Relentless Stalking Is Not Romantic

When one writer asked her parents how they met, the answer was basically "Daddy relentlessly stalked Mommy until she gave in and married him." A charming tale — and one we've heard a few too many times.

According to Juliet Linderman's Nerve interview, her parents Bob and Paula met in 1973, and right away Bob "went home and told the girl I was living with that she had to move out. She asked why, and I said because I had met the woman I was going to marry." However, Paula wasn't at all interested in him: Bob "was very persistent in asking her out, and she was equally persistent in saying no." Why did she finally cave? Says Paula,

He had just bothered me enough. I had to. At this point, we had had enough conversations running into each other at the department where, I liked him well enough and thought he was interesting enough to spend time with him, but I was not interested in him romantically. But he wouldn't leave me alone. We enjoyed each other's company when we went out. At some point though, I had to tell him that I just wanted to be friends. He was spending money on me, and I said, "Look, this is not going anywhere romantically. I really like you and enjoy spending time with you, but I have other boyfriends and I'm not interested."

Then Bob "accepted the relationship completely on my terms," and the two "started spending a lot of time together as friends and talking a lot." Sounds fine — plenty of good friendships have started with romantic interest on one side or another — except that Bob was still trying to get into her pants. He even broke into her building:

She went home for Thanksgiving, in November, and I broke into her apartment building and decorated her door with a big "Welcome Back!" sign.

Bob and Paula both seem to remember this as a cute gesture, and their story has a happy ending — Paula says they've had a healthy marriage for thirty-four years. But what Bob describes as a "storybook romance" and Juliet seems to see as a sweet how-we-met tale also has creepy elements. What turned out to be love for Bob and Paula could just as easily be stalking for another couple, and it's disturbing how often stories of romance — especially in the movies, but in this case also in real life — involve inexorable pursuit against the woman's wishes. Bob's concluding words are particularly telling: Partly this is because "we met, we both really liked each other, we got married" doesn't make a very good story, but partly it's because love's supposed to mean more if dudes have to forcibly wrest it from women. Like him right away? You're easy. Have the gall to actually pursue him yourself? You're desperate. Is it any wonder that men stalk women, or fail to take no for an answer, when we're constantly told that love is a decision a dude makes and a woman eventually, reluctantly agrees to? Bob's concluding words send that message loud and clear:

Plan B was never in my mind. People say that life happens when your plans don't work out. Well, sometimes plans do work out. I committed to it, and I wasn't about to give up. I fought for her!

Things seem to have worked out well for Bob and Paula, but why do we still think it's cute to "fight for her" — against her?

Before You Were Born [Nerve]