"QUICK," I SAY TO A COLLEAGUE, "what's the most romantic thing that ever happened to you?"
Her answer comes back with the speed of an arrow shot from Cupid's bow.
"This may sound really ridiculous," she says, "but I think it was when a guy I was dating kissed me while I was brushing my teeth. He had been away on a trip and rushed over to my house when he returned. He barged into the bathroom, said he was so happy to see me and started kissing me -- even though I had a mouthful of Crest."
"Quick," I say to another friend, "what's the most romantic thing that ever happened to you?"
He has to think for a minute. "I'd say it was the night my girlfriend climbed up a tree to rescue my kitten. I'm afraid of heights and was standing at the bottom of the tree looking up at this helpless, meowing kitten when my girlfriend simply leaped onto the lowest branch and worked her way up from there. And she hates cats."
One more time: "Quick," I say to a third friend, "what's the most romantic thing . . ."
"I think it was when my wife started carrying my luggage on trips. I never asked her to do this, but I have a bad back and one time when we arrived at the airport she saw I was uncomfortable and just picked up my suitcase. Does it all the time now."
Excuse me. But do you find something wrong with these tales of romance? What ever happened to the kind of Romance that went something like this:
"Our eyes met and locked in a fierce embrace. 'Guido,' I murmured. 'Guido.' The moon shone down on the 8-karat diamond ring he had just slipped on my finger. He kissed me. Someone was singing, 'Some Enchanted Evening . . .' He kissed me again. 'Guido, Guido,' I sighed. He picked me up in his arms and . . ."
Well, you get the drift.
I'm trying to figure out just when Romance became romance. Trying to locate the moment in history when an intensely romantic involvement began to take on the coloration of a mild neurosis. Something to be cured by a mental health expert or a self-help book titled, perhaps, "Why Do I Feel I Am Nothing Without Romance?" Or "Co-Dependents Who Are Too Romantic For Their Own Good."
Did Romance start going down the tubes, perhaps, when barber shops merged with beauty shops and became unisex hair cutteries where everybody could watch everybody else getting their hair cut, permed and dyed?
Or could the demise of Romance be traced back to the emergence of male strippers -- such as the Chippendales -- as the featured entertainers at bridal showers?
Oh. Here's one: Did Romance diminish a little with the advent of His and Hers sweatsuits?
I don't know. All I know is that believing in romance used to be easier. Sure, it's probably "healthier" to give up looking for Mr. Right and settle for Mr. Half-Right-with-Potential, but I tell you, a little Big Romance now and then can do wonders for your soul. Not to mention your complexion.
Speaking of which, I recently ran across this letter to Playboy. Signed "R. S. in Houston," the letter asked this romantic question regarding the perfect bedroom atmosphere:
"Dear Playboy, I would like to create as different an environment as possible. I'm thinking that maybe a fog machine stashed under the bed or in the closet would be a good addition. How practical is it?"
"Dear R. S., You could probably pick up a fog machine from a heavy-metal band but unless you want to turn your boudoir into a theme park, you should hold the special effects."
Wrong, Playboy, wrong! What Playboy is overlooking, of course, is that a little fog makes everybody look better. Romantically speaking. Sad to say, but there are very few of us who don't look better when we're a little blurred.
This brings to mind one of my own personal most romantic moments. It happened when I wasn't wearing my glasses and seated myself in a darkened theater one night next to a man I assumed to be my date. "Hello, sweetheart," I said, kissing him on the cheek. He took my hand and looked full into my face, brushing the hair back from my eyes. "Hello, darling," said the handsome stranger beside me.
I've never found out his name, don't want to know. It would break the spell. Although he looked like a Guido to me.