Image: India Earl via https://www.indiaearl.com/winter-afternoon/
Like every fourteen-year-old girl, I binge watched Grey’s Anatomy. I’d get together with my girlfriends and we’d play episode after episode, swooning over McDreamy and fantasising about his love for Meredith Grey. If you’ve seen the show, you’d know it’s much more about relationships than medicine—because who wants to see people saving lives when you can watch them making them, right?
I was introduced to the mmantic genre from a young age. As such, I grew up with a certain view of how relationships played out. I thought they involved kissing in the rain, meeting behind the bleachers and declaring one’s love via song. Basically, if he didn’t write me a poem, he clearly wasn’t into me. I had quite a bit of this in my teens. My boyfriend made me a puzzle with our faces on it and hid love letters in my room. But as I got older—and I didn’t attend an American high school—my life failed to unfold exactly like the movies.
This got me thinking, was it me or was the whole thing a juvenile fantasy? Are rom-coms merely a young girl’s porn, painting unrealistic pictures of relationships? I mean, a woman named Meredith got the hunk. And sure, we see grand gestures plastered across social media but what goes on behind closed doors?
To indulge my curiosity, I reached out to 21 men and women and asked them to share the most romantic gift they’d ever been given. It turns out, there’s a hopeless romantic in all of us. Here’s what they had to say…
“We were living in Palm Beach one uni break trying to save money to go away and I woke up on Valentine’s Day and he was missing. About an hour later he came back, soaking wet, with a rock from the top of Barrenjoey Headland. He knew that was my favourite place because I could see both my Mum and Dad’s houses from that point. He then told me some story about how penguins find the perfect pebble to give their mating partners. It was just a rock but a pretty great present!”
“He gave me a bag of flours for Valentine’s Day—self-raising because I raise him up, plain because of all the planes and travelling we’ve done, and corn because I laugh at his corny jokes…”
Male & Female Couple, late 20s.
“A promise to try a new experience together every month for a year.”
“I was given a surprise gift from my ex. He had to leave the country and was staying with me before he left. He bought what’s called a Blind Date with a Book. Essentially it was a book that was wrapped in brown paper that simply gave you a few cues on what the book was about. The themes were: French, wine, alcohol, and love. The gift was accompanied with a farewell note. He left on the 20th December and I didn’t do Christmas presents with my house until the 27th December. We did all the presents and then my housemates told me there was one more: the book and the note. He and I had spoken about the books a number of times and it was almost a personal joke that was themed to our relationship. I cried, it was very romantic and emotional.”
“He promised me he’d move to the country with me (way out of his comfort zone) because he knows I never want to live in the city.”
“My husband gave me a card that said everything he never actually says but thinks I should know anyway because we are married, haha. It made me cry and I still have it.”
“[My partner] bought me a Gatorade and a coffee when I was hungover last year.”
“My boyfriend left to work on super yachts and we did the on and off long distance thing for three years. He didn’t have an end date to come home so I started to realise I just couldn’t do it anymore and told him we both needed to walk away. Keep in mind this was a dream he’d had for 5+ years, to do the super yachts.
Anyway, when he realised he was losing me, he turned to his parents wondering what to do, and his dad said to him, “if you lost [her] completely, you couldn’t talk to her and couldn’t contact her. Would you still enjoy your dream of the super yachts?” And then and there he realised he wouldn’t enjoy it and his life in general without me. So, he booked his flights home and quit the dream to come and live a life back home together. To me, that was the most romantic and wonderful news I think I’ll ever receive.”
“I’m sending my boyfriend a box of coconuts to his work on Valentine’s Day with the note “I’m nuts about you” cos I’m flying to Australia that day and missing it.”
“My partner gave me a flower fund so that I could go buy fresh flowers every month for a year.”
“An outline of a heart on my bed. The outline was made out of love heart chocolates and in the middle of the heart was a jar of pickles!! I was also given 18 Bubble O’ Bills for my 18th birthday, now that’s living.”
“A secret admirer put a box of favourites in my locker and wrote “You’re my” in front of it.”
“My girlfriend sent me tobacco and a hair brush from Europe. She also included a love letter with LCD Soundsystem references. I sent her a mix CD…she has an apple air.”
“Said he’d take two months of unpaid leave so he can come to Australia to see me! Oh, and my plane flight over Wanaka was pretty amazing”
“My boyfriend got me a Gorman dress and a book by Clementine Ford. It was very romantic because it was so goddamn thoughtful and cute, I appreciate him showing such power to the women!”
“The most romantic gift I’ve been given was a mussel that my boyfriend found in the beginning of his trip around Asia. He carried it with him the whole trip and brought it back home.”
“In order for my boyfriend to complete his university degree he had to spend a compulsory year studying overseas. While only dating for a year before he left, we had come to be really fond of one another and decided to stay together while he would be living in China. We both missed each other enormously during our time apart and I went over to visit after four months and we had THE BEST time together!
It was not long after my return when I was at work one day and I starting getting an absurd amount of questions about my lunch break. He was asking me if I had had lunch yet, where I was going to buy my lunch, if I eat my lunch at my desk, how long my lunch break is, what I was going to buy for lunch that day. I laughed and said, “someone must obviously be having a slow day to be asking all these weird questions” to which he just responded that he wanted to be matching (something we often joked about) so I thought nothing more of it!
Anyway, there I was at my favourite lunch spot at the deli ordering when I felt these arms come around my waist and turned around and to my absolute surprise there was [my boyfriend] home for three weeks as part of a spontaneous trip. I had been lead to believe this whole time that he was en route to Mongolia! It was the best surprise and gift to know that someone was willing to spontaneously jump on a plane across the globe just so they could spend some time with you.”
“Tickets to Bon Iver, who is without a doubt the soundtrack to all of my emotional upbringing, seeing them live at the Opera House brought me to tears. The second is the organisation of a picnic day spent swimming after he found out about a gorgeous swimming hole hidden in the cliffs of the Sorrento coastline in Italy. I’d been spending the morning stressing over applying for jobs and it was all made better by a surprise picnic where we spent the day drinking wine, eating prosciutto & swimming and then camped overlooking the bay. That or being brought flowers and homemade soup after getting my tonsils out.”