When you say that you are a hopeless romantic, it usually conjures up images of unrequited love, desperate affection, and a tendency to ascribe importance to things which don’t necessarily possess it. The “hopeless” part implies a kind of resilience which goes from charming to pitiful after a certain amount of time — there is only so much rejection or disappointment one person can take before their dogged commitment to the cause clearly becomes a kind of handicap. If you’re the sort of person who sees the best in love, who wants to believe that things are going to work themselves out and end on an emotionally fulfilling high note, you are bound to be beaten up by the reality of life.
But why do we limit the concept of “being romantic” to our partners? Yes, I suppose we could get technical about it and say that it only really applies to what we term “romantic relationships,” but why would we bog down our own happiness in questions of semantics? After all, how many times have we allowed ourselves to become infatuated with a good book or a new city, at least partially because we felt that all of the “traditional” romantic avenues in our life were so unfulfilling? And how many times did learning new recipes, or hanging out with old friends, prove to be something that was just as thrilling and wonderful as falling in love again?
Where is the rule that says we can only fall in love with another human being with whom we engage in a sexual relationship? Who dictated that being a hopeless romantic only entails how they they feel about the people they are dating, and the concept of dating in general? Are there not people who are hopelessly romantic about the art they devote every free hour to, the art through which they express every complicated sentiment they once were sure would have to go unsaid? Is their love for their work — and the hopeless dedication they bring to it, even in the face of never earning a penny in return — not beautiful, simply because it doesn’t involve another person? Do we need to be lying in bed with our love to know that it is real and worth giving our time to?
There is something hopelessly romantic in those who move somewhere new — or who stay in a constant state of traveling — because they are looking for that first-few-moments thrill and promise of change that a first date can often provide. They become nomads or ex-pats of their own volition, leaving because they know exactly what will happen if they stay — nothing. The security and pleasure of “home” is something they are always looking to create, but can never quite put their finger on. And though the idea remains that changes will have to come from within, and not be spontaneously created by a new zip code, their dogged pursuit of the magic street corner which will make things beautiful and new again is full of a certain romance.
Even two best friends who have remained together for years, despite logistical difficulties and changes in lifestyle, is their dedication to the cause of platonic love not terribly romantic? Friends who orbit around each other like two sister planets in an otherwise cold, uncaring galaxy, who find each other after months or years apart and pick up where they left off with just as much energy and love — is there not something charming in their hopelessness? They will always face moments of impossibility, directions they each had to take which lead them invariably to opposite ends of life, but they remain steadfast in their decision to be there for one another. They find each other together all over the world, without ever feeling the bond of “romantic” love holding them together.
There is no limit to what we can be hopelessly romantic about, to what we can choose to love and care for most in this world. Every one of us should go through life with that improbable, intoxicating infatuation for something — even if that something will never quite say “I love you” in return. Because even if your dedication proves difficult, or ultimately impossible to attain, the moments where you feel most alive will always be when you love with no regard for moderation. You don’t need to love romantic comedies and fairy tales and wedding magazines to be a hopeless romantic — you only need to be in love with life.