Tag Archives: romance

Why Christians are Lousy at Romance

The title of this blog is a bit misleading. I’m not saying that Christians are terrible at being in romantic relationships. That’s a whole other subject. No, I’m saying they’re terrible at writing stuff like love songs and love stories.

This train of thought came about because of a conversation I had with some friends on my personal Facebook page. We were discussing songs I’d consider using for a first dance if I got married, one of which was “Godsend” by dc Talk. One friend commented that she didn’t think that was that good of a song and that most Christian artists were bad at writing love songs. I asked her why she thought that, and she replied (in all caps for humorous emphasis) “BECAUSE OMG(osh) IF PEOPLE LISTEN TO LOVE SONGS THEN THEY MIGHT GET SINFUL IDEAS. PROTECT THE PURITY!!!”

I laughed because it was true.

Since my youth, I’ve known about the three primary words used for “love” in ancient Greek: eros (sexual/romantic love), phileo (friendship), and agape (unconditional love). The latter two were used in the Bible, but not the first. While it was often preached that all three were needed to have a thriving marriage, the huge emphasis was placed on agape because it was correctly said that unconditional love required commitment, and commitment was sorely lacking in many modern marriages. Too often, though, eros was barely acknowledged or it was forgotten, relegated to being the least of the loves.

This, sadly, is a huge fault of western (or just American?) Christian culture. They have so overcompensated for a secular culture that both exploits and worships sex and romance that they have almost demonized it. Now, this isn’t a new problem. There’s always been a sect of ascetics somewhere in Christianity that held to views like this. This was influenced by Gnosticism, a belief that what was of the spirit was good and what was of the body was evil. While it was regarded as heresy, some Gnostic thought has infiltrated some Christian teaching like an insidious disease. This is most true when it comes to Christian culture’s view of sexuality. Sexual desire was equated with the sin of lust. Women’s bodies were seen as weapons of temptation. Men were seen as animals incapable of controlling their urges. This has wreaked havoc on Christian young people, as you might expect. Even I wasn’t totally immune to it growing up despite having sensible parents.

Even if sexuality wasn’t seen as a vice, there were still those who minimized its importance because it was believed Christians—particularly young people—placed too much of an emphasis on romantic feelings and not on “true love.” In other words, agape. Eros didn’t last; it was selfish because it focused on one person and his/her immediate “needs.” It wasn’t what made a marriage last. It’s like eros was the ugly middle child the family acknowledged only out of obligation. I’ve even heard of Christian romance novels (I hate using that term as a genre) where the woman in the couple acts as though she has no sexual desire at all, and this is presented as a good thing!

This is why many Christian creators don’t write much about romance, preferring to focus on agape, phileo, and/or loving God. Those are safer. There are plenty more positive Bible passages on those subjects. They forget the Bible has its fair share of love stories (Jacob and Rachel, Ruth and Boaz, etc.) Heck, if you really want to shock some Christians, make them read Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs)! Yes, the Bible has love poetry in it—and it’s steamy, at that!

Even when Christians do write about romance, it’s often watered down or presented as an allegory for the love of God for the Church. This, I think, is an example of some Christians becoming, as the old saying goes, “too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good.” While the Church is called the “bride of Christ,” the Bible never uses romantic language to describe that love. Even the Song of Solomon has been interpreted not as the sultry interactions of two lovers but as a metaphor for Christ and the Church. (I’d love to see how they’d handle passages like this one, then).

God created romance. God created sex. Genesis says God looked at all He created and called it “good.” This included sex and romance. The Bible begins with the “wedding” of Adam and Eve, the first lovers, who were unashamed in their nakedness and love for each other. It was the Fall that ruined things. But sex isn’t a byproduct of sin. The Devil, being evil, is incapable of creating anything. He can only corrupt what was already good. He did the same with sexuality and romance. It’s him who compels humanity to exploit it as a commodity or to worship it as an idol. They were God’s creations, His gifts to mankind. The Devil knows how precious and powerful those gifts are, how they can bind two people together and make them a powerful force for good. That’s why He fears them and wants to see them denigrated.

It’s time Christian creators stopped fearing sex. It’s time they elevated eros as being equal with the other loves. It’s time they took back what was taken from them by the Devil.

I, for one, would love to be a part of that.

Do you think Christian creators need to work on being “romantic”? Why or why not? Can you name any good examples of good love songs or love stories written by Christians? Why do you think Christians are bad at writing romances?

Resolution

Author’s Note: This is a sequel to “The Christmas Dance,” a story I wrote and posted back in December. Like that story, this one was inspired by a writing prompt from one of my writers’ group, which was to write a sequel story. I enjoyed it so much, I think I might do a series of 1,000-1,500 word stories about this young couple celebrating different holidays over the course of a year. Perhaps it’ll end with them getting engaged the next Christmas. ;P Anyway, enjoy this entry!

Resolution
By Nathan Marchand

“Welcome to the New Year’s Eve Bash in Central Park!” booms the emcee over the microphone. The crowd surrounding the stage cheers. I’m always amazed at how the local parks and recreation department finds ways to emulate New York City’s holiday celebrations just because our little city also has a “Central Park.” This year they have a stage with a giant screen showing Dick Clark’s famous giant disco ball.

They’ve outdone themselves, I think. Almost as much as I did last week with Kara.

