17 Things You Think Are Romantic But Actually Aren't

In fact, they may be just downright creepy

Contrary to popular belief, romance isn't dead. It's just less dramatic than it used to be. After all, in 2019, you're far more likely to see someone conveying their warmest "I love you" to his or her S.O. by simply doing the laundry—or getting up early to make breakfast—than shouting it from the rooftops, or pouring it out in iambic pentameter.

But that doesn't mean that there aren't lots of people out there who still genuinely believe that hiring an airplane to write "I love you, Beth!" into the sky is a really great idea. (Spoiler: It's not.) With that in mind, here are all of the "romantic" gestures we've decided are actually empty, over-eager, or downright creepy. So read on, and avoid them at all costs! And for further proof that all romance isn't dead, check out these 40 Old-Fashioned Relationship Tips That Still Apply Today

1. Surprising Your S.O. at His or Her Home

In the romcoms of the 1990s, men never hesitate to spontaneously show up at someone's apartment to either apologize for some relationship-related misdeed or to win someone's affection. But let's face it: in real life, showing up at someone's residence without warning is super invasive.

If you want to see someone, it's much more polite to text them first and organize a mutually convenient place and time. If you just show up unannounced, you're going to look desperate at best—creepy at worst. (And yes, this goes for both genders.)

2. Lurking Outside the Bedroom with a Boombox

Everyone fell in love with John Cusack in Cameron Crowe's 1989 hit film Say Anything. After all, it contains the world-famous scene in which Cusack's character blasts Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" on a boombox while standing silently outside his beloved's bedroom window. (In fact, this film should have really been called Say Nothing and Let Peter Gabriel Do the Talking.)

But unless you're pulling this stunt as some sort of ironic inside joke, we'd urge you to refer to the previous tip. (Also, where did you even find a boombox?)

3. Making Out in the Rain

In the movies, this looks really romantic. But, in real life, it's cold, it's wet, and you're probably going to get sick. Plus, peeling off wet jeans is a nightmare, and a real mood-killer once you get back inside. There's a reason we have umbrellas.

4. Throwing Pebbles at Her Window for Her Attention

Captain Von Trapp did not appreciate it when Rolf did this in The Sound of Music, and neither does basically anyone in modern society. You have a phone. Use it.

5. Risking Your Life to Ask Someone Out

In The Notebook, Noah (Ryan Gosling) convinces Allie (Rachel McAdams) to go out with him as dangles off of a Ferris wheel with just one arm. It comes off as super-sweet in the movie—largely because, you know, he's Ryan Gosling—but, in real life, this kind of behavior is dangerous, somewhat psycho, and on the verge of bullying.

6. Writing Out "I Love You" in the Sky

Exhibit A) According to one nationwide skywriting service, the average cost of this gesture is $8,500. Exhibit B) it only lasts for five to ten minutes. If the other person feels the same way you do, trust us: Your message will likely land (no pun intended) even better when delivered verbally in person.

7. Buying Someone a Star

We all swooned when Landon (Shane West) "bought and named" a star after Jamie (Mandy Moore) in the 2002 drama A Walk to Remember. But it's because her character was really into astronomy, and it was a personalized gift that shows he understands her and knows what would make her happy.

But let's pretend for a moment that your S.O. is into totally into far-off galaxies. Despite what you read on the internet, you cannot legally buy and name a star. (Oh, and she'll know that you filched your proposal idea from an early-aughts Mandy Moore movie.)

8. Proposing on the Eiffel Tower

We all knew Tom Cruise's marriage to Katie Holmes was doomed when it was revealed that he'd popped the question on the Eiffel Tower. Yes, Paris is the city of love as well as of lights, and it's a magical destination overflowing with romance. But clichés are clichés, and dropping to a knee atop the Eiffel Tower is perhaps the least creative thing a partner can do.

Unless it holds some special meaning to your relationship (i.e. you met or first exchanged vows of love on it), popping the question on this Parisian landmark comes off as thoroughly unoriginal.

9. Washing His or Her Hair

Meryl Streep and Robert Redford made shampooing someone's hair seem so devastatingly romantic in their iconic scene in the 1985 film Out of Africa. But if you want to see a more accurate representation of this experience, see the Sex and the City episode when Steve washes Miranda's hair while on their honeymoon in season six. Her grimace says it all.

Trust me: You feel like a dog being very roughly groomed. Pass.

10. Sending Someone a Drink

Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House addressed this perfectly when one of the characters responds to being sent a drink by a stranger by sending him the weirdest appetizer on the menu that no one ever orders.

Remember: It's not very romantic to assume that if a woman is alone in a bar she is just waiting to be swathed in male attention or eager to consume free booze. She might just be there for the buffalo wings.

11. Proposing via Jumbotron

The most public of marriage proposals is also terribly un-romantic. Seriously, think about it: Your beloved is sitting encircled by 65,000 screaming people guzzling beer and watching sweaty men. Also, you're seriously putting your S.O. on the spot here. If you'd like your partner to truly savor the moment—and to look into your eyes and understand what you're asking of them—it's best not to do it with 130,000 eyeballs beaming down on you at the exact same time. Make it an unforgettable experience, not an out-of-body one.

12. Surprising Someone with a Pet

Having a pet is one of the great joys of life, but it's also a massive responsibility that you don't want to saddle someone with until you know they're ready. While you may see this as a token of your commitment to the other, he or she might look at it and freak out over the demands he or she isn't prepared for (and, you know, the veterinary bills). Unless you two have discussed getting a pet at length, we'd urge you to steer clear of this surprise, as you run too great a risk of it backfiring.

13. Proposing on a Hot Air Balloon

In theory, this a really good idea and ultra-romantic. But our advice is totally practical: All it takes is one gust of wind to see that ring disappear back to earth and never be seen again. Talk about a bummer. The same goes for rowboats, bridges, and waterfalls.

Sharing the joys of nature with your beloved is a wonderful thing. Just don't make it your proposal outing.

14. Posting Lovey-Dovey Photos on Instagram

When you're in love, you want to shout it from the rooftops, and social media seems to be a great platform on which to do that. But putting up endless photos of the two of you kissing just makes people wonder why you're so desperate to have everyone view you as this perfect couple. If you're really happy with one another, you shouldn't need to get 300 likes on Instagram to feel good about your relationship.

15. Getting into a Fight on Her Behalf

There are a lot of movies—the most notable of which is perhaps Bridget Jones' Diary—in which a man proves both his manhood and his love for someone by knocking a competitor out unconscious. It might still be a fantasy for some people, but the reality of it is grim, and as a culture we're moving away from the kind of toxic masculinity that this celebrates.

It's not like it's not hot on some evolutionary level when your S.O. is willing to protect you from danger, and it's always nice to know that someone has your back and is willing to stand up for you. But, unless your partner is in real physical danger, this move is more about you proving how much of a "man" you are than it is about showing someone how much you care for them.

16. A Surprise Expensive Vacation

If you do this, you better make sure you've cleared it with your S.O.'s boss and are absolutely certain they don't have anything pressing happening that week. Otherwise it's kind of like surprising someone at their apartment with a long speech—though it seems romantic, the message it truly sends is that you don't have a lot of understanding or respect for their time.

17. Having a Steamy Affair

Movies like The English Patient make it seem like affairs are sexy, glamorous, and endlessly romantic. (The heart wants what it wants, right? Even when it's forbidden?) But the reality of infidelity is much closer to that of a horror movie than a sweeping romance set in Africa in World War II. For more on this, read this woman's agonizing personal account of the consequences of infidelity.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more