Friday, 14 February 2014

Deep Thoughts on Valentine's Day

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on this topic - I don’t even know if anyone’s an expert on love. It’s just a topic I love so much and has been stuck in my mind for quite sometime. This is just a whole set of trains of thoughts out of my own experience and observation. I’m also no expert in relationships. This is a long read, feel free to skip it if you don't feel like reading it all the way through.

In commemoration to Valentine’s Day, I think bringing up this topic is appropriate (or maybe even anti-appropriate?). Throughout the centuries, people’s perception of love changes - both culturally and individually. The way I thought of love, of relationships and of marriage when I was little and now are totally different. With the rising of Hollywood chick flicks and fantasised love songs, people’s opinion of love gets mixed up with that of romance. Romantic stories always show this incredibly majestic gesture as a way to win love - “win love”, huh? That’s also a strange notion. What does that  even mean to “win love”? Yes, blockbuster films and preteen literatures in the modern world usually shows love as a competition as opposed to an act of unconditional cherishing, of sincere caring. More often than not, they show love in these big romantic gestures and omitting the everyday life where love just hangs in the air like newly-sprayed perfume. It’s not their fault, though. They’re making these stories to sell, so that someone would want to watch or read it. There’s a reason why they are called fiction - not because they aren’t real, but because they only catch a certain aspect of the whole ‘story.’ The dialectic of revealing and concealing.

When I was younger, I was a dreamer - mostly about love. One day, I read a story - well, a one-shot manga, actually. The story was about a guy who confessed his feelings to a girl and asked her out. She liked him too so they started going steady. Afterwards, they didn’t really know what to do. Where do you go from here? At first, nothing changed. They kept being friends like they used to. But then, their friends told them they were different now, they should start acting more like a couple. The pressure made the girl crack and she asked the boy to just be friends. It wasn’t that she didn’t like him after all, but people’s expectations of them were too much for her. This story jerked me out of my everlasting daydreams. All I ever wanted was for someone I like to return my feelings. But what’d happen afterwards, if he did fulfil my wish?

What did happen was, Firu and I tested the water (several times): we slowly transitioned to the ‘aku-kamu’ instead of ‘gue-elo’ (this will only make sense for Jakartans), we first kept it a secret from everyone else and talked in hushed tones and we started coming up with nicknames (code names, if you will). The first year was ever so enchanting. Just like every couple’s honeymoon phase, it was filled with first romances and lovely secrets. But honeymoon phases fade. Romance fades. People often mistake this as love fading and they try so hard to hold on to it. It’s not love, it’s just the honeymoon phase, the awkward phase. Love is something you feel for the person, which shapes your emotions. It can be expressed in grand romantic gestures - like a huge marriage proposal with a marching band - but also in small mundane deeds - like offering to pick up the milk for your spouse. There is a line from Peter Gabriel’s song “Book of Love” that reads: “The book of love is long and boring, and it’s written many years ago.” It is very true, indeed. Sorry to break it to you, guys, but love is boring. It’s not boring for the people involved maybe - though it’s not to say you can never get bored when  you’re in love - but it’s such a boring story to tell.

People often refer to relationships as “work.” I understand and agree when people say relationships require work and sacrifice. Both parties of the relationship should be willing to give equal amount of effort to keep the relationship alive. They can’t ignore each other and still expect their love to burn bright. I read several online dating tips and they all state that fighting is part of a relationship. Back in middle school, there was this - let’s say - “ideal” couple the whole school knew. They got along well, never fought and had been together for a year. One day, they broke up. There was no fight or cheating or any such things. They just did, out of the blue, it would seem to onlookers. But couples who don’t fight should be concerned that they’re not addressing their issues and talking it out to solve the problems. Of course this isn’t said to justify couples who fight all the time. They clearly have problems, especially those who break up over and over. Maybe they should sit down sometime and try to talk out their problems calmly. Or they should individually think about why they want to be with the other person and why they keep breaking up.

However, when they say that their relationships will “make it,” what do they mean? Make it where? Is this some kind of contest? Yes, that is often the problem: people tend to think that love is a destination, not part of the journey. To be fair, love isn’t the only thing categorised as a goal. Success and happiness also fall to that category. This, as all successful entrepreneurs will tell you, is so far from the truth. As mentioned before, blockbuster films, fairy tales and love songs help shape our view of love - or lack thereof. Sadly, in most these stories, love is something the protagonist reaches out for, something he “wins” at the end of the story where he marries the girl of his dreams and live happily ever after. Then what comes after marriage? Should they stop working hard to keep their romance alive, to express their feelings to their spouses? Hell no. If anything, they should work harder. They would be seeing a lot more of each other. If it’s not with the right person, there is a chance they could get bored. That’s why marriage isn’t for everyone. But if they’re willing to make it happen, of course they can still be happy, despite the mundane activities they do on a daily basis.

I guess, what I’m trying to say is this: Valentine’s Day tends to make people lonely and desperate, especially if they’re single. So you might long for a romantic human contact. But, remember, it is just every other day. Trying to get a boyfriend just because it’s V-day is not worth it if you don’t even like the person, let alone love him. Don’t let the romantic gestures everyone makes for one another on this day fool you. Love isn’t always roses and chocolates, sometimes it’s scars and bruises. Also, it’s not a destination, it’s the journey. A person’s love for his/her lover is not all that different from the love they have for their family and friends. So, instead of going on a rampant to look for Mr. Right, why don’t you just shower your parents and mates with the love you already have? (Plus, if you've read this far, you're my hero)

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