Kara. My…”almost-girlfriend”?

I hadn’t seen her since she gave me her number at the Christmas dance. The holidays are busy for both of us. But we’d talked on the phone and texted almost every day since. It was her suggestion we come to this event. We were to meet at the park office to rent some ice skates at 8 p.m.

I’d just arrived—at 8:05 p.m.

It’s cold enough for snow, but none falls. I pull my sock cap an inch lower over my frozen ears. The crowd is thick, but I push my way through it wishing I could part this sea of humanity like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. I say, “Excuse me,” more times in the next two minutes than I have in half of my life.

I cut through the last of the throng, emerging triumphant.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Goodwill!”

My heart jumps into my throat when I hear that.

“I swear you’re stalking me, Jimmy,” I retort as I look to my left.

There stands my old rival clad in a three-hundred-dollar coat and with a giggling blonde on his arm. He looks as smug as ever.

“No, I’m just Sir Fate’s little way of putting you in your place.” The blonde giggles more.

“Whatever. I have better things to do,” I say, smirking before I let him have it. “Like a date with Kara.”

Jimmy scowls. The blonde glares at him.

I look away and start walking toward the park office, but Jimmy shouts his parting shot: “She’ll be disappointed at midnight when she learns you resolve every year to kiss a girl because you never have!”

I stop dead, feeling like I’ve been hit in the back with an arrow. He laughs at me. I huff and walk on.

It’s not long before I see Kara, the prettiest girl in town, standing at the back of the line for skate rental. She’s wearing a bright blue wool coat with matching leather boots. Her red-gold hair braid hangs out of her hood across her collar bone. Before I can call her name, she waves at me with a gloved hand.

My heart jumps back into my throat.

“I’m so glad you made it, Ethan,” she says when I join her in line. “Even if you are a little late.” Her smile is as radiant as the sun.

“Yeah…sorry. I…ran into someone I used to know.”

Her smile flips. “You mean Jimmy?”

Hesitantly, I nod.

“Ignore him. He’s just jealous.”

“I’m sure.”

Within ten minutes, we get our skates and head to the frozen pond. Dozens of couples, some of whom we saw dancing last week, look graceful circling hand-in-hand around the ice. Kara and I sit on a park bench to put on our skates. She laughs when I pull off one of my shoes and reveal the Superman socks underneath. I blush.

“No, no! I think they’re cute,” she says, seeing my embarrassment. “Besides, I used to watch Lois and Clark as a kid. It made me want to read comics, but I always got geek-shamed when I walked into a comic shop, so I never read any.”

“I’m sorry,” was all I could say.

Her smile brightened. “Don’t be. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to start reading comics.” She finishes lacing up her skates. “What about you? Any resolutions?”

I bite my lower lip. “Not…really.” I grab her hand to distract her. “Let’s go!” I say, motioning toward the ice. She beams, and we hurry out. Her jacket’s hood flies off, unveiling her beautiful hair.

Now I wish I could kiss her.

The next few hours are a blissful blur. I hadn’t skated since I played junior hockey in middle school, but it was like riding a bike. A few times I had trouble stopping, but I didn’t fall. Kara, on the other hand, despite being a great ballroom dancer, wasn’t as surefooted on the ice. She held my hand for dear life. Well, for balance, anyway. One time, though, she started to fall, but I caught her. “My hero,” she called me. I’ve never felt such awkward excitement.

“I need a quick break,” I tell her.

“Okay. I can take a few solo laps. But don’t be long!” she says, winking.

My heart thunders in my ears.

I skate to the edge of the pond and sit on a bench. My calves are burning, but I don’t care. I haven’t been this happy in a long time. Kara waves at me as she skates by, nearly losing her balance. I snicker, admiring her bravery.

“Only fifteen minutes until midnight!” booms the emcee over the microphone on the stage. “Have your sweethearts ready to kiss when the ball drops!”

Suddenly Jimmy and the blonde appear in front of me, pretending they’re oblivious to my presence.

“Why wait until midnight for a kiss?” the jerk says to the poor girl.

Before she can reply, he grabs her, dips her like a professional dancer, and plants a long-lasting lip-lock on her. I look away like a grossed out schoolboy. They finally come up for air and walk away, Jimmy laughing the entire time. I feel like throwing up.

“Ethan!” calls Kara.

I look up and see her sliding by, so I spring to my feet and jump onto the ice. It doesn’t take me long to catch up and grab her hand.

Minutes later, everyone stops. 11:59 has come too soon. We all turn our attention to screen above the stage. Dick Clark is rattling off numbers.

“It’s the final countdown!” someone belts out, adding a terrible impersonation of the song’s guitar riff.

I glance at Kara. Her eyes practically sparkle. She smiles knowingly, expectantly, at me. My stomach is turning in knots like it did last week. Does she want me to kiss her?

“Thirty!” the crowd cries in unison with Dick Clark.

I should—no, I can’t. I’ll just disappoint her. I can’t start her New Year like that.

“Twenty!” cries the crowd.

But I want to impress her, to make her happy. But should I be that forward? It’s only a first date!

“Ten, nine, eight,” begins the crowd.

Kara wraps her arms around my neck and her jade eyes look deep into mine. I’m breathless.

“…five, four, three…”

I blink. My head hangs.

