From 2005 – 2006, I lived in the Netherlands and had a fairly serious Dutch boyfriend. One night, in February 2006 just before Valentine’s Day, my boss invited me and my boyfriend over for a weeknight dinner, prepared by his lovely wife girlfriend-of-18-years. Midway through the meal, the conversation migrated from American vs. Dutch traditions of Valentine’s Day presents to American vs. Dutch traditions of romantic presents for your beloved in general. I made the observation that Dutch men do not seem to bother with flowers and jewelry for their wives and girlfriends.
“That is true,” said the boss’s wife. “If you want flowers, you have to buy your own.”
“That’s boring,” I replied. “Where’s the charm?! The chivalry?! The romance?!”
“Dutch men are just never going to give you romance, ” the wife girlfriend declared. “In 18 years that we have been together, I have never once received flowers or jewelry from him.” These final few words were delivered with a very pointed look at my boss.
“I gave you flowers once,” my then-boyfriend interjected, looking smug, as if he had won some sort of Dutch-I’m-so-chivalrous contest.
“Yeah, once. For Christmas. That’s it, so it doesn’t really count,” I replied. He wasn’t going to get off so easily for being lazy in the romance department.
“Hei, ja! I gave you earrings once! Those red ones!” my boss exclaimed in victory, looking at his wife girlfriend as he leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head, smug as well. He could be redeemed!!
“Earrings? Earrings?” the wife turned my boss. “No, those were red pimples for my ears! Tiny red pimples! They were the most divorce-worthy present you could give me!”
Not being able to bear a lifetime without flowers, chivalry and romance, I left the Dutchman a mere 7 weeks later (ok, maybe there were a few other reasons too — but they would’ve been more bearable with a little romance to take the edge off). Barely a year passed before I met the Ukrainian. A man with exquisite taste in jewelry, and a regular deliverer of flowers to our kitchen table. He always does it at a moment when I’m not looking, so that even though the flowers are a regular appearance, they are always a surprising appearance, thus keeping the romance alive!
Last Saturday, after the exquisitely painful experience at the vet where we agonized over just how many unnecessary tests and procedures could we deprive our dogs of, we went to Trader Joe’s on 9th and Bryant. We did our shopping, came to the checkout line, and suddenly I remember that I had forgotten to buy the dogs their weekly treats of SoftAndChewyPeanutButterYumYumTreatsForDogs. I stepped just 7 feet away from the cart, turned around, and studied the shelves until I found the box I was looking for. I turned back around, spied out cart, and saw the gorgeous pink flowers filling the cart’s child seat.
It was romance-at-the-grocery-store. Proof that being good towards your wife can be the smallest gesture of love in the most mundane moment. No special occasion needed.