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Sunday, 15 February 2015

My Valentine's Day Massacre ~or~ romantic notions I just don't find romantic (sorry)

So here are a few words on romantic BS for Valentine’s Day. Well ok, a day after Valetine’s Day, because yesterday I decided I’d rather write about Heidegger instead.

The One #1

First of all I’m not even going to give the idea that there is only one destined soulmate in the entirety of existence – who, of course, just happened to live in the same town and go the same gym as you – the time of fucking day. That’s clearly moronic. So let’s move on swiftly...

But – there is a less extreme version of “The One” theory which is much more common to find in otherwise perfectly sensible and intelligent people: The idea that in order for you to be really happy in a relationship you must find someone who is a perfect fit.

The One #2

A lady friend once asked me: “Don’t you think that’s a beautiful idea?”

And I said: “No. No I don’t. I think it’s one of the most destructive ideas in the sphere of relationships.”

Which may not have earned me any romantic brownie points but, y’know, it was honest. Which is what the ladies love. Um.

Anyway, I meant it – if you insist on a perfect fit you will never find it. You are dooming yourself to always find fault with whomever you are with, to be constantly convinced there’s someone better, more fitting, with greener grass, somewhere out there.

It’s akin (and closely related) to the insanity of a bride who insists every tiny detail MUST BE PERFECT on their wedding day – in which case, ironically, the thing that is most in danger of ruining their day is their own hyper-sensitive stress-out over the fact that every tiny detail MUST BE PERFECT. I’m sure – in fact I know – that many a promising relationship has been scuppered by the obsessive-compulsive questioning "OMG but are they The One?!" In fact, in truth, when I hear a potential partner say they believe in “The One”, in my head I substitute it with “An ideal to which I will never live up and to which I will be constantly reminded of how I fall short.” It saves any misunderstanding in the long run.

There is simply no way – no way at all – that you can spend an intensive amount of time every single day with anyone, even a “soulmate”, and not occasionally – or even often – get bored of each other, annoyed with each other, rub each other up the wrong way and need some time out from each other... in other words, notice the fractures and dis-joins between you. Relationships are never “perfect fit”, no matter how similar or compatible you are. The strongest and happiest couples I know have had to work at it, find a balance, compromise and adjust to each other, at least a little bit – the difference is, is that when you love each other, you want to do that. To some extent you make someone “The One” by your commitment to each other and your ongoing shared history.

The One #3

Which is not to deny that some people are more natural, suitable and compatible with each other. Absolutely there are couples who work and couples who just don’t, people who are automatically good together and people who just aren’t. But this is like friends – I have lots of close friends whom I would say are soulmates in one way or another, in that there is something in both of us that just clicks. But, interestingly, it tends to be a different part of my personality that each brings out – all are equally “soulmates” but all are different. It’d be a nonsense to imagine there could be a “perfect friend” that would cover all bases.

In the same way each relationship you have is different, because by the mingling of your personalities you create something unique, and that’s the joy of it. I’m afraid, when it comes to soulmates, I am very much a pluralist – I believe there are lots of people out there you could be compatible with, who have the potential to be your, ahem, “One”, and each would give rise to a different flavour of relationship. It is part of life’s rich tapestry, variety, diversity. To imagine there could be only one “right” person who fulfils every possible desire you could possibly have, seems to me just... pathological.

The One #4

Finally, to sound horribly un-romantic and pragmatic for a moment, the reasons people couple up and stay coupled up are really not just all about eternal rom-com-style perma-bliss, emotional fireworks and silly adolescent ideals – love is also about simple snug contentment, comfort and support. Being on your own is both emotionally and practically tough at times – not just lonesome, but logistically challenging when you have no one to share your burdens with, whether financial demands, personal problems or just house-hold chores. If you find someone whom, after years of living together, you still find reasonably cute, sexy, cool and interesting, whom you feel safe and comfortable with, who still makes you laugh and doesn’t do your head in (much) – well, then you have done pretty darn well.