The crowd screams, “Happy New Year!” Noise and confetti fill the air.

Shame stabs me with a knife. I unclasp Kara’s arms and skate away as fast as my tired legs can carry me, not stopping until I reach an isolated bench. I flop onto it and bury my face in my hands. My tears are barely kept dammed.

You’re a coward, Ethan, just like Jimmy thought you were, I think. Your first date with her will be your last.

But just as I’m about to drown in a sea of self-pity, a soft hand squeezes my shoulder. “What’s wrong?” says that wonderfully lyrical voice.

I glance up and see Kara sitting next to me.

May as well come clean. You owe her that, I think.

“I thought you wanted me to kiss you at midnight. I wanted to, but…I just…couldn’t. I’m sorry, Kara. I ruined everything.”

“Why couldn’t you?”

I look away. “Because…I…I’ve never kissed anyone before.”

I brace myself for her to leave.

After ten seconds of silence, she’s still here.

Her warm fingers touch my chin. She lifts and turns my head toward her, unhanding it when our eyes meet. “You didn’t have to kiss me if you weren’t ready. I wouldn’t have been disappointed.” She snickers. “Honestly, I might’ve been weirded out. It’s jerks like Jimmy who pull numbers like that, and I know you’re better than that.”

“So, you’re not upset?”

Kara sighs, rolling her eyes. “No, silly!”

My hand touches hers on my shoulder. “Thank you.”

She just smiles.

“Tell you what,” she says. “I’m exhausted from all that ice skating, so how about you escort me home and we talk about this tomorrow over lunch?”

“Deal!”

“Oh, and one more thing.”

Kara presses two fingers against her puckered lips and then places those fingers on my cheek. I feel it burn.

“A preview of things to come,” she says.

I sigh to fight back tears. Then I reciprocate.

The Christmas Dance

(Author’s note: I haven’t been posting much this month. It is December, after all, and I’ve been busy with the holidays. Regardless, I couldn’t let the season pass by without giving all of you, True Believers, a little gift. So, here’s a Christmas-themed flash fiction for your enjoyment. As you can see, I can write things other than weird speculative fiction. 😛 Merry Christmas!)

The Christmas Dance
By Nathan Marchand

I can’t believe I’m here, I tell myself as I enter the natural history museum’s doors.

A rambunctious crowd of well-dressed people flows through the entry with me. Some of the guys are wearing Santa hats that clash with their fancy suits. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” belts from the huge speakers at the center of the makeshift dance floor under the full-sized whale skeleton suspended from the high ceiling. With deer-like grace, a few couples are already practicing their dance moves. The smell of cookies and hot cocoa is in the air.

I should be with family, not at some…gala, ball, whatever, on Christmas Eve!

Seeing the practicing couples reminds me why I hesitated to come. I’ve only been dancing for a few months and only knew a few styles, some of which I got mixed up, much to my embarrassment. Worst of all, I didn’t have a steady partner.

My stomach ties itself in a knot as I hit an invisible wall. I start to turn back—when I see my reason for coming.

Kara.

She stands at the edge of the dance floor about twenty feet away. Her long strawberry blonde hair hangs over her shoulder in an intricate braid. Her holly-green dress hugs all the right curves of her petite figure while its knee-length skirt all but demands to twirl. White open-toe shoes make her look an inch or two taller and as poised as ever.

She turns and sees me.

My face burns.

She waves at me.

My feet are too heavy to run.

Suddenly, someone brushes me aside as he walks past, jolting me from the trance.

“Nice suit, Ethan!” scoffs a familiar voice. “Where’d you get it? Goodwill?”

I glance back and see Jimmy snickering at me. He’s wearing a black suit and tie that probably cost more than my car. I can’t believe I used to be friends with that jerk. As usual, seeing him leaves me torn between running away and punching him. He smirks at this and starts mingling with the girls.

He always has to rub in what a charmer he is.

The emcee welcomes everyone and plays “Jingle Bell Rock.” I look for Kara, but she’s already on the floor with another guy. It never fails. She’s popular at ballroom dance parties.

I sigh as I lean back against the wall. Jimmy runs by me, leading some poor girl—the first of his many conquests, I assume—by the hand onto the floor. He smirks at me again as they partner-up. I feel like I’ve been stabbed.

The night wears on. I dance with a few girls, but they never seem excited to be with me. Is it because I’m a novice or ugly? Or an ugly novice? I look for Kara after each song, but no sooner does she step off the floor does another guy ask her to dance. Even the Flash wouldn’t be fast enough to catch her! All the while, Jimmy goes from one girl to next, charming them onto the floor. He dances as smoothly as he talks. The entire night I’m never sure if I’m red with anger or green with envy.

I look at my watch. Only ten minutes left. Another song starts playing. Where’s Kara?

I glance over my shoulder and see her standing by herself at the food table, sipping cocoa.

I take a deep breath to steel my nerves. It’s now or never.

I cut through the crowd. She sees me coming and grins. I swallow hard and keep walking. She puts her cup on the table and folds her hands as I approach.

I suddenly find myself within arm’s reach of her. I can smell her lavender perfume. Her emerald eyes meet mine.

“Kara…”

“Yes?”

Jimmy swoops in, grabs Kara’s hand, and leads her away, saying, “Let’s dance!”

Just like that, she’s gone.

