Rethinking Romance

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

I stopped pursuing romantic relationships over a year ago. I appreciate what romantic love can bring to people’s lives. I see the rewards of sharing your experience with someone else. Beyond the affection and platitudes, romance seems to bring purpose and fulfillment into people’s lives. I choose to say the word romance because my life is full of love. The ancient Greeks had 7 different words for distinctive brands of love, none of which are exclusively romantic, all of which I believe to possess somewhere in my life. I have always been surrounded by supportive friends and family, that is something that I am incredibly grateful for.

Additionally, I have had a few romantic relationships that were loving and supportive but ultimately fizzled out into tattered memories. I know that this is something that is currently missing from my life, but it would be dishonest for me to say that I’m really concerned about it. Being in love is not the same as falling in love, falling in love is not the same as being loved, and being loved is not the same as loving others. All forms of love are not mutually exclusive, true love is an amalgamation of these distinctive states of love.

While true love escapes most people, there are a select few that seem to find it. It really comes down to a matter of sheer chance and luck. Finding a symbiotic relationship in the ecosystem of romance is a daunting task. I’m under the impression that these relationships are best formed organically. Maybe I don’t have the chops to seduce someone with a Tinder profile, swiping through the proverbial meat market of emotionally available adults. Something about the process of online dating seems so manufactured and superficial that I have little interest in pursuing it. Playing the dating game would statistically improve the chances of meeting new people but in an artificial way. I’m not knocking anyone who uses these platforms, I applaud your confidence and initiative. I am just acknowledging that the kind of person I would want to invest my love in would ideally also see through the veneer of the algorithmic matchmaker.

Logic would dictate that I should engage in more social activities. Giving myself a chance to get out and meet new people. While I agree that this would be an ideal way to gain visibility, I dread the awkward encounters and conversations that are inevitable. Approaching acquaintances with romantic intentions seems desperate. Yet, this is how most romantic relationships begin. Maybe I’m incapable of conforming to the new dating standards. Even if I choose to follow that route, I likely won’t adapt quickly to the unpredictable nature of new relationships. The inevitable rejection and confusion would also disrupt my fragile confidence. I tend to overthink things; relationships are not an exception.

Here is a dilemma for you philosophers out there. If I must love myself to be capable of loving others, then doing things that depreciate my love for myself would also inhibit my ability to love others. If awkward rejection and relationships that end without closure detract from my ability to love myself, then I will perpetually be incapable of loving others, which will further deplete my love for myself. Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. I’m on a downward spiral to single town.

This is where I find myself today. Rattled with regret and some confusion about past relationships, trying to improve myself, rebuilding self-esteem and confidence, and overanalyzing every step along the way. If the adage is true, I must love myself before I can love anyone else, then I must accept that I may already have enough love for myself. After all, loving yourself does not necessarily mean loving everything about yourself. With that in mind, I have to ask myself, “is it really worth the effort”? I guess that is yet to be determined, I could very well wind up falling in love and changing my trajectory in life. I could be soaring through the clouds or drudging through the mud, but at least I would have someone to share that experience with.

Despite my fractured understanding of romance, I still appreciate the love that others have and share. I imagine it like seeing an alien museum exhibit; flowing red curtains retract to show a young couple laughing and reaching into a box of fries at a McDonald’s booth. The speaker in front of the roped-off exhibit crackles and comes to life with a low-fidelity recording that says something like this:

“The courting rituals of humans are a complex dance between sentient beings. Mating rituals include the sharing of food, communal grooming, and social posturing. Humans are capable of falling in love with one another as a result of common interests, mutually beneficial personalities, or shared traumatic experiences. In this display, the male and female humans grew their bond through sharing fried tubers. Neither of the humans on display understands what is in store for their future, they simply take pleasure in each other’s company without questioning sustainability or intentions. They do not know what lies ahead for them; they simply understand that they are on this journey together. For them, that is enough.”

The spotlight dims, leaving the human wax sculptures silhouetting the artificial backdrop. The droopy red curtains roll shut, and the moving walkway carries me to the domesticated animal exhibit. 

If only this concept weren’t so alien to me.

-Nobody