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True Romance

True Romance

I knew exactly how I was supposed to feel about the man I'd marry. Until the day I met him.


I spent a lot of my childhood reading my grandmother's large collection of True Romance magazines. My grandmother immigrated to America from Hungary when she was a teenager, and that's the highest literary level she ever achieved. Either that or she really enjoyed the glamour and escape those comics provided after a long day in the grocery store she owned with my grandfather.

At any rate, I found the melodramatic stories terribly intriguing, with all the complications and anxiety that romance can provide. There was always some sort of love triangle going on or an awful misunderstanding, with break-ups and make-ups that continued on into sequels. I was fascinated by the obsessions and heartache the characters endured, and I assumed I was learning all about love relationships. True Romance 101.

That was the beginning of an education that I should never have acquired.

That was the beginning of an education that I should never have acquired. I got the rest of my romantic expectations from pop music and Hollywood films. Some of the major messages seemed to be:

• If your true love acts like a jerk, it's acceptable as long as you love him.

• Love involves emotions such as jealousy, possessiveness and the constant fear of losing your beloved to someone else prettier than you.

• You shouldn't care what anyone else, even close family members and good friends, think about your beloved. The main thing is that he makes you swoon.

• Unrequited love is a noble thing, and it's understandable to want to die if you're rejected by someone with whom you are infatuated.

By the time I was ready for marriage in the 1970s, I knew exactly how I was supposed to feel about the man I would marry. Until the day I met him.

The man that wanted to marry me aroused feelings much less intense and exciting than I was primed for. On some of our dates I was even slightly bored and happy to return to the chatter and chaos of my all-girl apartment. This man was open, reliable, ambitious and interested in me. He was not moody, never unpredictable, lacked mystery and had absolutely no criminal tendencies. He was straightforward and to my mind, dull beyond description. He seemed like a good person to have for a neighbor, not my golden opportunity for passion and glory. Where were the fireworks, the thumping heart, the tears of torment, the moments of rapture? I was miserable that I wasn't sick with longing. I hadn't lost my appetite and I slept just fine. How could this be love?

Thankfully, at that stage in my life, I was attending Torah classes and learning new lessons about love and marriage. I was supposed to look for good character traits, like humility and compassion. My friends and I dreamed of marriage to a Judaic scholar, a role model for the children, an asset to the community. That didn't sound like the musicians or artistic types I had always dreamed of.

The man who wanted to marry me was so normal. And my father actually liked him, which was something brand new. I just couldn't reconcile myself to him being "the one."

Yet after awhile, his sweetness grew on me. So I took the plunge (I wasn't getting any younger) and we finally got married. Slowly and tenderly, we began to build our relationship, although I sometimes still fretted that our relationship would never be the inspiration for a story in True Romance.

A few months later I was thrilled to discover that I was expecting a baby. One afternoon as we were walking through town, I decided we must have ice cream cones. In my pregnant state, I chose the black walnut raisin and brandy flavor. My husband opted for vanilla. "Oh c'mon!" I teased him. "Try something exciting!"

"No, I like vanilla." he insisted, "that's always good."

We paid for our ice creams and sat down to eat them in a nearby park. I took a big lick of my quickly melting cone and it was absolutely revolting! I couldn't believe this had been my choice and I had ordered a triple scoop! I watched my husband settle down to enjoy his plain white ice cream and began to covet it intensely.

"What's wrong?" he asked me. "Everything okay?"

"This tastes terrible!" I admitted. "I can't eat this!" I felt especially bad because in those days we had so little money and an ice cream cone, believe it or not, was a luxury item.

He looked at me with a straight face and said' "You probably want me to trade with you, right?"

"Well," I said to my new husband, "I don't want to be rude."

"No, no, it's all right. Here, take mine."

He held out his cone and I gave him mine. He tried it. "Oh yum," he said loudly. "This is great, really delicious."

I looked at him gratefully and tried his vanilla. It was wonderful. And then I realized: so was he.

“Exotic” may look good, but that’s only from the outside. When you’re building a home, in it for the long run, and you're hot and tired (and pregnant), you want something – not “boring” – but steady, reliable and dependable.

What I now call True Romance.

April 24, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 62

(53) Bryan Lunt, February 2, 2014 1:43 AM


I think the husband choose the Vanilla in anticipation that (or at least hedging against) his pregnant wife wouldn't be able to stomach strong flavors.
Chesed is anticipatory.

(52) Anonymous, September 10, 2013 1:02 AM

Fabulous article

Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom. They are so helpful for me during this period of my life and for my relationship. I was also 'brainwashed' by pop culture and it's taken me so long to learn what real romance is.

(51) Anonymous, August 15, 2013 2:29 PM

engaged to Mr. Vanilla

Two years ago I was engaged to a man straight out of a true romance novel. I called it off a few weeks before the wedding. Two weeks ago, I bh got engaged Mr. Vanilla! And although I am very happy and content with my decision- he is an amazing man with all the qualities I want the person I build my life with to have- I am still finding it very difficult to get excited when I know what its like to have that crazy intense spark that mr. romance novel offers....

(50) Anonymous, July 22, 2013 2:14 AM

Life lesson learned too hard, too late

Thank you for your beautiful story and important life lesson. I, too, was looking for that "true romance" during my teen years which were devoid of Hashem and Torah. I was somehow blessed to meet and marry my "Vanilla Man" but continued to question why my marriage still seemed lacking in this department. After years of devotion and kindness, he was lost in a tragic accident. When I found the emotional wherewithal to begin dating years later, I found someone who I believed to be that "true romance". Within months, I discovered that this man of perfection, handsome, urbane and oh so charming could have easily destroyed my life. Today, I look to the heavens in search of and longing for my Vanilla Man.

(49) Anonymous, July 6, 2013 7:33 PM

Lucky you had Torah guidance

You are so lucky to have had Torah education to overcome the lie these books and music, Hollywood influences us. But what about all those not woken up to reality early enough and wasted their lives with this wrong conception? Hashem could have left you in such a bad predicament where you won't know the truth but HE did not. He deserves many thanks! You had zichut avot. If you could put this article in Jewish Journal in Los Angeles, and other secular type newspapers think of how many lives you would save. Good for you.

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