I look back at the dance floor. Kara is looking over Jimmy’s shoulder as they foxtrot to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” (Am I the only one who thinks that song is kinda creepy?). Kara smiles awkwardly, her eyes pleading for a rescue.

Clenching my fists, I turn to leave.

I stop.

“No,” I say to myself. “I won’t let that punk steal another girl from me!”

With newfound courage swelling in my chest, I storm onto the dance floor and march toward them, maneuvering between couples. I tap Jimmy on the shoulder. He glares at me, but I don’t care.

“May I cut in?”

Before he can say, “No,” Kara jumps from his arms and into mine.

Instinctively, we start foxtrotting.

A few seconds later, my courage wanes as I realize I’m dancing with the prettiest girl in the room. My palms are so sweaty, I fear my hands will slip from Kara’s grasp.

The song ends. My arms fall out of frame. “Th-thanks.”

I drop my gaze and step away—but Kara grabs my arm.

“This is the last song,” she says, “and I owe you a full dance.”

I shove the words out: “Uh…sure.”

She beams.

I’m breathless.

“All I want for Christmas is You” starts playing. We swing dance to it. I’m so flabbergasted, I can barely do the basic steps and only remember to let Kara turn a few times. Her billowing skirt looks like a blossoming flower each time. She never stops smiling.

The song ends all too soon.

“Thank you for the dance,” Kara says.

I nod. Then I sigh and walk away. The fantasy is over. The clock’s striking midnight.

“Wait!” calls Kara.

I glance back as she rushes toward me. My stomach twists so much, it looks like her hair braid.

“I have a gift for you,” she says, reaching into her dress and producing a card. She takes my hand, puts the card in it, and folds my fingers onto it. “Merry Christmas!” she adds, gazing at me for several long seconds.

She walks past me.

I’m a frozen statue as people clear the floor, but eventually I look at the card.

It’s her phone number!

I turn around just in time to see Kara walk off the floor and wink at me.

My mouth curls into a smile.

I know what I’m doing for New Year’s Eve.

Washing Feet

Despite my disdain for Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to post something today. No, it’s not a bitter rant.

I’ve attended many Christian weddings (I’m a Christ-follower, after all), and a common thread throughout them is the couple selecting a Bible passage for the occasion and having the presiding pastor give a short sermon on it. These are usually 1 Corinthians 13, Genesis 2, Ephesians 5:22-33, or a portion of Song of Solomon/Songs. These are great choices, but when I get married, I don’t plan to use any of them.

I’m going to use John 13:1-17.

Read the passage in the above link.
Read the passage in the above link.

You’re probably thinking, “That passage has nothing to do with marriage or romance!”

No, but it has everything to do with love.

Ever notice how most romance stories are about big and grand acts of love? Knights rescuing maidens from dragons. Heroes saving heroines from villains. An elaborate profession of love (like drawing a heart on the side of a building). We all love dragon slayers and want to be like them, and with good reason, but in real life, love usually finds expression in the small things. Sometimes that “dragon” is the dishes that need washed, the diapers that need changed, or the special date that is remembered.

Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, the Creator of the Universe, humbled Himself to perform the most menial of tasks. Washing feet was work relegated to slaves. It was undignified for a rabbi like Jesus to perform such a task. But He did it despite Peter’s objections. It was an example of servant leadership. It’s easy to be served, but love’s nature is to serve others. It may mean doing thankless, disgusting, and/or embarrassing things. It is agape (unconditional) love. It isn’t a feeling; it’s an act of the will. Any lover can die for his beloved. But to live an unglamorous life in service to his beloved? That requires true love. Keep in mind that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet hours before he was nailed to a cross to die for mankind’s sins. That was His greatest act of love. But this humble act anticipated it. In other words, the little things husbands and wives do for each other adds significance to the big things.

Jesus went on to say, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). One of God’s purposes for marriage is echoing His love for the church. So, by loving each other even in these small, seemingly insignificant ways, a husband and wife broadcast God’s love in Technicolor, especially in this age of rampant divorce.

I want a marriage like this. I want to be the kind of man and husband who will “wash feet” for his wife.

I pray you want the same for yourself, True Believers.

What ‘Pacific Rim’ Can Teach About Marriage

You probably read this blog’s title and wondered what planet I was from (FYI: it may or may not be Gallifrey). “What can a monster movie tell us about marriage?” you ask.

A surprising amount.

First, if you haven’t seen the film, do so! It’s the most fun you’ll have the theatre this summer.

A poster for 'Pacific Rim.' Directed by Guillermo del Toro.
A poster for ‘Pacific Rim.’ Directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Now, the movie is set in the near future, where a dimensional rift opens at the bottom of the ocean and gigantic creatures called “Kaiju” emerge and attack cities. Humanity constructs towering robots called Jaegers to combat the beasts. These machines are too massive and complex for one pilot to drive, so they are built to be operated by two. These pilots link their minds using a neural interface, each controlling one-half of the Jaeger. It’s stated that “the stronger the bond, the better you fight.” These pilots must already have strong relational ties or build a rapport in order to sync up and operate their machines.

