Cringe alert: When Romantic Gestures Go Wrong
"I was so scared..." she said when recalling the incident, "you know when your heart is just creeping its way up to your throat?"
We’ve all watched enough romantic comedies to recognise a surprise visitor, armed with a bottle of wine and a bouquet of roses, as the textbook romantic gesture. Have they travelled far to turn up at your door? Are they proving that they’re willing to fight to win you back? Surely, they’re ticking all the boxes, and – if romcoms are anything to go by – you’ll be swooning into their arms in no time as an upbeat song begins to play and the credits roll. Happy ever after, right? In reality, it isn’t always that simple, and even the most well-intended romantic gestures sometimes don’t play out as planned.
Take Georgia, 25, for example. When Georgia was living alone in Venice during her study abroad year, she was awoken by loud, repetitive knocking on her door in the early hours of one morning.
“I was so scared…” she said when recalling the incident, “you know when your heart is just creeping its way up to your throat? So, I just sat still, thinking it was a genuine mistake, but then the banging started again.”
When the knocking didn’t relent, she built up the courage to open the door, only to find her ex-boyfriend (who lived in the UK at the time) standing on her doorstep with roses and wine. It’s hard to know exactly what was going through his head. It seemed as if one-too-many romance films had encouraged him to board a plane in London and turn up at his ex-girlfriend’s house in the middle of the night, unannounced, expecting her to let him stay in her home.
Georgia explained that she’d ended their one-month-long relationship three months prior to his surprise visit, and he clearly hadn’t been able to take ‘no’ for an answer. She allowed him to stay for a “stressful few days” before his return flight. During his stay (while she was out) he replaced all of the photographs in her house of pictures of the two of them together – sometimes having to resort to duplicates considering their relatively short relationship – he left secret notes and letters around her flat, and he even wrote a hidden message in the bathroom mirror that was only revealed when she took a shower the day after he left.
Anna, who was 21 at the time of her story, had a similar experience when she was living in Mexico. Like Georgia, Anna explains that the man who was pursuing her refused to accept the rejection when she called things off after a brief holiday romance. After messaging each other sporadically after the holiday, Anna decided to end things. The man then told her that he would jump on a bus and make the 15-hour journey from his home town to the town where she was staying in order to win her back. She refused his offer. It came as a shock, therefore, when he announced over text one day that he was in her town and wanted to see her.
“I was at work that day,” she explained, but when she arrived home, she describes feeling instantly strange and uncomfortable. “I walked into my bedroom and I remember just feeling this heat first, and then I looked around and there were candles all over the surfaces, scarves hanging from the lampshades, and flowers everywhere – colourful flowers in vases, flowers all over the bed, and I was like, ‘what on earth?'” Despite the fact that she had never told the man her address, she says that she somehow knew instantly that it must have been him: “I knew it must have been him, but I could not understand why or how anyone would do anything like that after having been given such a clear ‘no’.”
Thankfully, the man wasn’t there – he’d managed to figure out where her house was, then he’d been let in by her landlord and set to work creating the gesture that he presumably thought would turn Anna’s ‘no’ into a ‘yes’. However, as in Georgia’s case, Anna was left feeling scared and unsafe rather than flattered.
Three years on from the height of the #metoo movement, it’s clear that many men still struggle to understand the boundaries of consent. But when popular culture encourages them to chase the girl even after she’s redacted her interest, and that grand romantic gestures are the best way to win her over, the results can leave women feeling scared and vulnerable, rather than madly in love.
Some names have been changed within this article to protect the privacy of individuals.
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