LOOK WHO'S STALKING
THE FINE LINE BETWEEN BEING SWEET ... OR A CREEP
SHAKESPEARE said the road to true love never did run smooth, but has the highway to love ever been as rocky as it is today? Once upon a time, courtship was dinner and drinks; now it’s navigating Netflix and chill. As for grand romantic gestures, it used to be that your biggest risk was a bruised ego, now you could find yourself at the eye of a social media storm while people across the country debate the depth of your creepiness.
At least, that’s the situation Bristol man Luke Howard has found himself in after his bid to win back his ex-girlfriend’s heart backfired spectacularly.
The 34-year-old made headlines last week when he set up a piano in the city’s College Green and insisted he would play, as the BBC put it, through “rain, snow and police arrest” (which are actually the three main weather conditions in the UK) until the object of his affection agreed to be reunited with him.
Unfortunately, rain, snow and police arrest doesn’t cover getting punched in the head at 4am, which happened in the early hours of Monday morning.
“Yesterday, at around 4am, as I sat in the centre of Bristol playing the piano, I was punched in the head while, as it would not appear, turning myself into the largest fool in the West Country,” Howard told local media.
“I stopped playing yesterday because I realised that what I had wanted to do had spectacularly failed.
“The social media reaction turned it very quickly into something that would cause the one person I didn’t want (to) hurt, embarrassment and pain.
“That was the last thing in the world I had wanted to happen, so I left.”
Poor bloke, not only did he fail to win his ex-girlfriend back, half the country thinks he’s a complete dropkick.
A UK YouGov poll asking the country their opinion of Howard’s actions came back with only 22 per cent thinking his piano playing was a romantic gesture, 50 per cent think he’s creepy and 28 per cent were unsure. The Guardian said he was a stalker, The New Statesman said he was following a “well-worn stalker romance script”, and even The New
York Post described his actions as “the creepiest”. At least The Telegraph called him a “hopeless romantic”.
Howard’s actions were out of line. He was attempting a weird sort of emotional blackmail of this girl. He should have just done what everyone else does when they get dumped: have a few stiff drinks, listen to some depressing music, mope a bit and then get over it.
But I can’t help but feel a little sorry for him. In a world where rom-coms feed us stories of deranged behaviour dressed up as romantic gestures, it can be hard to navigate the line between swoon-worthy and stalker.
In While You Were Sleeping, Sandra Bullock pretends to be a stranger’s fiancee, ingratiating herself into his family while he is in a coma. In Sleepless in Seattle, a woman hears a man on talkback radio so she ditches her fiance to invite him on a date at the Empire State building. If someone you knew did either of those things in real life, you’d have them committed.
What about Love, Actually, where Andrew Lincoln’s character Mark, turns up on his best mate’s doorstep at Christmas and when his wife answers, tells her to pretend it’s carol singers and professes his love to her via cue cards. C-c-c-c-creeeeepy!
Don’t get me started on Pretty Woman.
So what’s a bloke to do? If movies are no sort of guide, how does a loved-up young man make a romantic gesture without coming across as a complete creep?
So I have written a few simple guidelines I like to call “Romance, not restraining orders!”
1) Will your actions cause the object of your affection awkwardness or embarrassment if they are not well received? Is parachuting into her end-of-year uni exams dressed as a giant love heart going to sweep her off her feet or just disrupt her studies?
2) Is what you’re doing a little scary? Read her body language and ask yourself if waiting outside her front door with a single red rose every day for a month is romantic or just making her increasingly concerned that you keep body parts in your freezer.
3) Has she said no to you before? Here’s a hot tip. Despite what rom-coms tell you, women don’t usually play “hard to get” with blokes they like.
If you ask a girl out and she likes you, she will say “yes”, and if she’s not interested she will say “no”, or some variation of, “um, I’m really busy for the next . . . forever”, because she’s trying to be polite and doesn’t want to hurt your feelings but trust me, it’s a “no”. Never has a girl said “no” because she’s hoping you’ll sit outside her bedroom window with a guitar playing love songs until she changes her mind. That’s insane.
4) Is she going travelling/moving abroad for a job opportunity? Under absolutely no circumstances should you accost her at the departure gate and yell “don’t get on that plane! I love you!”
That is behaviour purely for cheesy American movies and she’ll probably never get a full refund on those flights.
If you play the piano then writing her a ditty on her birthday is romantic (as long as she has not previously said “no” to going out with you: see above).
Playing in a park until she un-dumps your sorry self, not so much. Take a tip from Howard, when it comes to grand romantic gestures, you want to make sure you’re setting hearts aflutter, not turning yourself into a nutter.
Love song: Luke Howard plays piano in the park, hoping to win back his ex-girlfriend — it didn’t work.