Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Post-Valentine Treatise on Love...Sort Of

Lately, I’ve come to realize two things: 1.) The internet gave me a miraculous forum through which to finally get my writing out of my head and in front of the eyes of actual other human beings; and 2.) The internet completely killed the possibility of my ever making a living off my most cherished innate talent.

If I had never ventured into AOL J-land 11 ½ years ago, I would never have understood the depth of my passion for writing as communication with other people.  And I would never have discovered that I could write for an audience, and be successful at it.  Granted, it was a small audience of people mostly a lot like me…but it was an audience.  And I loved it.  I thrived.

But fast-forward a decade, and the ether is clogged with wannabe-writers.  Everybody wants into the act.  All you have to do is look at the restaurant critiques on Yelp, or product reviews on Amazon, to realize exactly how many folks out there fancy themselves clever enough with written language to qualify them to splatter their judgments all over the internet.  There are so many voices out there…so much noise.  It’s hard enough to break through all that clamor (witness the tanking of my blog-hit numbers), much less find a forum that might actually pay for my writing.  I wonder how many of the writers for Salon or Huffington Post or Daily Kos (and some of the writing on Daily Kos is dreadful!) are indeed paid for their work?  I mean, they have bylines and websites and blogs and “followers” and twitter accounts…but is that how one measures writing success in the 21st century?   What do they use to pay the bills?

Still, I’m addicted to floating around the internet and delving into “magazine articles” that catch my eye.  I do this with a certain amount of curmudgeonly envy; I like to keep tabs on what kind of pieces are getting the nod from internet “publishers” like Huffington Post.   And from time to time, I come across relationship “how-to’s” like this one:   

The writing is decent.  It reads like a (overly lengthy) Valentine card, or a speech out of Don Quixote. 

“What you deserve is someone missing you the moment you walk out the door, even if you’ll only be gone a moment.

“…You deserve every birthday remembered and every holiday embraced. You deserve effort behind any gift, even if it’s a flower picked up from the sidewalk on the way home…

“…You deserve to be held with tenderness. You deserve that earth-shattering kiss; the one that you need to stay alive and the one that is your sole nourishment for survival…

“…You deserve to be introduced to friends as if you were the rarest thing on earth. You deserve to be brought into a room with pride in hand that he is so blessed to be standing beside you…

“…You deserve a thought behind every word, especially when saying goodbye. You deserve letters, notes and Post-Its that remind you how special you are to him on any given day…”

But the sentiment! Oh my god, get me some insulin!

Putting aside the sappiness of the whole thing, I had to wonder if there are girls/women out there who might actually take this missive as gospel, and do their lives some irrevocable damage.  Because this isn’t just a fantasy or a case of looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.  It goes way beyond that; it crosses the line into toxic bullshit.

I know.  I am one of those who used to believe in this kind of fairy story.  I honestly thought that there was such a thing as a long-term relationship that would function on this level forever…and I believed my marriage was one of the rarefied few.  I believed that religiously…for about two years.  Then I got a sense of what everyday marriage is about, when the rubber hits the road.  I started to get an inkling of the stark differences in the ways men and women perceive the world.  After about five or six years, I realized that if we were going to make this marriage thing work, it was going to entail a whole lot of modified expectations,  balancing “must haves” against “likely to gets,”  and choosing what to fight for and what to let slide.

Still, I believed for many more years that our marriage was one of the better ones.  But despite all of the accommodations I believed I had made, the expectations I thought I had adequately modified, the epiphanies I was convinced I had absorbed and put into practice in our lives, our marriage went through some very dark times, and nearly ended more than once.  All because I had never really let go of the image of our relationship as being somehow…above all that.  Some part of me still shrugs and sighs in disappointment that our lives haven’t quite measured up to that cherished Impossible Dream.      

Only now, nearly forty years in, am I coming to understand that the real beauty of an enduring long-term marriage lies in its ability to bow to the differences that are guaranteed to produce rocky roads, to weather the inevitable storms, and to embrace and celebrate the slightly crumpled, soot-smudged phoenix that rises out of smoldering ruins.

I’m afraid that anyone who holds fast to the standards set forth by the author of the article above will never really know married love, in all its forms, colors, and reincarnations.  Never experience the amazing process of the agony of defeat being gradually replaced with the victory of endurance.  Never be able to appreciate the magnitude of two hands reaching out to grasp each other after being held apart for a really long time.  Because, let’s be honest; all of those things so poetically put forth in the article—the birthdays remembered, the earth-shattering kisses, the letters and post-it notes reminding you of how special you are—are just…fluff.  Trappings.  Actions that anyone could do; and then drop you like a hot rock at the first sign of trouble.

In fact, if love is a matter of “deserving” all this fine and special treatment, will there come a point at which you no longer deserve it? Suppose that lightning strikes, and you DO manage to find yourself in a relationship that functions on that level to begin with.  What if you fuck up?  (And you are going to fuck up…trust me.)  What if you make some kind of huge blunder, and your significant other no longer thinks you “deserve” to be treated like fine treasure?  What if YOU no longer feel you deserve it?  What happens then?  Do you re-invent yourself, wriggle out of the relationship and go out in search of Lightning Strike #2?  Or #3?  Or #4? 

So for all her lofty, poetic, high-minded exhortations…this author’s view is really the equivalent of the relationship third-rail.  If you ask me, this very concept is at the core of the critically rising divorce statistics.  If we hold the very human beings to whom we join ourselves in everlasting love to an impossibly inhuman standard of behavior, we can never be satisfied.  It’s a sure-fire recipe for spending your life lonely and frustrated.

Yet, Huffington Post published the article.  I have a feeling that if I sent THIS essay to Huffington Post, they’d laugh me out of the “office.”  Because no one has any interest in the relationship perspective of a battle-weary, childless baby-boomer who has negotiated the minefield of a four-decade marriage and lived to tell about it.

But they should.      

1 comment:

  1. i love truth....::::sigh::: but no one loves me for it. I like this article of yours though. Truth is ugly, we all really need someone who will still keep us around when we get ugly.... that's what love is....a willingness to wait for a better day when one of them is ugly.