I’m joining up with other Crescent Moon Press authors for a sexy, lovey-dovey celebration of l’amour. Check out my post below and:
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What’s Love Got to do With It: More Never Prayer!
Romantic love has become the pinnacle of the human experience, or that’s how we Americans see it. Arguably, romantic love is the primary religion in the U.S. Can you have a show that doesn’t have a romantic angle? Can you listen to music that doesn’t hit us right between the legs?
As Nick Hornby put it in his novel, High Fidelity,
People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.
Yeah, romantic love pervades our culture, but then our culture is one of youth. Our stories are about first meeting and overcoming obstacles, and usually end in marriage. Would anyone want to read stories about the doldrums of being married for years on end? Don’t bet on that pony, my friend. Go with what the people want, which is immediate lust and then forever love.
Do I believe in the gospel of romantic love? Part of me does. Hence I like Twilight, adore soap operas, and can’t imagine watching anything that didn’t have some sort of love story going on in it. Some scholars think the reason why Edgar Rice Burroughs did so well is because his John Carter carried such a torch for Dejah Thoris. Same thing with Tarzan; he had his Jane. And Tarzan DOESN’T get the girl at the end of the first Tarzan novel. A tragic love story about some monkey man. Cut and print.
Another part of me is skeptical about romantic love. Hey, I can be atheist about God, I can be agnostic about romantic love. Generally, those wonderful neural chemicals which characterize immediate attraction wear off after about eighteen months. Just long enough for you to meet, have sex, have the baby, and then nine months for the baby to be out of the womb before it’s time to break up and find the next eighteen-month affair.
Real love is less about sparkle and more about commitment. It’s less chocolate ice cream and more broccoli. It’s good for people. That’s why men and women live longer when they are in a committed long-term relationship. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Or so the story goes. I’m skeptical about that as well.
However, in my novel, The Never Prayer, there is a definite romantic component. Funny, though, my main character Lena is less about love, more about survival. Hard to be interested in romance when you’re on the run from the law, you’re grieving your parents, and your ex-boyfriend has gone into drug treatment.
And yet, Lena finds healing through a romantic relationship. While she does have the chocolate ice cream sparkle with one boy, she winds up with another, but there’s sparkle there as well.
Romantic love definitely is one of life’s more interesting aspects, but it can be a hard thing to hold onto.
When I was trying to decide if I wanted to get married or not, I had a friend who said the best thing about marriage is that when you fall out of love, it keeps you together so you can fall back in love. Last time I talked to him, he and his wife of a bazillion years were having a second honeymoon. And with all that history together, it’s special. Not easy. Not sexy. But special. Real.
Reality and romantic love don’t always mix, which is why pining for someone is often better than actually having them. The idea of romantic love is probably better than the reality. Maybe that’s why we like it in our stories.
In the end, our society is missing out, I think. By making romantic love the pinnacle, we miss out on the benefits of selfless sacrifice, religious ecstasy, or just plain everyday serenity, being comfortable in our own skin, in the moment, and not needing any sort of romantic drug to ease the pain that living brings.
But I gotta’ say, I’m still a believer, though I’m also conflicted.
For right now, I think my buddy Catullus said it best,
Odi et amo. Quare id faciam fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior.
Basically, it translates to, I love and I hate. I feel it happen, and I am tortured. Excrucior. Best word ever.
Happy frakkin’ Valentine’s Day.