Madly in love, or just mad...

'Romance is not dead, but perhaps it should be'

I write you long letters scented with jasmine. Each single hair, each scrap of cloth, I adore as your ambassador. My map of this town is the plotted line of your route; I follow in your path. Sometimes I phone you just to hear your voice or the sound of your breath against the receiver. I leave flowers on your doorstep, notes pinned to trees. I can wait for hours, happy just to watch a shadow of you through the window at night. I love you."

Or some such hooey. Welcome to the glorious world of true romance. It's what every girl wants and what every little boy seeks to provide; right up there with good sense of humour, own teeth and clitoris-identification potential in every list of relationship requisites from Cosmo reader surveys to the Private Eye lonely-hearts column. Now that hard, random shagging (prophylactically enhanced, naturally) is A-OK as the modern girl's weekend pursuit of choice, romance has somehow slipped back into fashion.

As anyone who has been ejected from the bedroom to ringing shrieks of "Why can't you try being goddamn romantic for a change?" will know, it is a complicated business to get right. A polythene-wrapped bunch of carnations still emitting the bluey haze of the garage forecourt has never passed muster, chocolates are a calorific minefield , likewise dinner a deux. Yet a soul can get all of these right and still fail miserably, because as we all know romance lies not in things but in actions; romance is a state of mind. It is the "Surprise me, do something spontaneous!" of Hollywood cliche.

What seems strange is that in everything from big-screen weepies to serious pop music, modern notions of romance seem peculiarly indebted to the wilder edges of 19th-century fiction. I cannot speak for the fantasies of men, but good little girls who read their GCSE English texts still hanker after a Heathcliff. To all intents and purposes our concepts of romantic behaviour have shifted little in centuries; from Wuthering Heights to Titanic, fatal heroes and heroines watch through windows, duel to the death, send anonymous notes, adopt disguise and leap elegantly under trains. The deadly madness of their fictional passion is precisely the element judged to be missing in the straight-talking modern relationship.

A prominent American feminist wrote jealously of the passion that must have existed between OJ and Nicole Simpson; why could she ,too, not taste that fatal heat with somebody, just once? Although she did not seem to make the connection at the time, this envy seems to be the crux of the problem. Romance is not dead; there are a whole host of people out there behaving exactly as the classic novel dictates. We don't call them heroes, we call them freaks, stalkers, phone pests, sexual harassers, obsessives and murderers. Proper romantic behaviour, conducted in the traditional style will land you, at best, on the Jerry Springer Show and at worst, behind bars.

This is not a question of gender; women are also quite capable of following someone around, leaving things on their doorstep and making anonymous phone calls, all in the belief that they are following their heart. In many of these incidents there is some kind of love going on and the whole thing blossoms into a relationship. But just as the lottery winner's "knowledge" that they will win is identical to the belief of the millions of people who don't, the actions of the tragically misplaced romantic feel absolutely rational and justified.

Abusive, domineering husbands, obsessive fans and voyeuristic ex-lovers all find their actions sanctioned by the romantic side of modern culture, and there are thousands of them out there. I was shocked to discover how many of the comedians in Edinburgh have stalkers of some kind, and how many people I knew had at some point been followed around or watched themselves.

There now seems to be an understanding of the difference between fantasy and desire in the realm of sex; we accept that people who fantasise about rape or violence generally have no desire to experience these things. But in the area of romance and seduction, the lines between acceptable and unacceptable modes of behaviour still seem to be dangerously blurred.

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before