Manners & Misdemeanors
On Billboards and Grand Gestures: Is Courtship Dead?
What our resident Truly Rich Lady believes is missing in romance in the digital age.
ILLUSTRATOR COLLAGE SANDY ARANAS
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How I love a grand gesture! Long ago, Persistent Suitor won me over by surprising me with a private jewelry shopping session where he wooed me with the words “pick out whatever you want.” When I asked why, he said: “Just because it’s Tuesday.” Granted the idea wasn’t very original (I’d seen Sweet Home Alabama thrice), I was vibrating with excitement. But of course, my face was impassive and my demeanor, reserved. You can’t look too eager when presented with the opportunity to acquire new stones. 

I have two steadfast rules for courtship: Start the date during the day and always say ‘yes’ to diamonds. The first is because I like to keep my options open come nightfall (for my TV shows) and the other is because I like to make new best friends. I don’t need to tell you that I was moved enough to give Persistent Suitor a shot, and though it didn’t work out in the end (he had no sense of humor), I remember our time together with fondness whenever I look at the rock on my finger.

For a person to shout out to the world that they like you takes considerable guts and must contain genuine feelings.

Back during the Cretaceous Period of Truly Rich Courtship (read: pre-smartphone), everything moved at a snail’s pace. A young woman made her debut into society, complicated introductions were completed between a would-be couple, a suitor presented himself to the young woman’s parents and asked their permission to court her, and dating was done under the close watch of a chaperone. It was really a ritual. Maybe it would begin with a traditional moonlit serenade to soften her heart. Then the conversations, next the walks around the park, and finally the actual meal or show at the theater. Of course, everything was polite, chaste, and patient.

For men, big declarations of admiration were not encouraged and expensive gifts (though greatly appreciated) were reserved until intentions became serious. The reasons? The man didn't want to burden the woman by making her feel she should accelerate her feelings just because there are, say, a thousand roses delivered to her doorstep every day. (Although, that is the purpose of gifts: to make hearts flutter.) Or he didn't want her to think she was the one when maybe he wasn't quite sure yet.

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Courtship has become obsolete as its stages have been digitized. The thrill of romance is diminished when everyone does date research through social media.

Which brings us to the news at hand: a billboard in the city that dares asks an actress for a date. Is it romantic or creepy? Is it brilliant or pushing it? My two cents: I have no issues with the medium or the message, including the pun (if you don’t like puns, what’s sumatra with you?). What really bothers me is that awful design. Please explain the fonts and colors of that artless endeavor. Surely if there were funds to acquire the space, there were funds to hire an art director to dream up an enticing visual. But maybe that's just me.

The rules of dating have changed so much today. Intentions are declared with a swipe. At-home dates where you can chill (I finally know what this really means—horrors) are in vogue. And juggling options is widely accepted. In short, everything is blunt and quick. Courtship has become obsolete as its stages have been digitized. The thrill of romance is diminished when everyone does date research through social media.

The billboard declaration has received mixed reactions from the public. There are people who feel that it is dreamy, charming, or brave. I personally feel it is refreshing. For a person to shout out to the world that they like you takes considerable guts and must contain genuine feelings.

For men, big declarations of admiration were not encouraged and expensive gifts (though greatly appreciated) were reserved until intentions became serious.

Then, there are those who call into question the motive and even the character of the man who put it up. Some have even recounted unsavory tales about him. I wonder now if the man behind the billboard had been an actor or had the face of an actor, would the public have been more kind? I personally refuse to judge a person based on a string of tweets and explanations, because I am still confused about the fonts.

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There is also a question of fairness. Video promposals or prom proposals between high school students and their Hollywood crushes are all the rage in the United States. Some celebrities gladly accept, while many do not for obvious reasons. And yet when a star turns down a kid, it reflects poorly on him or her. This may also be the case for the Filipina actress, whom people feel was forced into entertaining the public request. Till she finally declared that she would consider the coffee date, with a chaperone, of course.

I don’t really mind the grand gesture, granted that it is done out of sight like, say, within the confines of a boutique that has been closed just for the two of you. In fact, I would want a love in which these heart-fluttering occasions are possible. I'd want a love who would buy me a red car painted with the message, “You drive me crazy!” (Clark Gable to Carole Lombard), or a love sure enough to leave his throne for (Edward VIII for Wallis Simpson), or a love who would read me our story again and again because I forget (ahem, The Notebook). Call me a romantic fool, but this is what we're missing now and what I really want. And what you should too. 

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C.C. Coo
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