I hear it all the time, that African men and even black men in general are not romantic, and that even when they attempt to be, it doesn’t always come out right. Maybe the problem is with the definition of romance. What is romance? Wikipedia (God bless this online encyclopedia!) defines romance as a literary style that dealt with “heroic prose” and “verse narrative” during the medieval ages in England. Romance took on different themes for example, as magical realism and eerie Gothicism; a far cry from our modern connotations! We owe our modern notions of romance to the French. According to Wiki:
From ca. 1800 the connotations of "romance" moved from fantastic and eerie, somewhat Gothic adventure narratives of novelists like Ann Radcliffe's The Sicilian Romance (1790) or The Romance of the Forest (1791) with erotic content to novels centered on the episodic development of a courtship that ends in marriage.
This development of romantic style that focused on courtship was purely imaginative and based on fantasy; after all, literature aims to create an alternate world where the reader can escape toï¿½from their reality.
Even though we have been programmed with a general idea of what constitutes as romance, in reality it means different things for different people depending on culture and circumstance. The idea that African men are unromantic (whether true or not) stems from the fact that we have allowed ourselves to accept a Eurocentric version of romance that is often times based on the movies we've watched or the harlequin romances we've read. Sometimes in making these categorizations, we fail to realize that before western influence, men and women shared romantic moments that were devoid of the flowers, candy and gushy hallmark cards (for example) that we have come to associate with courtship.
I did buy the idea (and still do in a lot of ways, such habits are hard to shake off) that romance constituted an eloquent, poetic man with a habit of sending me flowers and occasional chocolate, and so when I entered my first relationship, I was unprepared for what occurred. This man did not possess the qualities of the typical romantic leading man, and that did not sit well with me! I tried to change him-yes I did, but failed at each attempt. He was who he was and that was that.
We broke up after a few years later but when I look back, I realize I may have missed out on his unique romantic style (if there is such a thing) by choosing to focus on the accepted definition. For one, he was a very good cook who did not have a problem splurging me with his delicious cuisine, and he preferred sharing a bowl of food with me than eating with separate plates. He always left the last piece of meat on the plate for me; sounds comical, but that to him was his way of putting me first. My weight gain never bothered him; in fact, he always complimented me in whatever body size I happened to be at the moment. And of course, whenever we were out, he always paid without hesitation.
The problems I had at the time was that he never bought me flowers or candy, didn’t care much for valentines day and occasionally forgot our anniversary. He was not the type to express his love with words, which I found frustrating as the imaginative Writer and Poet that I am.
My point here is that many times our attachments to what constitutes as romance based on an ideological principle, prevents us from appreciating sincere signs of affection. The older I get, the more I let go of this attachments. Of course, that does not mean that I do not appreciate flowers when they come or that I do not indulge in romantic movies, because I do! But I am trying to focus on the important things.
Moments spent in authenticity are more romantic than the guy who gave me a rose in college and ended up moving on to my best friend two weeks later. Or the many men who come up to me with the perfect “flow” only for me to discover that they are “players.” Maybe our men lack so called romance because when they are really into us females, they’d rather focus on what is real and tangible in the relationship. If I may add a small tip though, fellas forgetting anniversaries never looks good. Just saying.