I had a very art-filled weekend, and I’m not talking Van Gogh or Picasso. I’m talking train rides, reading, sketching French streets, journaling ideas, and just simply looking for the beauty and aesthetics in everything that I did, even if it was just a conversation with a stranger. I also had a killer workout yesterday at the boxing gym I recently signed up for, and there are no words to describe how addicted I became to going to the gym. I might write about it soon, because I’m literally working out every day besides Mondays and it has been increasing my mood and productivity SO MUCH. However, today I have another topic in mind. A really important one, actually.
I have some food for thought for this week, and would love to share it with you as well. As I was scrolling (aimlessly) on social media, I saw this poem shared by a friend:
If you asked me a year and a half ago if this poem speaks anything to me, I would have probably ignored it and continued living my life through rose-colored glasses. Today though, after one year and a half spent in the American culture and college environment, I find the poem disturbingly relatable to the way our generation perceives love and relationships. And here’s why.
Being immersed in the Western culture, I found myself experiencing a lot of cognitive dissonance (that is, in psychology, the confusion of a situation in which two beliefs you hold about the world clash, or a belief you have is contradicted by the world – happens oftentimes with culture shocks) regarding the way romance is perceived. Or relationships. Or not even, because here they are barely called relationships. They are called… a thing.
From my first week of college, my first party at a fraternity house, my first discussions with American friends, I realized that this is no longer the European, classy, old school world of romance, in which boys show effort to buy girls flowers, send good morning messages, or take the time to really get to know each other, deeper than the surface level of the all-positive and all-flawless. Here, I’m probably facing the most individualistic culture on Earth, with its main values being Uniqueness, Independence, Self-Sufficiency and Autonomy. Don’t get me wrong, I share these values as well and they help me going in my career, that’s why I love the fact that I spend my twenties in the American culture, but the moment they translate into the way relationships are perceived, you are left with an emotionless-no-commitment-hookup type of culture. For a hopeless romantic, or a person who’s been raised around loving relationships, this is a special kind of hell. Not only you experience a clash in your world views, but then you are faced with the need to make a choice: do I conform to the way things are done here or do I keep my values and keep longing for that real and authentic connection?
The worst thing you can do is to dive in their ways of doing things with your old way of viewing love. That’s the major clash. Been there, done that.
Therefore, I just wanted to mention a few points about modern love. For that, I will also share some quotes from the book I am currently reading, Women Who Run With the Wolves. The book’s aim is to help women find their powerful, creative and instinctual nature that we often hide because of social norms, rules, and cultural forces.
In the chapter I’m currently reading, they mention the Life/Death/Life cycles that we all face within ourselves, as well as in a relationship with a potential lover. That’s why, “To love pleasure takes little. To love truly takes a hero who can manage his own fear” (Estes, 154) That fear is the fear of confronting the death nature of a relationship, as modern lovers only wish to keep the pleasurable sides of a relationship going. Therefore, it seems as if they are running away from a relationship with the lover, when , in reality, they are trying to outrun these Life/Death/Life force. As the book mentions, psychology diagnoses this as a fear of intimacy, fear of commitment, which is so recurrent in the Western culture. However, it goes even deeper, as a person who keeps running away from these natural cycles is, in fact, fearing to live according to the cycles of our instinctual, wild self. “To love means to stay when every cell says ‘run!'” (Estes, 150) And that’s why it’s so hard to commit. Because love costs. It costs bravery.
Modern lovers tend to force love to live on its most positive form only, but this is what causes the so-called thing to get ruined, and for good reasons. When hiding away from these Life/Death/Life processes, when insisting on only forced gaiety and intense pleasures, there’s no way you can love another “over and beyond hormonal aspirations.” (Estes, 149) That’s when love is drowned again.
It takes a lot of courage and self-power to make the commitment of loving someone. People get in relationships and focus on all the dreams and hopes that come with them, and indeed the beginning of love makes you have that mindset, especially in the well-known honeymoon stage. However, there comes a time when illusions and expectations die, and even the desire of wanting the beautiful only dies. When this happens, it’s on the lover to decide whether or not they have the courage to face the Death nature. Many modern lovers don’t take the bravery to do so.
“The modern search for a perpetual motion machine rivals the search for a perpetual love machine.” (Estes, 144) That’s the reason why our generation relies on hooking up, enjoying merely one-night stands, grinding at parties, and searching only the pleasure of the moment, the motion, the action. It’s the easiest, most convenient thing to do, but “love does not mean a flirtation or a pursuit for simple ego-pleasure”. (Estes, 138) It is the union of two beings who strengthen each other and dance together the song of life, being aware of the challenges that are on the way. This kind of connection, however, takes time: time to find it, and time to bring it to life.
From my personal experience with affairs in an individualistic culture dominated by modern love practices, I see people become so hidden in their own shells, and it’s almost as if this is not a love game anymore, but a game of power. Here, the person with the most power wins. As well, showing a sign of affection or vulnerability is seen as a weakness. I’m a true believer in the saying of “No matter the situation, never let your emotions overpower your intelligence”, but not in the case when intelligence turns into manipulative forces or into one deceiving the other.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to the old school love of walks in the park, taking things slowly, sending flowers, kissing in the rain, and spending all night talking? The classy, real, authentic love. The love of no rush, of time freezing in the moment. Of art, and creation, and the intertwine of two souls, not just two bodies. I’m going to be honest, I miss the little surprises, the written letters, and the effort.
Until then, I’m just going to buy myself flowers.
Our generation becomes more and more affected by the changes in the dynamics of relationships, and I truly believe that one major reason is the rise of social media. It affects the way we view love, as everything remains at surface level. Social media is not only harming our mental health, but also our passion for life, empathy, and the way we see love. That’s why it should be used as intentional as possible.
To conclude my reflections on modern love, I will leave these lyrics from Lady Gaga’s new song:
Tell me somethin’, girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?
Hope you enjoyed today’s post! I’m using my blog as a tool to share my thoughts and experiences with the world, and everything I mentioned is strictly my opinion on the topic. Would love to hear your opinions as well. Are you on the same page as me when it comes to your views on romance nowadays? How do you think we can change this increasing trend of modern love? Is it worth remaining true to our values or should we try adapt to the culture we are experiencing? Just some questions to reflect on. 🙂
Estés Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Ballantine Books, 2003.