As the film progressed, I couldn’t help but see how similar to marriage this was (at least in the biblical/Christian sense). Two people, wholly separate, “become one” through a unique bond. Their memories—the essence of who they are—mingle in order to perform a great task. Only once they are bonded are they able to do this. It is a relationship unlike any other, a grand and beautiful mystery (Prov. 30:18-19). One pilot can’t operate the Jaeger alone, unless he is exceptionally gifted, and even then, he’s under deadly strain. Likewise, man was not meant to be alone (Gen. 2:18). A marriage can’t work without transparency or mutual submission (Eph. 5:21). As soon as one person decides to run the whole show himself, it all falls apart. Only when both the husband and wife work together can they accomplish the tasks God has set before them—only then can they “face (and slay) the monsters that are at [their] door.”

But it goes further than that.

Raleigh (right) and Mako (left) piloting their Jaeger.
Raleigh (left) and Mako (right) piloting their Jaeger.

The movie focuses on Raleigh Becket, one of the Jaeger pilots. Early on, his brother/co-pilot dies fighting a Kaiju. Becket quits the Jaeger program until five years later when his CO recruits him again for a crazy plan that may save the Earth from the Kaiju. But in order to do that, Raleigh will need a new co-pilot. Enter Mako Mori, a Japanese technician who aspires to be a Jaeger pilot. Unfortunately, her inexperience coupled with her vindictive rage against the Kaiju for the death of her family hinder her potential as a pilot. She gets lost in her memories as she interfaces with Raleigh, and he must pull her out of them. In battle, Raleigh leads. He gives her commands about which weapons to use and where to attack, and she defers to his leadership. This leads to a subtle romance that, in the end, saves the world.

In marriage, the husband is the head of the household (Eph. 5:23). The wife is to defer to his leadership (Eph. 5:22). Yet, at the same time, the husband and wife are partners. Raleigh didn’t lord anything over Mako. He was simply the more experienced of the two of them, so he helped direct her attacks during a battle, though she was quite talented. The wife is the husband’s “help meet” (Gen. 2:18 KJV), or ezer kenegdo in the original Hebrew, which means “lifesaver.” She comes along and complements the husband, helping him fulfill the calling on both their lives. This is what Mako does for Raleigh. He was already a great pilot, but he needed a partner in order to operate his Jaeger and fight the Kaiju. Without her, he couldn’t do that.

I bet you didn’t expect a big-budget homage film to the low-budget B-grade monster flicks of yesteryear to be a poignant illustration of marriage.

Never underestimate the power of story, True Believers!

All I can say now is I look forward to finding an amazing woman to fight monsters with.

True Romance: Amy Pond and Rory Williams

Amy-Pond-Rory-Williams-amy-pond-23874861-492-700

(Don’t forget to read yesterday’s post).

I’m a little late in posting this, but it’s still Valentine’s Day in half the country right now.

If you haven’t watched any of the new Doctor Who series on BBC America—what’s wrong with you?! It’s one of the best shows on TV!

And Amy (Pond) and Rory Williams, the Doctor’s latest Companions, are two of the reasons why.

There’s a lot I could say about these two: how they met the Doctor, the adventures they went on with him, etc. (they’re my favorite Companions), but I will instead focus on their relationship.

These two met while in secondary school (which I think is the British equivalent of high school). They were best friends, but timid Rory always liked her, taking Amy’s teasing remarks in stride so he could spend time with her. Their other friend, Mels (who was their time-displaced daughter, River Song—don’t ask, it’s too complicated to explain), helped her realize Rory loved her. By young adulthood, when Amy began working as a kissogram and traveling with the Doctor, she and Rory were engaged. In fact, her wedding was the day after she met the Doctor. However, she wasn’t sure she loved him.

After a trauma-induced flirting session with the Doctor, the Doctor brought Rory onboard the TARDIS to join them. Later, the three of them were put into a dream world by a Dream Lord, who forced Amy to choose between Rory and the Doctor. Rory died in this world, but Amy realized she couldn’t live without him. Upon finding him alive, she finally told him that she loved him back.

Sadly, their story took a tragic turn when a crack in the space/time continuum erased Rory from existence and Amy’s memories. This came to a head when, in ancient Roman times, Amy, the Doctor, and River Song met a robot duplicate of Rory dressed as a Roman centurion in the service of an Alliance of the Doctor’s greatest enemies (again, a long and complicate story). At first, she didn’t recognize him, but gradually her memories returned. The Alliance activated their robots, and Rory couldn’t resist his programming and shot Amy. Thankfully, the Doctor traveled back in time to right before she died and had Rory place her in a device called the Pandorica, which was intended to be the Doctor’s prison. This kept Amy alive, but it couldn’t be opened until 2,000 years later.

Rory guarded it the whole time.

He waited 2,000 years to see his beloved’s life saved!

Yeah, Rory takes the cake for patience and longsuffering. That’s true love, people!

Anyway, the Pandorica was opened, the Doctor saved the day in a rather complicated fashion, resulting in a “rebooted universe,” and Amy and Rory got married.

But unlike most romance stories, which end at the wedding, their story continued.

After a long series of adventures with the Doctor where they had a daughter who eventually became the Doctor’s wife (again, a long and complicated story), the two started living a (mostly) normal life in London.

