Jungle Jim's international market

Romance isn’t Homogeneous

Jungle Jim's international market
Exotic produce beckons me onto new recipes and strange tastes.

This could have been simply a blog about my life and love, but I was thinking about it. The First Reader and I sometimes get gently twitted by friends about the ‘romance’ we have. Why not be different? Romance isn’t always about flowers, chocolate, and expensive jewelry. Romance is about finding the thing that lights your loved one’s spark, and then sparking it into a flame.

Personally, while I do like chocolate, I prefer my flowers to have roots and be able to plant them in the garden. I’m finicky about my jewelry – not at all a fan of the vanilla stuff you find in overpriced mall stores that thousands of other women are wearing this season, too. The First Reader knows this. He figured this out very early, when he took me on our very first date…

to Jungle Jim’s International Market.

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As he’d hoped, I fell in love with the store. It’s an amazing place, and I am sure he took great pleasure in watching me walk through it with wide eyes, trying to take it all in at once. This is romance. Doing something out of the ordinary, to see that look on someone else’s face. It’s not a rote purchase of something mass-media says you’re supposed to buy to tell that special someone how you feel. It’s the process of looking into their heart, and knowing that this unique person has individual tastes, and you care enough to search them out.

And you'll even eat what they cook from unfamiliar ingredients. Now, that's true love!
And you’ll even eat what they cook from unfamiliar ingredients. Now, that’s true love!

Three years to the day after I arrived in Ohio for what was supposed to have been a summer’s stay, working and making money to take back with me to NH, the First Reader and I went out for our anniversary. My short stay had become, perforce, a long one, and our friendship had evolved from just that, to partnership, to marriage. We are as comfortable and happy together today as we were then. Romance is not always tragic, or dramatic, sometimes it’s a happy blend of honeymoon and old married couple from the beginning. After three years, I don’t expect that our romance will alter in the oncoming years.

Chateaux Beirut
Chateaux Feast for Two at our favorite Lebanese restaurant, which is more than we can eat and oh, so good.

I sometimes think that the facile portrayal of romance in media does great harm, as it sets up unrealistic goals for young people, and standards to measure love by that are impossible to live up to. Yes, I’d lay my life down for him, and he for me. But it’s unlikely that we will ever face that choice, and I know him – if he thought I were in danger, he’d make sure I was safe, no matter what. It’s not about the grand gestures, it’s the little ones. The days where you walk in the door ready to hold them until they are soothed by knowing that someone loves them in spite of it all. The times they drag you out to eat because you just can’t… can’t anything.

We started, very early, exploring our part of Ohio for oddball little restaurants with great food. Part of it was a desire to avoid mediocrity, part of it was a small budget, and a goodly part of it was a shared love of food and adventure. It’s a small thing, but one of those connections that when put together with all the other bonds, becomes nigh unbreakable.

My First Reader, who isn't a conventional romantic.
My First Reader, who isn’t a conventional romantic.

He proposed to me while we were driving down the road. I’m rather proud of myself for not putting the car in a ditch at that point. We’d never planned to formalize our relationship, we understood we were bonded partners for life. But as he explained, it wasn’t for us, it was for my children, who he now considered part of his responsibility. Unromantic? No, not at all.. romance is far more than just the two at the heart. It’s all that are around them, touched on by their lives, and linked by other bonds. Not lesser bonds, but different. Family, children, parents, friends… they are all loved and all impacted by a romance in some way.

Romance is a many-splendored thing. It can be the touch of his fingers on the back of your neck as you stand with your hands in dishwater. It can be the extension of love from him, to his parents, taking them into the heart as bonus parents and a true family extension. Romance can be a long walk with the dog in the park. It can be a sigh in the night and a hand on the hip while sleep drifts in. Romance can be a trip to that special place, even if it is a grocery store! It can be taking a photograph to capture what the heart sees.

Romance is no bland bouquet of alstroemeria, wilting from the supermarket. It is a burst of flavor that brings tears of joy to the eyes, and an upwelling of emotion that stirs the soul. It is a manifestation of the passion of one human for another. Romance is different for each and every one of us, and it may not be easy but it is certainly worth the effort.