Inspired by: Valentine’s Day

This post was completely inspired by last year’s Valentine’s Day tea from Danish tea house Perchs, which was a wonderful mix of black and oolong teas with strawberries, raspberries, and elderflower aroma. A very feminine tea for a traditionally very feminine day. For let’s face it, it does not exactly scream stereotypical manliness on this day despite being named after a man. Most men actually seem slightly annoyed by it.

That got me thinking (I know, I have to be careful with that!), what is romance and love after all? Is it red roses, strawberries dipped in chocolate, heart-shaped cards, or why is that the aesthetics rendered by Hollywood and Hallmark? I do not pretend to give any answers, in fact I have no clue. Personally, I prefer other flowers to roses and would rather have my strawberries with cream or on toast; I am more amazed by the anatomical heart and have learned that serotonins and endorphins (some of the ‘love’ drugs) are in fact in the brain but have these stereotypical romance items not become such for a reason? Quote Oprah, ‘So what is the truth?’

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Many consider the quintessential love story to be Shakespeare’s play Romeo & Juliet but honestly that can ONLY be people who have not actually read the play. But then again, it is a love story just like Wuthering Heights, it is just not a positive story or one anyone would wish to recreate (at least I hope not!). Both stories show the tantrums and storms of love and the pitfalls. Like many things in books and on film, these stories work best in these medias and would be devestating and source for women’s centres and restraining orders if they were in the real world. Then why do we want them and put them on pedestals and make them inspirational? Do we lack something in our daily lives? Have we gone numb?

A big part of a relationship in many relationships is physical intimacy yet Hollywood seems to have a love/hate thing with it, giving the audiences either 50 Shades of Gray or parental warnings when someone says ‘sex’ or ‘vagina’. Why the hysterics and prudishness? Take the Arabian classic by Umar Ibn Muhammed Al-Nefzawi The Perfumed Garden. It is a guide to sex with inspiration from the Indian Kama Sutra but the only hint at Valentine’s of this part of life is red lingerie in shop windows. The Perfumed Garden is clearly intended for the man but it does make clear that the only good sex is where both (or everyone present) enjoy it and it goes to great length (sorry!) giving examples of how the man can be sure to please women. Many sex ed-classes could learn from that in stead of just instructing the students in how not to get pregnant or contract STDs. Sexual consent and respect is at a heart-breaking low for such an informed world as the one we all live in. Take 50 Shades as an example of that as well.

I will admit that my ultimate romantic dream, meaning the most romantic thing anyone could ever do for me, would be to send me love letters. Actual old-fashioned love letters on stationery which I could collect and tie a velvet ribbon around, keep in my drawer, and maybe one day show to my children and grandchildren. In this text, snap, and email world, I would honestly cherish post-its saying, ‘Hey babe!’ Just something physical when he or she is not around, a small piece of time standing still. I am clearly not alone with this longing as the collection of Love Letters of Great Men and Women indicates. Maybe it is showing some truth in the saying ‘Distance makes the heart grow fonder‘ though distance in time also seems to heal and make us forget – unless we have something to hold on to.

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Sometimes I worry that our expectations of life and love become too high because of how it is portrayed in books and movies but then again, I am also aware of how much more inspired I am by those very medias. There are books for everyone, portraying healthy and unhealthy lives and loves, and our work as readers is to learn what can work directly in reality and what must only be a source of inspiration of what our inner lives can do. So in stead of being annoyed by the teddybears with red balloons and chocolate sales, Valentine’s Day is perhaps more a reminder of give way to some of our romantic longings and be more proactive in this regard. That goes for women too so as not to make it the man’s job. Personally, I do think it is possible to be romantic and feminist – if we respect and accept each other’s longings. We just have to be more open about them and not just tuck them away in books. Take inspiration from them but don’t expect them to always be realistic.

{scented candle Japanese Camellia from The Body Shop}

{teacup and saucer from Royal Copenhagen Georgiana}

{bowl from Rörstrand Swedish Grace in rose}


DANSK:

Dette indlæg er inspireret af den skønne Valentins thé fra Perchs fra sidste år og hvorfor den er så feminin. Mange mænd ligner ikke nogen, der sætter pris på hjerteformede balloner og jordbær dyppet i chokolade, så hvorfor er denne version lige den mest romantiske ifølge Hollywood?

Jeg har ingen svar kun lidt overvejelser, og de starter med hvordan nogen overhovedet kan synes, at Romeo & Julie kan være det mest romantiske ideal, for hvis man har læst eller set stykket, så indbyder det jo ikke ligefrem til at man vil efterligne. Det er uden tvivl kærlighed men ikke en sund kærlighed. Hvor går grænsen mellem hvor meget vi skal ønske at vores virkelige liv ligner fiktionen? Hvad mangler vi siden vi faktisk ser dette som idealet for kærlighed?

Det samme kan siges om den fysiske del af kærligheden selvom den bliver gemt lidt væk på denne dag. Personligt kan jeg se mange problemer med 50 Shades of Gray men det største er at denne type sex og forhold bliver idealiseret og alligevel udvandet. Sex er for mange en vigtig del af deres forhold, men der synes stadig ikke at være plads til at tale om længsler og nydelse, og hvordan man kan det i en verden med ligestilling. Bogen Den duftende have er absolut ikke i en verden af ligestilling men alligevel fortæller den om vigtigheden af at begge (eller alle) parter bliver tilfredsstillet. Mange seksualundervisningstimer kunne lærer lidt her i stedet for kun at fokusere på graviditet og kondomer. Respekt og samtykke er vi stadigt langt fra at være ligestillede i og personligt vil jeg mene, at begge dele er essentielle for kærligheden.

Romantikkens ideal er for mig kærstebreve. De små, lidt hemmelige breve man kan gemme i skuffen med bånd omkring og en dag om mange år vise sine børn og børnebørn. Et stykke af tiden og en anden man kan røre ved selv hvis vedkommende ikke er der mere. Jeg er nok ikke den eneste med denne længsel efter sådanne breve for ellers ville en bog som den viste nok ikke have sit værd og mange digte ville nok også udgå af en del samlinger.

Nogle gange bliver jeg i tvivl om vi kommer til at forvente for meget af livet og romantik gennem bøger og film. Alligevel ender jeg med at holde på, at den inspiration de giver, også de mere usunde udtryk, kan hjælpe os, hvis vi vel at mærke gør vores arbejde med at skelne hvad der er realitisk og hvad der skal blive i fiktionen. Til trods for manges modstand af Valentinsdag, så tag den som en inspiration eller en reklame for at minde en om at gøre noget ved længslerne. Dette gælder både mænd og kvinder for jeg er overvist om at man sagtens kan være romantisk OG feminist på samme tid.

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About Ann-Cathrine 38 Articles
Established 1987 in Aarhus, Denmark. MA degree in English and Art History from Aarhus University, Denmark. Loves books, art, writing, coffee, dandelions, paper dolls, and haute couture.