But their marriage turned sour. Amy kicked Rory out and filed for divorce. Both of them, along with the Doctor, were captured by the Daleks (the Doctor’s oldest enemies) and sent on a dangerous mission. During this, Amy was infected with nanites that were transforming her into a Dalek by “subtracting love.” Rory insisted that she use a protective device to slow this down. “Let’s face it—I waited for you for 2,000 years. I have more love.” Distraught, Amy confessed she was divorcing him because she had been rendered unable to have children during a previous adventure and was giving him up. This reignited their passion, and they decided to stay together.

Their story came to a bittersweet climax in a recent episode called “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Amy, Rory, and the Doctor visit present-day New York only to have Rory whisked away to the 1930s by the evil Weeping Angels, who feed off the time energy they steal from victims by sending them to the past. Realizing what had happened, Amy and the Doctor travel back in time as instructed River Song in a paperback novel based on her encounter with Rory in the past. Once there, they discover the Angels have taken over a hotel where they keep their time-displaced victims—and Rory is among them. The Doctor says there’s nothing they can do to stop it, but that if they did, thereby creating a paradox, it would “poison the well” and kill the Angels. Rory runs to the roof of the hotel with Amy. There he says he will jump off the roof, creating the paradox. Amy, unsure if it will work and unwilling to live without Rory, grabs his hand says something that puts every romantic line ever said in chick flicks to shame:

“Together or not all!”

They both jump.

They succeed.

When the temporal dust settles, Amy, Rory, River, and the Doctor find themselves at a graveyard in present day New York. But their celebration is short-lived. Rory discovers a gravestone with his name on it dated a hundred years ago.

Then a surviving Angel touches him. He vanishes.

Amy, tears streaming down her face, says goodbye to the Doctor, saying she will join Rory. The Doctor warns her that if she does this, it will create a fixed point in time that he can’t alter. He’ll be unable to visit them again.

She lets the Angel touch her. Her gravestone appears next to Rory’s.

Thankfully, the Doctor reads in River’s book that they lived long and happy lives.

What can I say? Here is a love that spanned time and space. A love that overcame insurmountable obstacles. A love that made both lovers into better people. A love characterized by self-sacrifice, patience, and longsuffering.

Honestly, I find myself running out of words to describe their love story. I’ve rarely seen one this powerful. A story like this makes me want to fall in love, to find a woman who will share an adventure like this with. It gives me hope that true love—true romance—still exists.

Happy Valentine’s Day, True Believers!

True Romance: Kenshin Himura and Kaoru Kamiya

Artwork by Nohuhiro Watsuki (so far as I know--it could be far art)
Artwork by Nohuhiro Watsuki (so far as I know–it could be far art)

(Be sure to check out yesterday’s post).

Rurouni Kenshin is a popular manga (Japanese comic book) written and drawn by Nobuhiro Watskui in the mid 1990s. It spawned two equally popular anime TV series, a theatrical anime film, two animated OVA films, and most recently a live-action film produced by Warner Bros. (which has yet to receive a wide release in America, unfortunately).

(Note: This blog will focus on the original manga. The adaptations are different. For one thing, the manga has a happier ending).

(SPOILER WARNING!)

Set in 19th century Japan 10 years after the Meiji Revolution, the titular character, Kenshin Himura, is a young swordsman with cross-shaped scar on his face who has been wandering Japan (rurouni is the Japanese word for “wanderer”) since the war’s end, righting any wrongs he finds as atonement for the atrocities he committed. He has sworn never to kill again and carries a sakabatou (reverse-blade sword) that allows him to fight without killing anyone. He goes to Tokyo and meets Kaoru Kamiya, a young woman running her deceased father’s kendo dojo, and decides to stop wandering. As time passes, he meets several other “rough” characters he helps reform and battles several powerful villains.

A subtitle for the series is Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story, which describes it very well. The series’ theme is redemption, but its heart is the romance between Kenshin and Kaoru. In true Japanese fashion, it is an understated and subtle romance—at first. Kaoru begins to fall for Kenshin after a few adventures, but Kenshin never seems to reciprocate. He treats her with respect as a friend, always calling her “Kaoru-dono” (a formal Japanese honorific title usually translated as “Ms. Kaoru”). Several times Kaoru has to pull Kenshin from the brink when he slips into the violent ways of Battousai, his dark and violent self from the war. She gives him a home when he was wanderer.

Until one night when, surrounded by fireflies, Kenshin comes to her—and only her—and says he must leave to go fight a deadly enemy in Kyoto. She is the only one he says goodbye to. There’s no farewell kiss, no sappy sweet nothings. Kenshin simply thanks her for everything she’s done for him and hugs her. It’s a powerful scene, one that I’m man enough to admit nearly made me cry when I watched it on the anime. (You can watch it here).

Kaoru at first wallows in her sorrow, but her friends chastise her and say that if she cares about him so much, she should go after him. She does. She catches up to Kenshin before he battles his nemesis. Her love helps strengthen Kenshin in the ensuing battle. But she learns afterward that Kenshin’s body has been so badly battered over the years that another severe injury may kill him.

In the manga’s final storyline (which the anime excludes), Kaoru is captured by Enishi, a psychotic young man, with a grudge against Kenshin. She learns from him that during the war, Kenshin married a woman named Tomoe, who died tragically at his hands. That’s why he was closed off, why he refused to reciprocate Kaoru’s love: he didn’t want to lose someone like that again. Enishi says he is Tomoe’s brother and will avenge his sister’s death.

