Before I begin, I would like to clarify that neither are my words an absolute truth, nor do I have any large-scale empirical evidence to back my opinion up. All I have are meagre experiences, and a short life of a little more than two decades on this earth.
With this background, I would like to put forth my definition of love, and why it may not be possible in this consumerist society. Often young (and not so young) people confuse the initial exhilaration and euphoria of meeting someone new and ‘interesting’ as love. How do we blame them? Pick up almost any romantic film, and it will most likely portray the ‘rush’, the ‘craze’ and the ‘madness’ of the initial chase, the downfall, and the return of the lover as the constituents of the construct of ‘love’. Love, after all, is understood through the cognitive and behavioural response that is described in the metaphors of ‘butterflies in the stomach’, the ‘whole world dancing’, and the ‘illogical, inexplicable magical feeling’.
I request you to not jump in haste and blame the ‘younger people’ for holding such ideas. I have been fortunate enough to date men who are almost a decade older than I am, and yet their idea of love seems to remain terrifyingly similar.
But do we realize that everything in this world is bound by a curse of monotony, as the novelty of the situation fades away with time? Do we understand that no matter what, everything we do or indulge in will start to bore us eventually, owing to its repetitive nature? And because of this, it is inevitable that the initial excitement will fade out at some point. So if the definition of love is limited to the above-mentioned markers, love itself will (and does) fade out.
This is a stark contrast to the other idea of love that we are fed – that it must last. How can it, though?
So, how do I define love then? Love only begins when the euphoria fades away and all there is left is the sense of being ‘stuck with each other’. When we are told that love is hard work, it is not simply about solving issues between the couple. Love is about choosing that one person over and over again, despite knowing and encountering several better ‘alternatives’ – be it a ‘better’ person, or ‘the thrill of singlehood’. There is, of course, a thin line between how much of compromise is too much compromise. Choosing someone over every other better alternative must not be at the cost of our own mental and physical health (yes, I am talking about abusive relationships). But this is a debate for another time. Right now, the idea of romantic love consumes me.
So here is my conclusion – it is not possible in this time and context to remain in love. Let me clarify. If you look at the older generations, you may realise that a lot of romantic love stories worked because there was always a dread that if they leave, they wouldn’t find anyone (let alone someone ‘better’). Or perhaps, there was never a ‘need’ to find someone better at all! There weren’t many resources available, and the idea of discarding the old things and wishing for the newer ‘models’ (of objects) were not very prevalent.
But it is a different scenario now. When I use the words ‘time’ and ‘context’, I refer to the fact that, because of consumerism, we are socialized into a world which makes us feel that we must aspire for something ‘better’, something with greater utility. Everything around us is an object that can be easily discarded in search of objects with better ‘features’ – a better alternative. Be it clothes, or technology – we discard the redundant and the old, in search of the next best option. Therefore, when we have turned into consumers whose greed is insatiable, and the idea of ‘better’ is so fluctuating, how can it not impact our personal lives?
Take dating apps, for instance. They are highly useful, for even the most introverted soul. I do appreciate and fully utilize their existence. But they have also paved the way for more choices. Regardless of whether you find someone better or not, the very idea that it is now possible to find someone new, by downloading a few apps, is groundbreaking. You can now leave a romantic relationship, as soon as the fights start, discard an older partner as soon as you meet someone fresh and new, and leave behind monotony, and boredom in search of the ‘initial exhilaration’ again – only because it is, now, possible to find someone better.
Perhaps, then, human beings have become commodities in more ways than one. We cannot escape our own redundancy in our lovers’ lives, as they, too, become an ‘old discard-able model’ for us. We leave them for someone better, as that someone better leaves us for someone else. Is there an end to this greed of pursuing the ‘best of the best’ in romantic love? Perhaps no, because the best will gradually erode into futility anyway!
So, yes, I hold my ground, even if you question me about the other kinds of love, and why consumerism hasn’t seeped in there as much. We love our parents because they are ‘assigned’ to us by the accident of birth. We love our friends, despite their shortcomings, because we can have more than one friend. But a romantic lover for a monogamous person? We get to live with only one of them, and that ‘one’ has to be a perfect fit for us, without asking for any compromises or adjustments. Why should we adjust? We can always do better, can’t we?
Mitakshara Medhi is a contributing editor at Catharsis Magazine.