Last night in support of a dancer friend, I attended the somewhat unusual senior project presentation created by Luther’s Theatre/Dance majors. Of two halves of the performance, I want to focus on the first. “Maiden, Mother, Crone: Where Does the Kissing Go?” contrasted anecdotes of women’s love lives told from the women’s perspectives with interpretive (read “highly abstract”) improvisational movement. This style of dance does not appeal to me; thus, I was more interested in the anecdotes. Because I found the stories intriguing (and related to a podcast to which I subscribe), I want to conjecture momentarily about how love stories around my generation skew our perceptions of love.
One anecdote referenced movies. Everyone knows that Hollywood is very influential, instilling cultural norms of beauty, physical presentation, heteronormitivity, etc. To this list I add the movie industry’s often copied scenario of how to fall in love; audience members are taught to infer which characters will fall in love and how that love expresses itself on their bodies (behavior, expressions, statements, and when sexual intercourse enters the relationship). I’ve noticed that my peers and myself expect our significant relationships to express in similar fashion, following those same patterns. Yet this exaggerated relationship scenario is far from reality, optimistically informing the woman that the man she happened to crash into or be peeved by will be her life partner.
This particular anecdote critiqued Hollywood for never showing us “a true love story, where the [main character] is lazy and has no character change.” The storyteller’s monologue waxed eloquent about the stories in which neither partner allows concern for the other to grow nor behaves as if they are interested in monogamy, yet they fall into marriage because eventually no one’s left but each other. “You each know two or three couples like this, now don’t you tell me different,” the storyteller pointedly told the audience. The stories on that podcast similarly connect “love” with having low expectations for a life partner, because life’s not gonna give you that Prince Charming.
These solidly aromantic stories of love are just as exaggerated as Hollywood’s over-romanticized love stories. One set of stories tells my generation that we need very specific circumstances to fall in love. When those circumstances occur, we’ll be set for life. The other set of stories informs us to start having sex with anyone because there’s no better option. My generation now clings to an ideal created by movies while simultaneously being disillusioned from the concept of love as transcendent.
Of course these stereotypes are grounded in part in reality; the talked-about relationships around us corroborate the pessimist’s version – divorces as mundane as bottled water, marrying whomever first said “Yes” to a date, drunken sex is a precursor to a significant relationship. We miss the quietly real routes carved between the aromantic and over-romantic by the successful, rewarding love stories from our parents, grandparents, and mentors. In these stories, love is the daily enactment of mundane communications, intentional actions to brighten each others’ day, smiles, and acceptance of each others’ flaws.
I’m trying to counteract exaggerations with real love stories. Where do you see love in reality?