What *about* love?

Here’s an issue you don’t hear discussed a lot outside of the occasional rom-com and even then never with any seriousness.  Why is romantic love so important?  I won’t argue that love (familial, friendly, pets, etc.) is not important.  I believe that some sort of love is required for a happy and healthy life (although I am more than willing to listen to an argument against that, though I reserve the right to believe you are a serial killer).  But why is romantic love the apparent Holy Grail of all relationships?

We are taught from a young age (see Disney movies) that romantic love is what we should strive for.  Admittedly, girls get more of it, or get into it more, than boys do, but there is no way young men escape the indoctrination.  We are told that romantic love, marriage and children should be the goal for everyone.  Every romantic comedy, and a lot of other genres (the hero always gets the girl), just reinforces that.  One character starts out with some sort of problem.  He/she is bitter because they just got dumped or they don’t like their life or they are having work trouble that flows into their life.  Or they have what we are taught to perceive as a problem, such as promiscuity or determined singleness or a total focus on a job, that they do not yet realize is a problem but it will quickly be revealed to them as such.  Then love comes in like a tornado, switches everything up and they are at last truly happy!  Why can’t the person be happy alone/promiscuous/focused on work?  Why is there no movie about that?

Well, I hear you say, because no one wants to see that!  And that is my point.  We are love obsessed (sex obsessed too, but can you deny that we equate those things too easily?).  Do you want to see the movie where the woman struggles with her balance between work, love and friends and decides that she is happy with just work and friends?  And if you do (like me), can you imagine it making any money?  I sure as hell can’t.

This just proves that, as a society, it is impossible for us to imagine not wanting romantic love, not just for now but ever, to be a healthy life choice.  But think about it, why not?  The fact is that it does not seem likely that romantic love is written into your DNA, unlike sex or, arguably, familial love.  And romantic love is a new concept in human history.

So, I just want you to keep that in mind for a while.  When you see ads and movies and the like telling you that you need love.  When you see dating sites thrown in your face.  Why is that any different than when a vegetarian rages at you for eating meat or when people tell you that pre-marital sex is a sin?  It is still someone telling you how you should live your life and what will make you healthy and happy.

*For all of those who read this who do not know me, I am not a bitter single woman in my 40s.  I am, in fact, a 22 year old in a committed and serious romantic relationship.  So this is not a bitter justification for what I see as a major failing in my life.

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About Tori

I am a graduate student working on my masters in Women and Gender studies. My masters thesis is on the gender nonconformity and ambiguity in modern film.
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