3 Old Fashioned Romantic Gestures Which Honestly Give Us the Ick in 2023


Our ideas of romance will always be influenced by the stories we consume. That’s why it can be confusing when someone does something that would’ve in the past been considered romantic, but that now, instead of making you feel warm ‘n’ fuzzy, makes you feel icky.

It’s totally normal. According to sex therapist, Laura Miano, it’s because our boundaries have changed, due to a shift in culture and the way we socialise.

“We have phones, which make us super accessible these days so boundaries are even more important,” Miano tells POPSUGAR Australia.

“Given how fast-paced dating is these days and how over-saturated we are with everything — work, socialising, activities — it’s important we are respecting each others boundaries. The push and pull of dating — also known as pursuing and distancing — are really important in creating desire. If someone is pulling too much, it doesn’t give us room to desire!”

While dating before the internet was all about how you could show someone that you’re interested, through bold gestures and thoughtful actions, these have the potential to feel over-the-top and sometimes even aggressive in the modern dating world.

So, to give you some recent examples experienced by myself, and two of my girlfriends, here are three old-fashioned romantic gestures that we all think are longer a vibe in 2023.

Showing Up Unannounced

Last week, a guy that my friend Tess was casually dating rocked up to her house, unannounced with a bottle of wine.

I can hear the crowd of female “aaaaawwwwww”‘s already, but put yourself in her position for a moment. How would you feel about a dude showing up at your house unannounced?

Despite being portrayed as a romantic gesture in classic love stories, it’s kind of a (massive) invasion of privacy. And while yes, context matters, I can’t say I’d ever like someone turning up at my house unannounced.

“He showed up with a bottle of wine, to tell me that his phone was broken,” she tells me. “I guess it was kinda sweet — but I also didn’t really like it. It caught me off guard. He could’ve messaged me on Facebook or Instagram on his laptop. It felt like he wanted to hang out, and didn’t want an opportunity for me to reject him.”

We’re at a moment, in the world of dating, where independence, consent and boundaries are super topical and important. We want the right to be able to choose when we hang out with someone and for that choice to be taken away from us — it makes sense that we’d get the ick.

“It also kind of made him seem a bit desperate. Like, I hadn’t replied to his last message.”

Yeah, no. If you’re thinking of showing up at someone’s house as a way of hanging out with them… don’t.

Calling in Response to a Text

Personally, I’m a big believer in responding using the same medium that the sender used. Like, if someone sends you a text, don’t call them to talk about it unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I recently sent a text to someone I was casually dating, to tell them that something had come up and I couldn’t come over that night — as originally planned. Now, I don’t like to cancel plans. But in this case, I had a close friend going through crisis and I needed to be there for them. I made that clear in the text, apologised and said we’d catch up soon.

He read the message and called me. I answered, out of sheer curiosity, but I almost didn’t because my immediate reaction was like — “why is he calling me?”.

Basically, the entire phone conversation was him trying to get me to come over. “What do you have to do for your friend that is so important?” He asked. Red flag behaviour. Someone who doesn’t respect boundaries and questions your motives or intentions. I immediately felt the need to explain myself, which I hated.

Often, when people call you in a situation like this, it’s to try to “convince” you of something, to get the outcome or answer they want. And, while in some cases that’s super fair, I think that if someone has texted you to tell you something, you should always text them back. Even a “hey, do you mind if I call you?” text, is more respectful.

Handwritten Letters

Handwritten letters have been deemed the most romantic way of communication since the oldest of romance novels. And back in the 1800s, I probably would’ve found them romantic too.

In some modern dating scenarios, they can be sweet. Like, on an anniversary, or just a little note to say I love you, stuck to the bathroom mirror or something.

But unfortunately, handwritten letters are often a sign of cowardice, of not wanting confrontation, or not really wanting to hear the other person’s perspective or feelings. Which is just not cool behaviour in 2023.

My friend recently got broken up with via letter and she hated it. The guy she was seeing lives around the corner from her, yet decided to deliver a letter instead of asking to come over and chat.

“The letter was all ‘you’re so amazing blah blah but I’m not ready for a relationship and we got into it so quickly’ bullsh*t, and I just felt like he totally took away my agency to respond or tell him how I was feeling,” she tells me.

“It was so self-absorbed, all about what he was going through and how he was feeling, without any concern for the impact any of it would have on me.”

Once he’d delivered the letter, he sent her a text telling her to check her mailbox.

“Everything I have to say is in that letter,” he said, before he blocked her on Instagram.

Just… no.

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