One balmy London summer night I found my boyfriend and myself in a side street near Oxford Circus, sitting on the grubby curb with a greasy Big Mac and fries in hand. After watching a few drunken girls stumble past us, bouncers hauling a man down the road and looking at the trickle of a horrible smelling liquid ease its way down the pavement (which was most probably piss), I looked over at my boyfriend and realized that despite the yelling, honking, dirt and burger stuffed in his mouth that this was one of the most romantic times I had ever spent with him.
Romance is built up to represent candle lit dinners, flowers, cosy nights in, spontaneous gifts or pretty much anything that doesn’t involve a Big Mac or the smell of piss. The majority of us either founded our view of romance from novels or movies or perhaps even from our parents and friends, but my view of romance was built from the one person who showed me what real romance is, or at least what is real to me.
The closest to romance I had before P was being bought a Panini, but only because the Italian shop owner jokily said that my ‘gentleman’ should treat me to lunch and that a lady shouldn’t have to pay on a date (then ensued the awkward moment where my previous boyfriend had to pull out his wallet for the second time and begrudgingly handed the £3.50 over). Before P I had never known romance and naturally found it strange at first when he wanted to buy my cinema ticket or take me out for dinner.
As the days and months passed by, the romance within my relationship with P changed. As students, the number of restaurant dinners and movie trips began to dwindle (as did our bank balances). Yet I soon found myself happily curled up with him in bed watching a film or cooking dinner together and not caring that I wasn’t dressed up in a nice restaurant or that I was watching a film on my laptop and not the big screen.
Everyone has different views on what is romantic, but sitting on that London curbside with P, I realized that I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I didn’t want to be looking across a candle lit table at him with a fancy plate of food to devour, I wanted to be right there, side by side on the dirty pavement laughing and being ourselves whilst devouring the greasy and glorious burgers and fries. No waiters to pester us, no couples or tables around us, and despite the surrounding drunks or honking taxis, it all faded away and it felt like we were the only two people on that street, just being ourselves. To me, that’s what real romance is, when you can be yourself whenever or wherever you are and still find the romance – even if you can smell piss.