Enough about "The One". Here are some other bullshit romantic notions:

Rules of relationships

The women’s magazine and self-help-book-style “a man should act like this and a woman should act like this otherwise your relationship is doomed” lists of rules that some over-analytical type has come up with, having read about one or two flawed psychology studies and talked about it with their awful friends.

No. Just no. Unless it’s based on thorough and extensively replicated science across cultures and generations, no. There is not any one-size-fits-all way a relationship must be. People can be very different with very different temperaments and needs, and relate to each other... differently. You must be tolerant, you must allow for this, it's the 1990s for Chrissakes. Relationships are alchemical and irrational, and you can’t force them into a single, predictable mold, no matter how much you want to nail them down and control them.

Also, call me strange, but I actually find it deeply unromantic and actually kinda disrespectful for someone to be only in love with their partner inasmuch as they can jump through a set of hoops and fit a pre-conceived template. And, as above, endlessly stressing over whether these rules are being adhered to will create problems where there were none. Cut loose.

It was/wasn’t meant to be

This makes my blood boil, probably because I’ve been told more than once by a girl that we weren’t meant to be” or that it was “fate” or “destiny” that she be with someone else.

Oh, great. That makes me feel a whole lot better, I’d think. So let me understand this right: It’s not just that you have decided you don’t want to be with me any more... no, THE FUCKING STARS HAVE ALIGNED to make sure I get dumped. Destiny has decreed that we must not be together. God Himself has cupped his hand and whispered in your ear “Yeah, bin out that loser, go off with that other guy, he’s much more dishy.”

I mean to say. Fucking rich, what?

Banging on about stuff being fated, destined, or happening “for the best” or “for a reason” is just kind of an insult to all the countless people who are shitted on, fucked over or ignored when they really didn’t deserve to be, I always think. If everything happens for a reason and everyone has a destiny, why the hell doesn’t everyone die happy and fulfilled? If life is indeed all pre-determined then, given all the pain and suffering and injustice in the world – that regularly goes un-rectified – then that’s just awful. The Greeks understood fate properly – if there is such a thing, it is not fluffy and nice, and it is not your friend – it is a terrible, terrifying thing, and responsible for endless tragedy.

Grand gestures

Finally the rom-com staple. Of course, it’s delightful when your significant other goes out of their way to do something wonderful and thoughtful and amazing for you. Of course it is.

But grand gestures are the cherry on the cake, not the be-all-and-end-all of romance. 100 slick grand gestures don’t mean someone is your soulmate, it just means they are slick and practised at this grand gestures crap, which can just as easily be hollow and manipulative as genuine and loving.

Again, call me crazy if you will, but I’m convinced real romance is not really about flashy fantasy shit like that. It’s not in the forced, showy, hoop-jumping gestures on Valentine’s Day – it is in the little, spontaneous, everyday things:

The warmth of each other’s embrace at the end of a long, tough day; the sense of fun and adventure you still get together on a night-time walk home through the park; the knowledge that even when you’re miles away, you’re still both there for each other, no matter what; the knowing looks thrown back and forth at a social gathering, when you both know what each other is thinking but don’t have to say it; all the little things you do thinking of each other, almost without thinking... You know what, screw grand gestures. True romance is not demanding or aspirational, it’s warm, open, honest, nurturing and supportive, it’s happiness and it's home. It’s your favourite old T-shirt, not your best suit.

Love is something that sparks between two flawed beings, who for some reason or another are drawn to, and chime with, each other, whether for a while or for the long term. It’s the feeling of belonging together, the sense that the other person may be a fuck up, but they’re your fuck up – that you value each other and what you’ve developed together, enough to not want to lose it or mess it up; it's the feeling that you want to face the world standing shoulder to shoulder, respecting each other as equal partners in crime, both as individuals and as an item... that’s what real love and romance mean to me.

The rest is all bullshit.

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