The Pasteurization of Modern Love
Just recently I got into a relationship after about 4 years of solemnly swearing I would never do so again. This is a result of a very painful and toxic 4 year partnership that ended in heartbreaking fashion. So far it’s going great but the little mini me on my shoulder is waiting for the other shoe to drop, sad.
Admittedly the previous was on the account of both parties involved, but who’s pointing fingers (her fault). Actually the causation was probably that of a misguided youth, social media, porn and or my malfunctioning navigational system of love mapped out by my divorced parents (Apologies mom and pop).
Although it might just be we both cheated. I know despicable, judge me. I do it all the time.
So when yours truly decided to give it a go, this obviously came as a shock to those closest to me mainly because over those past 4 years I have evolved into what I call a realist with my point of view toward the tragedy of modern dating. My folks just call me a pessimistic lover, for I had devoted myself to the belief that the majority of 21st century courtships in good ol’ US of A, are doomed to fail. But was I being a realist or just projecting?
Me and my now girlfriend have discussed this topic at length and have mostly agreed to disagree about our views on dating, marriage, hooking up and blah blah blah…
She is a romantic though I can’t say hopeless because that would include me being among the collateral in the fact that even though she’s been hurt by past suitors she’s going out on a limb for me, which I thank her in doing.
She has also had her head filled by R. M Drake quotes, RomComs, snapchat stories and the magic of other media mediums that have built up an image in her fantasies about what’s to be expected from her ideal lover. A golden statue of a man that sits on a pedestal of perfection with a list of at least 100 virtuous qualities engraved at its base.
My own idea of what I want from my partner has also been swayed by the overloading imagery of Instagram models, the glamorization of vanity and the dilution of intellect in my modern culture. As a result, in my head there are at least 100 golden statues of every kind of woman my feeble mind can come up with. Not to mention as a 27 year old black man who grew up with the likes of shows such as 106 & Park, In the Basement with Tigger, Rap City and Access Granted the glorification of being with as many beautiful woman as possible has been etched in my mind since I was a youngster.
So naturally I have become absolutely enamored with scrolling through IG or Twitter and discovering a beautiful woman flashing her assets. Its pure entertainment and possibly maybe unintentionally the reprogramming of my desires and expectations for ‘love’.
After all love by definition is an intense feeling of deep affection.
I often sit and think about how lucky my grandfolks were back in the day as they figured out love. Where as back then you fell for Dorothy down the street, got married, had kids, stuck it out through thick and thin then got matching headstones in passing.
I think about how they didn’t have the buffet of prospects at the palm of their hands, programmed with an overabundance of dating apps on the backdrop of a culture obsessed with the new and the now.
I would like to assume those tough times they experienced are what develop the personality of a strong and sustained relationship. Now a days people, men and women alike, are much more inclined to move on to a seemingly better situation than to try and sail through those rough storms of a traditional partnership.
The proof is in the pudding as America’s divorce rate is at 50 percent and the average marriage length being merely 8 years; that’s only double the life span of an NFL career. There are just over 2 million I do’s being said per year, oh and a third of those brides and grooms have been previously hitched to another. Think about it, these aren’t people who are casually dating; these are people believing their future is set.
So can you blame me for my skepticism?
Does it even make sense to give the effort anymore? This is a burning question that has been ironed in the back of my brain. People like to throw quotes at me like 'It’s better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all'—Yeah, yeah I get it, but are we really loving? People also like to hammer down my throat what love is, but what I’ve witness and what I’ve experience on a daily bases has been anything but what’s been described.
By now, you are most likely wondering how on earth is this guy in a relationship? That is a good question, I’m still trying to figure that out too. I’m still trying, yes! Despite everything that I wholeheartedly believe in my pessimistic lover’s brain, as a human being I am forced to be hopeful or as the great James Baldwin said ‘I can't be a pessimist because I'm alive’—‘so I'm forced to be an optimist’. Through all my heartbreak and let downs I somehow am forced to believe there is light somewhere in the darkness.
So here we go! Embarking on our journey of lust filled discovery toward potential love that will inevitably run into some rough patches along the way. To keep it real, I am scared beyond belief of this journey. Not scared in the Hitchcock suspenseful way, but scared of the absolute certainty that I know I am bound to make a mistake at some point. People will say 'well if you care about her that won’t happen' or something to that effect. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about a sleeping around with other people mistake. But I am human, we are human and it is because of our nature that we falter at times. Remember that golden statue she’s built, yeah that’s the guy I’m trying to replace. So my uneasiness comes at not yet knowing how we will navigate that turbulence or if when the time comes we will want to sail through that turbulence or abandon ship for a seemingly better situation.
I would like to think that when the trying times arrive that we remain steadfast and resolute but like anything else in life you never know how you will react until you’re in the thick of it.
This brings me to our photoshopped perception of love. This idea that it comes filtered, without its blemishes and the parties involved are always happy. But in my most humble opinion, that is wrong. Love comes as imperfect as a toddler’s handwriting. Its imperfections are what molds its uniqueness to each given circumstance and is what allows for every person’s experience with it to vary even when the underlying feeling is the same.
It is said that we should not rely on another person for our happiness, which to a certain extent is correct. But when it comes to dating and eventual love, that’s exactly what you have to do. You are selflessly offering up a piece of yourself to your partner for them to hold and hopefully cherish. You want to feel happy and wholesome around them with the confidence that they’ll reciprocate the sentiment.
This also means we are opening ourselves up in the most vulnerable way, more so than any scalpel ever could. We leave ourselves defenseless to pain and hurt and I think therein lies the combustion of true love.
So no matter how many times we’ve been abused and broken from the frays of dating or marriage, that burning inferno that connects two people on a level indescribable with any combination of words, has left us addicted. Like any addict, the satisfactions of the high far outweighs the ailments of the low.
I am on that high right now, a high I haven’t had in a long time and though both of us have had our reservations about dating again we want to give it a go. We have agreed to not put any of our previous restrictions or labels to what we are doing because when you affix those kinds of titles to each other, rudimentary expectations are the result.
Don’t pasteurize your experience with love; take it with all of its grandeur. It’s ugly, messy, bold, beautiful, intelligent, arrogant, courageous etc… A melting pot of experiences that we cannot control; with all the scientific elements in this world it’s the one element we fail to comprehend but the one element we can’t deny. It is the first thing we feel when we are born and because of everything in between it is the last thing we want to feel when we pass.
© 2017 Byron James