I am a huge Disney fan. I went to Disney World in Orlando Florida for the first time at the age of 40 – and it truly is the happiest place on earth. I think I had more fun than my 8-year-old daughter, but let me explain the beef I have against Disney.
One common thread that runs through the Disney classics is the romantic notion of the woman being saved by the prince of her dreams, then riding off into the sunset and living happily ever after. Most kids grow up with this shit and quickly come to the conclusion that the only way in which people can be whole is if they are in a relationship. The corollary is also true – if you are not in a relationship, there must be something fucked up with you.
This all goes back to the romanticism movement that started in the 1750s. For the first time, people started to believe in soulmates and the idea that one person could complete you and make you blissfully happy. The romantics focused on four pillars - marriage, the end of loneliness, the importance of feelings, and the unification of love and sex. Prior to this, love and sex were not necessarily obtained from the same person. You could love someone, but not have sex with them. It was also common to have sex with someone you did not love. Romanticism put its foot down and said NO - sex and love MUST go hand in hand,
Romanticism elevated sex to the supreme expression of love. Good sex was seen as a sign of a healthy relationship. Infrequent sex and adultery were seen as a catastrophe. They said love meant the end of all loneliness, and you should be guided by your feelings rather than by practical considerations. You know you are in love when you are overwhelmed with that special feeling.
The Beatles said it best with "All You Need is Love". They then followed it up with "Elanor Rigby", and the lyrics "All the lonely people, where do they all come from?" They turned loneliness into the evidence of pathology. Modern society makes it mandatory to have a partner and a large cohort of friends, and an empty diary has become an emblem of social deformity.
Romantic love is a dangerous illusion. You meet someone – they are great. You are obsessed and all consumed. You love everything about them – you feel complete. They see you and make you feel great about yourself. You believe these feelings of bliss are going to last forever. You have no secrets from your partner and spend constant time together. You raise a family without any loss in sexual emotion or intensity. Your lover is your best friend, co-parent, co-chofer, spiritual guide, chef, home economist, etc.
The reality of love is slightly different. No one thinks their partner is terrific after some time. They start to piss you off and irritate you with their annoying little habits. Expectations slip. Things are done for the other begrudgingly and resentment raises its ugly head. The sex is no longer mind-blowing. The day-to-day domestic routine dulls the excitement. You get into fights that can only be described as hostile.
Being single is not unromantic. In fact, you could argue that single people are the most romantic because they do not want to find themselves in mediocre relationships. Relationships are best suited for those that have no or extremely low expectations. Being alone means not inflicting yourself on innocent third parties. Relationships spoil love – it is not nice being in a relationship and denied sex. You would rather be alone and filled with the expectation of future sexual encounters.
I am not saying that being alone is easy. That lack of intimate human contact can be brutal, but you need to consider the alternative. In a relationship, there is suffocation, frustration, and anxiety. We are not good at being happy, regardless of our relationship status. But maybe we should rethink the merits of friendship, and not treat it as love's ugly cousin.
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