Monday, December 8, 2008


Still working on the book Against Love: A Polemic by Laura Kipnis. It is interesting, but a little dry. A very good read if you remember reading Nietzsche and Freud in college, and probably even better if you studied some political science. The author says up front that the point is not to convince the readers, or herself, of one point or another. In her own words:

A polemic is designed to be the prose equivalent of a small explosive device placed under your E-Z-Boy lounger. It won't injure you (well, not severely); it's just supposed to shake things up and rattle a few convictions.

Her book focuses on romantic love (not family or friendship so far) and how obsessed our society is about pursuing and maintaining romance. Love at any cost. It's almost like this drive is programmed into our psyches, and the structures we build around us, as deeply as all the instincts that rail against commitment and domesticity.

So as soon as I thought of "programming" I realized...

Romance is like the Matrix. It's not something that we really need to survive, and history shows we didn't consider needing it until relatively recently (19th Century, similar to when romance novels gained popularity). Before that time it was an amusing or entertaining concept in contemporary fiction, but marriage and domesticity had their own mutually exclusive place in the real world. Romance happened outside of marriage, for the most part.

Western culture is now hopelessly dependent on the Matrix- no wait, I mean Romance. The desire for Romance evolved over the years, resulting in a strange social slavery where pleasure becomes very hard work to maintain (domesticity). This slavery is even endorsed and registered with the state (marriage). We have internalized the system so much that people who are not currently eligible for this sort of slavery are fighting to get it (gay marriage).

But no matter how hard the work is, we don't think for a moment of living without it. Potential separation from the Romance system causes great fear and anxiety, and people put in a ton of work to either stay in the system (unhappy, codependent relationships) or try and get hooked up (the billion dollar match-making industry). We are so convinced that we cannot live without Romance that we never question if : 1 + 1 = 1? Anyone who does not fit into the system, willingly or otherwise, is persecuted or coerced into finding Romance.

It's a fun metaphor to play with, but NOT 100% accurate. There are unhappy, passive aggressive people in all kinds of situations that like bringing other people down, and Romance is just one system.

On the other hand, I know lots of happy people "hooked up" to the system. They don't patronize me for being single. They respect and support my decisions as much as I do theirs, and are very secure about themselves and their lifestyles. They see their friends as whole individual people, and not halves of a Romance-unit.

Some people fall in love because they just do, not due to psychological programming. And many people are secure enough to accept when a romance is over- without sending an agent in a black suit to terrorize their mate.

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