Do you have a favourite love story? You probably do, as we all are spoon-fed love stories from the moment we first saw the outside world.
Romantic love, differing from other ‘kinds’ of love, such as platonic love, is a major theme in a great amount of songs, books and movies. Not to mention commercials, that often feature very happy couples or that send the message that if you buy Brand Name X’s product you’ll suddenly land yourself a girl- or boyfriend and so forth. Oh, and remember that one day in February that tries to make us participate in consumerist society and purchase boxed helium balloons and teddy bears holding fluffy hearts in the name of love? (If that is totally your thing, do the thing, but why only on Valentine’s Day?)
Our whole society seems to be focused at finding romantic love, preferably in the form of a relationship with the person you’re in love with. Best would be if this person turns out to be the love of your life, the Prince Charming, the Perfect Woman. Of course it is not the single thing that is important in society, but romantic relationships, the ones that may eventually lead to marriage or some similar mutual agreement, remain a huge ‘thing’. It is an expectation, often set by yourself after years of hearing love stories in all forms, that you start aiming for that from a young age. Some practice rounds first, perhaps, but many will want ‘the real thing’ rather sooner than later. Not the main point, but besides that all, these expectations are extremely hetero-normative.
What bothers me most about this main focus on romantic relationships is that to some it is seen as a failure when they don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend (yet) and that it will be attributed to a deficit in appearance, personality, or both. It contributes to a feeling of not being good enough to be in a relationship. This urgent need to find romantic love diminishes us as individual human beings. It makes us end up in relationships that we value for the idea of a relationship and it makes us value everything that we wish for that is not that relationship less, even ourselves. There are people who are unable to view themselves as whole unless they are in a relationship with someone. Which may sound great and hopelessly romantic in Twilight, but in real life the love story doesn’t end after a few hundred or thousand pages and you will have to spend your whole life with the person you are.
If we are able to decide to shift the focus from romantic relationships to the relationships with everybody who adds value to our life – that is, all the different kinds of relationships with friends, the relationships with family, as well as boyfriends and girlfriends, wouldn’t we be more whole of a person, and happier with the person we are? What if a romantic relationship would be one of the many ‘pillars’ of important things in life, and not one of the few? I’m sure you will be able to find plenty of soulmates, persons with whom you have “a deep and natural affinity” (according to Wikipedia), not just a soulmate for a romantic relationship, but also a soulmate for finding the best red velvet cupcake in town, a soulmate for playing Mario Kart, a soulmate for conversations about the meaning of life, and a soulmate for browsing bookstores. And wouldn’t it be great if that soulmate can be you on some or even all of these occasions?
I like to think that this shift not only makes us appreciate all that is in our life more, even the romantic relationships that we might be in, but that it might also break the taboo on being alone. Lonely and alone are not equals, and yet many people will feel a stigma against them if they decide to drink coffee alone, or go to the cinema on their own or, perhaps worst, dine at a restaurant without company. And perhaps, on one of these occasions you might fall in love with a person, and consider it one of the many great things in life – because I’ll admit it: being in love is great, it is just one of these many great things.
Of course, such a radical shift in what is valued in our society cannot happen overnight, but hopefully one day, in my utopic society, everybody can decide for themselves, without pressure or hurry, when they allow themselves to find a romantic partner, at 17, at 76, or never, and that does not change anything in the way their life is valued.
As a final request, I would like to ask if we, for once and for all – as it represents everything I’ve pleaded against – can get rid of that god-awful ‘Forever Alone’ meme.