Kenshin is pushed to his physical, mental, and emotional limits. Enishi fakes Kaoru’s death. When Kenshin finds her purported corpse, he yells her name without adding “-dono” for the first time. Kenshin is overcome with despair, during which he sees Tomoe in his dreams. She is smiling because she says Kenshin has learned to smile. She tells him to save her brother, who is still stuck in the past, and rescue Kaoru, who wants and needs his smile most. Kenshin awakes and goes to confront not only Enishi but the demons from his past. He defeats the young man and spares his life.

Finally, Kenshin and Kaoru get married and have a son named Kenji.

This is a romance full of longsuffering, patience, acceptance, and forgiveness. Kaoru loves Kenshin despite his violent and dark past. Kenshin learns to open up and love again. Kaoru gives Kenshin the wanderer a home. They complement each other perfectly. Kenshin’s calm demeanor is great counterbalance to Kaoru’s feistiness and Kaoru’s goodness pulls Kenshin from his inner darkness.

This also shows that a romance can be subtle. Often love stories are sappy and overdone, but this one is so understated that the reader has to connect the dots. I can’t recall either of them ever saying “I love you” to each other, yet the reader knows they do. It truly is an example of “less is more.”

Their romance blossomed slowly, often in dark times. Both Kenshin and Kaoru made sacrifices for what they thought was the good of the other. It was never easy for them until the end.

I neglected to mention that both the manga and original anime (I haven’t seen the new one yet) are also quite funny. In fact, I’d even go so far as to classify them as romantic comedies at points.

I could go on for hours about their story. This was one of the first romances I truly loved. As fantastical as the series was, their love felt real and authentic. Many romances in mangas/animes tend to go (for lack of a better term) unconsummated: the couple never gets together. It was refreshing to see a happy ending for a change.

NEXT TIME ON “TRUE ROMANCE”: A trip across “the Pond” for a love that spans time and space!

True Romance: ‘The Lake House’

'The Lake House' poster

(Continued from yesterday’s post).

Mark it on your calendars, True Believers, because I’m about to admit publicly that I like a chick flick.

(gasp!)

I originally thought about using The Princess Bride (one of my favorite films) as an example of a “chick flick” I like, but then I realized it was equal parts “chick flick” and “guy movie.” So, I would classify it a romantic fantasy/adventure/comedy. (The movie defies classification, but I digress).

With that said, I opted for The Lake House, a 2006 romance film starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. The movie was disliked by critics, and unfairly so. They criticized some internal inconsistencies with its plot, but let’s be honest: it’s hard to write a time-travel story that is completely airtight.

Yes, it involves time-travel. The fantastical element is one of the things that intrigued me about it. It tells the story of an architect and a doctor who live in the same house but two years apart, and how they fall in love by writing letters to each other through a time-warping mailbox.

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!)

The first thing that strikes me about this story is how the couple never meets until late in the movie. Until then, their only interaction is through correspondence (lending credence to long-distance relationships). So, their relationship is at first free of physical lust (which is often confused for love in many “romantic” stories). They connect on a deep, personal level through their letters. They even find clever ways to interact, such as Alex (the architect) taking Kate (the doctor) on a time-delayed tour of Chicago with one of his letters (he even spray-paints an endearing message on a wall for her). They finally meet when Alex goes to a party Kate attended two years before—when she was with another man. He meets her, deeply in love with her, but she has no idea who he is, and he can’t tell her who he is.

They continue to write each other and decide to meet at restaurant on Valentine’s Day. Kate will only have to wait one day, but Alex will have to wait two years. Kate arrives, but Alex never shows. Heartbroken, she writes a letter to Alex saying not to write her anymore and recounts the story of how, one year prior, she witnessed a car accident and the driver, a young man, died in her arms. The two leave the lake house and go their separate ways.

One year later (2006 for Alex and 2008 for Kate), Alex returns to the house because something triggers his memory. Kate, meanwhile, is talking with another architect and learns that Alex had died two years earlier—that he was the man whose death she witnessed! That’s why he didn’t show up at the restaurant. She rushes back to the lake house and frantically writes him a letter saying she loves him and tells him to wait two years and meet her at the lake house instead. She stuffs it in the mailbox. Did he get it? The flag drops—he’d received it.

A vehicle pulls up. A man walks toward her. Alex! “You waited,” Kate says. Then, after four years, they finally kiss.

Despite what the critics say, this is a magnificent love story. The love is deep. How many people have the patience and commitment to wait four years to meet their true love after they “found” them? Four years! Think about that: they were so dedicated to each other, so patient, that they endured the pain of waiting to see each other for four full years! (Although, while noble, it pales by comparison to another couple I’ll be writing about later this week). Alex had to suffer seeing the woman he loved but she didn’t love him, at least not yet. He could’ve been selfish and tried to take her then, but it would’ve ruined everything. Kate had to watch Alex die and later be “stood up,” only to learn later what happened. These two wouldn’t let their circumstances keep them apart. As strange as everything was, they overcame every obstacle thrown at them. It wasn’t easy. True love never is. It must be tested. That’s how its authenticity can be proven.

So, there you have it: my favorite “chick flick.” It’d make a great date movie this Valentine’s Day. Go rent it now! Ah, heck, buy it!

