BOY meets girl.
No, wait, that's not quite right. Boy sees girl. That's more like it. Boy sees girl, girl is busy going about her day, doesn't notice boy. Boy is unperturbed by her lack of interest and makes advances anyway. Girl says no, politely. Boy remains unperturbed. Boy asks again, sends flowers, turns up at her workplace, finds out where she'll be on Saturday night then turns up there too.
Boy's friends get in on the act. They persuade girl how nice boy is. Girl's friends join in - give him a chance! Girl rolls her eyes, relents and a bright new partnership is born. This is romance, people. Maybe it lasts and maybe it ends. Maybe the boy and the girl go their separate ways, amicably, or maybe the boy starts a relentless campaign of pleading and pining until girl, again, relents.
Take Robin Thicke. Thicke, who caused controversy with the song Blurred Lines (and his, er, "raunchy" performance with Miley Cyrus at the VMAs) is at it again with a new album, dedicated to his estranged wife Paula Patton. It's a romantic tour de force. The lead single, Get Her Back, is accompanied on the record by Whatever I Want and You're My Fantasy. The video for Get Her Back is a sweet melee of drowning, bleeding and gun imagery interspersed with text messages sent between the couple. "I wrote a whole album about you," types Thicke. One presumes Paula would prefer he looked elsewhere for a muse.
The album has been roundly derided as creepy and desperate, which it undoubtedly is. But poor Thicke. He's only doing what the Hollywood narrative arc dictates he should.
Man who leaves no stone unturned in pursuit of woman is the stuff of romantic movie legend. Ladies are supposed to swoon at a gentleman so insistent on his target that he dreams up ever more creative ways to grab her attention.
The difference between flirting and harassment should be clear but, look, it's a minefield. Pursue is what we do both to romantic desires and to prey. You can see from whence confusion springs.
While one party may see relentless requests for an audience as proof of devotion, the other may feel pestered. While one party believes all women love flowers, the recipient may, indeed, love flowers but prefer them from someone towards whom they hold warm feelings. While one party feels "surprise" meetings - at the supermarket, the pub, work - may be proof of compatibility, the other feels stalked.
The man will be puzzled. He's a "nice guy". Why doesn't the woman want to date him? As soon as a man calls himself a "nice guy" you can be pretty sure he's really not that nice a guy. In fact, I'd counsel any young woman new to the world of dating that, should a man declare himself a nice guy, it's her cue to sidle away, without sudden movements.
Maybe the woman just can't see how marvellous the man really is. The more likely scenario is she's quite capable of making her own choices.
In real life, the vast majority of men know perfectly well the third time's not going to be the charm. Not all do. You could argue the problem is male privilege and a sense of entitlement and you might be quite right.
I blame Hollywood: from James Bond forcing himself on reluctant Pussy Galore to Twilight's Bella Swan being tailed hither and thither by Edward, it's all screwed up. Romantically, it must be tough being a man; it's not something I'd like to have to make a habit of. But women don't help themselves by buying into the movie notion that to be objectified is to be loved.
The problem with learned romance is that the pursuer is not engaging with his target but engaging with his own idea of his target. He's chasing air.
Romance is a pox, on screen and off. And if you don't agree, I'll turn up at your office and make you.
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