Saturday, January 7, 2012

TOXIC MEMES - Romanticizing romance

I think it would be fair to say that most people reading this would like, at some point in their lives, to be involved in a romantic relationship of some sort (or is, in fact, involved in one now). Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, says I. But why is it that a lot of us feel so utterly diminished by the lack of a partner? Why is it never really enough just to wait and see what ha
ppens, without feeling the increasing anxiety that - if we don't sort out this relationship thing sooner or later - we will DIE ALONE? Why is the idea of dying alone (TM) such an utterly terrifying one to many people?

I don't really know, of course - research is for patient people who actually have time and inclination to read through mounds of materials. Instead, I'm simply going to float some ideas about this topic, and see what spills out of my fingers. Okay? Here we go!

So, like a lot of you, I spent a lot of my time when I was younger being quite lonely. It didn't matter how many friends I had, or how close they were, something always felt like it was missing. And as far as I knew, of course, that something was a girlfriend. That's what would fix this aching void in my heart. Someone nice and funny and smart all those other little things you think you want in a partner when you're about 18. And, of course, being a shy, awkward, socially inept, physically unfit gamer/lit nerd, I wasn't going to be fixing that anytime soon (one thing I've learned that women like, you see, is the ability to form to words in front of them). And I felt horrible about this.

Somehow, my desire for a partner was not just a desire that stood on its own - it had become a reflection of my worth as a human being. And that's fucked. Even if I ever got in a relationship (which I eventually did, much to my ex's horror), I was only going to make that person responsible for keeping me happy which - as the old adage goes - is something that can really only be created internally. So that was a disaster, of course. But that's not really what I find interesting.

Like so many others, I felt that not having a partner meant that there was something wrong with me. Where does this idea come from? Narrative in media's an obvious one - heroes and heroines, across a multitude of genres would engage in romance, whether it was really relevant to the greater story or not. Of course, a lot of studio execs and the like would encourage writers to create these sub plots, as romance is usually meant to appeal to women in what would other wise be a primarily male affair. Certainly, it's treated as one of the rewards of success/being a good person - a good person comes to see you as being someone of value and loves you for it. We're also frequently taught that this is something to be valued greater than worldly concerns - money, power etc. Love conquers all. Is that a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not - but for an impressionable young mind, it can certainly help a germ of an idea of a neurosis to form.

Other sources? Well, news media, of course. Despite the thousands upon thousands of stories of spousal abuse, broken marriage, domestic violence etc, romance and relationships are still - overall - presented in a positive light, as something desirable. It's all part of the Perfect Life package - the Job, the House, the Family etc. One of the major ways to be recognised as being a fully developed, mature human being is to prove that you can maintain a stable relationship with another human being - preferably in close quarters. This disregards a number of personality types and sexual preferences, of course, but those are broader topics I may have to return to in another rant.

In any case, these are where the ideas may originate for a lot of us, but what keeps them consistently in the forefront of our minds, what makes them so important in our lives as to be utterly impossible to ignore, is each other, and our selves. Once an idea like this has taken hold, everyone accepts it as being the true state of affairs.

Of course, there are social and biological reasons for doing this - romance leads to relationships leads to babies leads to the species surviving - and certainly, I've nothing against families in general (though I find the traditional definition a bit too limiting). The problem I guess is this: it doesn't seem to matter how far our species has come, or what the individual circumstances of us are, to not pursue a romantic relationship is the act of a deviant. Even if you're not into long term engagements, you should at least be pursuing a bit of strange (and that's definitely a topic I'll be exploring later). Collectively, we're so obsessed with this idea that we have to force ourselves into such engagements, that we disregard any question that it's the right thing to do. To desire.

And that idea needs to die.

There are many good reasons to enter into a romantic relationship. There are also many bad ones. And wanting to enter into one simply because you feel you have to is something I would classify as a very bad idea. Damaging for you, and damaging for your partner. Of course, young people aren't really that interested in self-exploration, so expecting anyone to heed that idea when it might make a difference is going to be a tall order. So, naturally, that falls to the rest of us. To teach, to inspire, and to do all we can to combat the idea that, no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing in life, your circumstances will ALWAYS be improved by romance.

Talk about it, read about it, write about it. Kill this poison meme dead, and stop the cycle. I think that'll do for an opening rant. Will follow this up when ever the hell I feel like it.

1 comment:

1735099 said...

Tightly written & slick.