NEXT TIME ON “TRUE ROMANCE”:  A manga romance! (A “mangamance”?)

True Romance: An Introduction

Broken_heart_by_KaattieMaattieThe dreaded day approaches.

Yes, I’m speaking of Valentine’s Day. I’ve never liked this holiday, and for the obvious reason: I’ve never had a girlfriend during it (although, I’ve had several of them).

I could go into a long treatise about what the holiday really means, but that isn’t my purpose today. I’ve decided to use this coming week to talk about what I think makes up true romance, both in stories and in real life.. It’s not that I hate them (I’ve often been described as a “romantic”), I just can’t stand how poorly done many of them are. I won’t necessarily be writing about how to write these stories since, oddly enough, most of those techniques are present in good and bad romances (and I might possibly save it for an episode of my vlog).

My biggest gripe with romantic stories, especially modern ones, is they’re shallow or fake. Look at a typical romantic comedy movie. Two young, attractive people meet, think each other is hot, and then haphazardly try to get together, sleeping with each a few times along the way. The audience assumes these characters will live happily ever after.

It’s a lie. Or rather, a fantasy.

This rarely, if ever, works out in real life. Why? Because the love is only skin deep. The couples in these stories are riding on the emotional high of their “chemistry,” the gooey feelings they have for each other. Studies have shown these don’t last long. I guarantee you that even Rose and Jack from Titanic (the most overrated film of all time), had they both survived the sinking ship, probably wouldn’t have stayed together because they were running on temporary romantic feelings.

A related gripe I have is how unrealistically fast these relationships happen. Admittedly, this is a lesser problem, because it does happen quickly for some people in real life, and stories (especially movies) often necessitate the romances start quickly, so it’s easy to forgive. More often than not, though, it takes time to cultivate love. Then the love must stand the test of time. As I said, romantic feelings don’t last. The love must have deeper roots.

As a Christian, I’m familiar with koine Greek, one of the original languages the Bible was written in. This ancient language had at least three words for “love”: eros (sexual/physical love; from which we get the word “erotic”), phileo (friendship; the source of the name Philadelphia, which means “city of brotherly love”), and agape (unconditional love). All of these loves are legitimate and are necessary to make a lasting romance, but agape is what binds them together. This is a love not based on feelings. It is an act of the will. It is commitment. It requires a person to put the needs of whoever he loves above his own, even if he gets nothing out of it. It says, “No matter what happens, no matter what you do, even if you don’t deserve it, I will love you.”

This is the sort of love that requires suffering. That’s why many people give up on it: they don’t like to suffer. But if you love someone, you will stick by them through thick and thin. You’ll do whatever you have to for them. That’s why fairy tales resound with us. Men want to be the knight who slays the dragon and women want to be the maiden he rescues. Even The Princess Bride, as “cheesy” as it is, understands this! (And this is one reason why I think the romances I write tend to be born out of suffering).

People may say that sounds romantic, but I wonder if they would say that if they had to practice it. Many don’t. That’s why there’s a 50% divorce rate.

(I’ll stop talking like Dr. Phil now).

My point is this: romances should have more substance. They should be founded in something far deeper and much stronger and feelings. When I read or watch a romance, I want that couple to stay together forever. I want that fairy tale ending. I have to believe love can last forever. That’s why it grinds me to see such shallow romances passed off as the real thing. Maybe I’m jaded. Or maybe I understand this better than most.

Regardless, I promise you that if you ever hear me say I like a romantic story, you can bet its good.

I’ll be sharing a few of those stories the next few days. Starting with…a chick flick?!

My latest short story: ‘Love and Pac-Man’

I just posted a new short story a few minutes ago. It’s entitled, “Love and Pac-Man” (click the title to read it). It is the combination of a flurry of ideas.

First, after watching the original version of The Karate Kid some months ago, and seeing the scene where the protagonist, Daniel, meets the girl he likes at an arcade, I had this idea to write a story about a young man who finds love while at an arcade (this was later reinforced while watching Tron: Legacy). It’s a location almost never used in a romance story.

Second, last month’s assignment given for the Writers’ Corner, a writers’ club that meets at the North Webster Community Public Library, involved writing a story that used certain words. Each person was given a short time to write things pertaining to several categories and questions given by the club leader, Beth. Here’s the list I wrote:

Two Things That Annoy You:
-Lying
-My old laptop

Two People You Admire:
-Abraham Lincoln
-C.S. Lewis

The Names of as Many Horses as You Can Think of:
-Black Beauty
-Silver
-Seabiscuit
-Secretariat
-Quick-Draw McGraw
-Gunpodwer (Ichabod Crane’s horse in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”)

Would You Rather Live Rural or Urban?:
-Rural

Three Things You Associate with Summer:
-Hot weather
-Blockbuster movies
-Swimming

Pay close attention, and you’ll see that I managed to work all of these into the story, which is surprisingly only 1,000 words long.

Readers who live or have lived in my area may notice a few “local references,” even though it takes place in a fictional small town. There was once a theme park in North Webster, Indiana, called Adventureland, and it did have a small roller coaster called the Wild Mouse. The name of the arcade, Tilt, was taken from an arcade that used to be at the Glenbrook Square mall in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Anyway, I read the piece at the Writers’ Corner’s meeting Monday, and everyone enjoyed it. I hope you will too.