There is a bridge in Paris called the Pont des Arts that is covered in locks. Apparently, it is a romantic gesture to visit this bridge and hang a lock on it with your beloved. It is extravagant love that moves someone to fly their loved one to Paris to attach a lock to a bridge, or at least that is what one would be inclined to believe. Love must be so encompassing that one would go to great lengths to prove it and to express it. I’d like to challenge that thought.
Upon researching the Pont des Arts, I’ve found that all those declarations of love in the form of locks have been quite a burden on the old bridge, so much so that they have had to have been removed, repeatedly. Now, the city of Paris is taking steps to curtail the gesture all together by installing plexiglass over the antique, ornate iron work. All those locks had begun to compromise the structural stability of the bridge and had obscured the beautiful view of the Seine River.
In the same way that these locks have become a physical burden on the bridge, I would like to suggest that grand gestures, when they become expected, are nothing but a burden. In this age of social media, everyone is pressured to plan the most Instagramable moments. They seek to create and capture grand gestures to present to their friends and followers. Poor high school guys can’t simply walk up to a girl at her locker and ask her to Homecoming. He needs to make a poster or spell it out in donuts or on a pizza. Recently, I read about a boy who ran around town in a pattern so that his route would spell out “Prom?” on his activity tracker in order to ask his girlfriend to the dance. Clever, but when does it end? The worst examples occur when some poor schlump goes to all the trouble only to have his rejection recorded and posted for the world to see. It is way too much pressure on both parties. What about the girls who want to decline but are too polite to embarrass him on video?
Engagements have taken the same direction. Long gone are the days when a fellow could just buy a ring, plan a picnic and pop the question. Now he has to involve her family and hire a photographer. I have to admit, looking at all the promposals and engagement pictures has me a bit jealous. Grand gestures like these just didn’t happen in the 80’s and 90’s. If they did, no one took pictures. There really wasn’t anything to photograph. My homecoming date simply walked up to me at my locker and asked me to the dance. I’m willing to bet we had just as much fun at that dance as all the couples who have Instagram worthy pics.
Grand, pre-planned gestures may seem like the ultimate expression of love, but I’m not sure that is true. Not everyone is creative or has the resources to pull off beautiful sunset-in-the-background-down-on-one-knee-aww-worthy events. Sure, it is flattering to think someone put a lot of work into something just for you, but it is a lot of pressure on people who aren’t naturally creative.
After twenty-one years of marriage, I’d like to suggest it isn’t the grand gestures. It is the small ones. Grand gestures so often turn out to be anticlimactic. That trip we planned for our anniversary, the one where we arranged for our parents to take care of the kids and made reservations and booked accommodations; yeah, it rained the whole weekend. We cut the trip short and came home and watched rented movies while eating pizza in our living room. That happened over ten years ago and I still remember it fondly, not because we hiked the trails we had planned on hiking, but because in the end it didn’t matter what we were doing, just that we were doing it together. I’m not saying you shouldn’t travel with the love of your life, adventures are fun, but don’t judge the success of your relationship by the grand gestures. When is the last time you picked up your loved ones’ favorite candy bar on your way through the check out at the grocery store or held his hand while walking across a parking lot? Little things mean a lot.
I was walking through the little burg of Palmerton this week and I snapped this picture. There are locks on this little footbridge. The bridge is no longer than ten feet and it spans a small stream that all but dries to a trickle in the summer. To be honest, I don’t know who attached these locks. I don’t even know if they were put there to represent a shared love. I can only imagine that someone without the resources to take their loved one on an extravagant trip to France saw this act as the next best thing. I can also imagine the recipient of such an act being flattered by such a small, yet sweet, gesture. I would even venture to guess that the love shared by the owners of the locks on the tiny foot bridge in Palmerton is at least equal to that of those who have had their locks removed from the Pont des Arts.