Updated: Aug 22
Like most American girls, I was raised with a specific idea of what romance looked like. Romance was a guy bringing you flowers on the first date. Romance was a candlelit dinner at an expensive restaurant. Romance was donning lingerie and walking into a room with flower petals covering the bed. Romance was a big white dress, a church filled with adoring relatives, and the exchange of vows through tears.
I will admit, I like a little traditional romance. When I was living in Brooklyn, on payday I would buy my girl a bouquet of flowers from the local market and bring them home to her. I loved walking into the house and presenting her with roses, or calla lilies, or daffodils. She did eventually ask what the point of all this was. I told her she was beautiful and needed beautiful things in her life. The day I ascended the subway stairs wearing a canary yellow pant suit carrying roses and the local homeless guy said, “Yeah, there goes Romeo,” I kinda loved it.
Over the years I have watched my share of rom coms and viral wedding proposals. Although I have this reinforcement of what romance is supposed to look like, my ideas have changed significantly. Today what I find romantic and meaningful is very different.
The best example I can give is my morning coffee.
For years I have been making coffee for myself in the morning. Since I have been out of a formal job with standardized hours, this ritual has evolved. I now make French press coffee every morning. I do it for me because I like coffee. I’m not addicted and can go weeks without caffeine with no ill side effects. I just like having the hot cup of coffee while I do my morning computer work.
A partner of mine unexpectedly had to move in with me recently. He and I have been seeing each other for about two years. We never really do traditional romantic stuff. The living situation is temporary and was completely unplanned. However, it has given me a chance to experience my new ideas of romance in full.
He is not a coffee connoisseur. He likes the vanilla creamer in it, so pretty much any hot substance would work. I, on the other hand, value a well-brewed cup. My standard coffee maker is a French press. He had no idea how to use this contraption when he moved in with me. The first couple of mornings I made the coffee. He asked how to use the press, so I showed him. Let’s just say cooking is not his forte so I took over coffee making duties.
Every morning after he is back from dropping his daughter off at school, I put on the kettle and start the water. I brew the pot and bring him a cup complete with the right amount of vanilla creamer. I make my cup and then begin my day. Some mornings we chat a bit. Most mornings he spends editing and retouching photos and I write and do promotional work. Regardless of the day’s to-do list, I always make coffee.
To me, there is something incredibly romantic about this gesture. It is something quiet and intimate between us. He has never asked me to make coffee and it is not required as part of our protocol. Every morning I look forward to getting out of bed, pulling on yoga pants, starting the kettle and brewing the pot. We do not have specific cups for ourselves. However, every morning I pick out a mug that suits him and one that suits me. Depending on what is clean, he usually gets a more masculine cup and I take the more feminine. Sometimes its just the solid color mugs, but he gets the bigger one.
I start every morning doing something for him. I think that is why I like the ritual so much. It means the first ten minutes of my day are serving him and thinking about him. It eases me into my day. It sets the tone for our interactions. It is never expected but always appreciated by him. He always says, “thanks” when I set the coffee next to him.
About two weeks after he moved in before we had established that I would make coffee, he was up very early and went to make a pot. When I got up the kettle was warm, the press was on the counter, but there was no coffee. I had purchased a new bag the day before and he did not know where I had put it. When I started making the pot, he apologized and said, “I didn’t leave this for you on purpose. I just couldn’t find the coffee.” I smiled and told him I was glad he had not made coffee because I really loved doing it.
I brought him his morning cup last week. He laughed and said, “I have come to understand how easy it would be for you to poison me. I just drink whatever you bring me in the morning.” I laughed. Its true. He will drink whatever I bring. The amount of vanilla creamer he likes would disguise just about anything. His comment was an off-handed reminder of the trust we have built between us.
The combination of service and trust and focus on a partner is what I find romantic. Making coffee is no grand gesture. It does not require making reservations and finding the right dress. It does not require much investment of time or money. It is quiet and intimate and something he and I share every day. I start the day by letting him know he is important and I am there to serve him. This is romance. This is connection. This is so much more than any grand gesture I have seen on the internet. This is love.