"Romance" according to the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary is a noun meaning the process by which people exchange affection. It can also be an adjective. A romance novel, for instance, is about love gained and lost and gained again. And lost. And gained again. And lost.
You get the picture.
Romance does not necessarily mean sex. But it might encompass sex.
Occasionally it is used as a verb. "To romance the stone" for instance. That has nothing to do with sex, I think. But I don't really know what it means as I have not read the book. What is it, King Arthur or Harry Potter, or another one of those ancient British mythologies? I think the film version starred Dick Van Dyck and the stiff upper lipped lady with the umbrella.
No one holds hands in the Philippines. I'm thinking of boy girl romance here, or even old people romance. You seldom see a couple walking down the mall or through the park or along the beach with the guy's arm around the girl.
Those are perhaps the two most common expressions of romance on the planet, short of kissing. Holding hands and walking arm in arm. They don't happen much in the Philippines.
Nor does kissing in public for that matter.
I gave my new mother-in-law a kiss on the cheek after her daughter and I were married and the whole wedding party fainted in shock. It was an awkward cross cultural moment I have taken care not to repeat. I was just happy to be in a family here.
Westerners are inclined to ask "why is that"? Why the lack of romantic expressions among Filipinos? Non-Filipino men have heard how sweet Filipinas are, and what excellent wives they are. But it becomes quickly apparent that you keep your hands to yourself in public.
Well, as in most things bizarre, I figure it can be traced back to the Catholic Church, the ultra-conservative, repressed, hyper-prudent values that suggest a kiss means sex is right around the corner, as if God forgot to give Man, or Woman, discipline.
And, indeed, the prude in prudent abounds. When we were building our house and my wife was seen on a motorbike with the electrician (going to town to buy electrical things), the rumor quickly circulated in our barangay that they were having an affair. From that, the Shirlylock Holmsies (the women sleuths of the barangay) quickly deduced that we only had one kid because my sexual motor had run out of gas. Nevermind that we had only one kid because it takes a lot of work to raise the demanding little beasts.
So clearly, this is a dangerous society in which even the APPEARANCE of romance destines you for the court of chekka opinion. This court, of course, emulates the objectivity of the real courts in the Philippines where the cases ride largely on factors other than facts.
It pays not to express romantic inclinations in public in the Philippines if you don't want your reputation trashed. Even if the reputation trashing is a pack of lies. Never mind that lies are a bigger sin than kissing your wife, boy howdy. At least I think so, with my Western quirks of being a romantically expressive guy.
But the inconsistencies go way beyond that.
Filipinos are good at sex. They are potent, I suppose you could say. Babies come about a year apart. One's out of the oven and the cooking starts again right quick like.
And lots of times the cooking is with the neighbor or the hubbie's brother or the baker, the barber, or the candlestick maker. There are mistresses to the left and bf's to the right. It is wild.
Totally undisciplined, it would seem.
So the public display is disciplined beyond perfection, projecting an angelic purity that simply does not exist in the human condition. And behind the scenes its one big whorehouse of flirtations and engagements and romping in the hay. (I'm not being disparaging here, I am just striving to paint a stark picture. The way it LOOKS to us outsiders.)
You can correct me if my artistic skills are missing the mark.
I don't have a problem with sex, and if people want to cheat on their spouses, that is up to them. They will ultimately pay the emotional price. I don't like that game, myself, as it seems to undermine the dignity and honor of one's gift of love. It is a personal value thing to me, aspiring to be something other than an animal of base desires.
Where I have the problem is living the lie of the public representations of purity.
I'd rather be honest and hold my wife's hand at the mall. I love her and like holding her hand. It is a beautiful emotion, is it not, enjoying another person so much? Well, out of respect for the conservative side of this different culture, I act with restraint. But I let her know in subtle ways that I enjoy being with her. I lean into her with my shoulder as we sit gobbling an overload at Greenwich. Touch her hands as we gad about. Smile at her a lot.
I'm sure most of the people at the mall say to themselves "she is a prostitute". She is young and pretty and I am old and . . . um, smart. Ahahahahahaha!
That is another inconsistency, is it not? People going so easily to nasty thoughts? Wrong thoughts.
I doubt that Jesus did that.
It's like the hyper-religious Philippines missed a lesson or two in Sunday school. So there is an inconsistency between what Jesus preached and what people do. Little things like kindness.
It is hard to get the simple idea of honorable thoughts across in a non-romantic culture that is thick with suspicion and cheating. I'm guessing that most cheaters figure other people cheat because they would cheat if they had the opportunity.
The Shirlylock Holmsies in this town, if they could climb on the back of the motorbike with the (handsome, well-off) electrician, would likely ride that cycle directly to his home and bed if they had the chance. That's why they so easily figure that's what my wife is going to do.
Or I could be wrong, too. Maybe they just like telling stories. They are upset that my wife, who lived most of her life in a shack, is now rich and lives in a big, modern house while they are still poor. So "bring her down!" Show the little hussy. Spread nasty stories.
Now this is not a blog with a conclusion, because I don't have any recommendations for anybody as to how to correctly align all the inconsistencies I observe here. I think maybe the Church does not believe in alignment or logic or even kindness. It is the ever-present judgmental uber-parent, whipping up the guilt and forgiveness as if ordained with the power of God.
Far be it from me to suggest people find a God who believes in honesty, discipline and love, with expressions to match.
You know, a God who appreciates romance.