.

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