Growing up, my expectations of men and relationships have been shaped by books and movies.

Fairytales where Prince Charming and Snow White (or Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella) never really got to know each other, yet fall in love and live happily ever after.

Novels and films where men pursue, rescue, make grand romantic gestures, and are amazing in bed. I devoured the same story lines over and over again, even into my adulthood. Safe to say I was a hopeless romantic.

So here’s me with my high expectations about men, romance, relationships. On the other hand, here are these men who weren’t shaped by the same books and films. Don’t have the same notion of ‘romance’, and are about to go on a date with me.

Recipe for disaster, isn’t it?

On my first date at the age of sixteen, we go for a movie. I arrive at the shopping mall by train (he doesn’t pick me up). We pay for our own ticket. We eat McDonald’s while we wait for the movie to start. We sit in the theatre. His clammy hands reach for mine. Halfway into the movie, he attempts to kiss me. It’s wet, sloppy, awkward, and way too much tongue on his part. It was my first kiss and nothing like what I’ve read in books or seen in films. The movie ends. He’s meeting friends afterwards. I take the train home.

No grand romantic gestures. Heck, there weren’t even little gestures.

He tells his friends the date went great. I tell my friends he’s not romantic.

In my first relationship at the age of nineteen, he doesn’t show up at my door after we’ve had an argument. He doesn’t name a star after me. He doesn’t send me 1,000 daisies. He doesn’t surprise me with a home cooked meal.

I arrive at the same conclusion: He’s not romantic.

In my twenties after ending my first relationship, I looked for what I thought was romance: big words and big gestures. And I found them. Poetic and eloquent men. Men who showed up at my door unannounced. Men who sent me flowers. Men who sang for me. Men who surprised me with home cooked meals.

But here’s the problem: I had long associated romance with grand gestures, that I had no clue what to do about the moments in between the gestures.

In all the books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched, I didn’t learn a single thing about how to be when things are just… normal.

Who can relate to what I’m saying?

Part 2 here.