Wednesday, 16 February 2011

"I don't believe you know what love is!"

"Yes, I do. There was a happy time when I didn't, but a bitter experience has taught me."

So, today being the day after Valentine's Day (At least, it was when I started writing this blog post), the subject of love/relationships etc rather obviously suggests itself.

First, Valentine's Day itself. The argument has been made that couples shouldn't need to have a specific fixed date to remind them to do romantic things for each other, they should do so all year round. This is true. But there's no reason why there shouldn't be such a day. People in general shouldn't need specific fixed dates to remind them to do nice things for their friends and family, they should do so all year round - but we still celebrate birthdays, and Christmas. I don't see why Valentine's Day should be particularly different, except in that it applies to different people.
Of course, I know one reason it's viewed differently - because some single people may find it depressing to go out on Valentine's Day and see loving couples everywhere while they have no-one with whom to share Valentine's Day; whereas people with no friends or family with whom to share Christmas are much rarer, and people's birthdays don't all happen on the same day, so it's not as pervasive.
But I don't see this as a problem with the idea itself. It may be a problem with the people celebrating it, if they have excessive PDAs. And it may be a problem with commercialisation - with certain things being marketed specifically for Valentine's Day. But the idea itself? No problem with that. The only reasons I'd avoid it are contrariness and practicality. So by the combination of those two, I would of course be naturally disposed to do something romantic on the 15th of February, when I'm much less likely to be confronted by hordes of other couples doing the same thing.
Though even then, the pervasiveness of Valentine's Day does have its effect, in the form of the tendency to think, despite the fact I don't go so much for Valentine's Day, that maybe I should ask that special someone to be my Valentine (Assuming there is such a person) (Random thought, Valentine's Day must be weird for people named Valentine. Oh hey, even weirder, imagine if your name was Valentine and you were born on Valentine's Day! That would just be really weird. I wonder if that's ever happened)

OK, so onto relationships. I have issues with referring to... well, this is the issue. What does one call them? Prospective significant others? Ambiguous, since that could imply they're trying to get with you rather than the other way around (Which might also be true, but you probably don't know that for certain). 'People with whom I would be interested in potentially pursuing a romantic relationship' is a bit long. 'Boyfriend/Girlfriend elect', while amusingly strange, would confuse some people and could be seen as presumptuous of their answer when you get round to asking them out (Incidentally, 'asking someone out' is another potential issue. What do you say if it's to be a long distance relationship, since you won't actually be going out together on a particularly regular basis?)
Finally, possibly the big two. Saying you 'fancy' someone doesn't work for me, for two reasons. Firstly, I always feel it's a bit Middle School, and therefore a bit immature. Secondly and more significantly, I always feel that 'fancy' implies a purely physical attraction. So by that definition, I fancy a lot of people, but that doesn't mean I'm going to go through the list, asking them out one by one.
Which leaves us with 'crush'. Which can possibly work for me. Though there's still the problem that other people may define it differently, in which case should I go along with them for ease of understanding, or stick with my own personal definition at risk of confusion?
Of course, in practice, I don't talk about these things much, at least not to other people, so it doesn't really come up most of the time. But still. Word choice issues! Are there any other possibilities, in or out of common parlance, which I've missed?

OK, next subject: Love as portrayed in various media. To start with, Introbulus shared this on facebook, and I'm going to share it here, because I think it's brilliant:

Portal 2: Valentine's Day Trailer.
Whimsy aside, there are issues with love portrayed in media being unconvincing, which is a problem if it's supposed to be realistic. Thinking about this, one could probably just look through love/romance tropes on TV Tropes, but on the other hand, that would be more time consuming than just reading me rambling about the subject for a little while. Also, of course, TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life.
For an example, love at first sight. Pretty sure this doesn't exist in the real world. Lust at first sight I can believe, but not love. Because love is not down to just physical appearance, but personalities as well. A meeting of two souls or something poetic of that ilk. But it happens sometimes in fiction. I can accept it if it's acknowledged to be ridiculous (e.g. Scaphio in Utopia Limited by Gilbert & Sullivan), but of course you can't really parody something that doesn't already exist. So in that, I can accept that some good has come of unrealistic portrayals of love, but they still bother me. Depending on how you define love, maybe you can get to something if your first sight of the person in question is of them being wonderful and lovely and so on, but as I said, it depends on your definition of love, and for that matter 'first sight' (Not in the Discworld sense).
Another (sort of) example of love at first sight is, of course, Romeo and Juliet. I say sort of, because the point is, it's not love. At the start of the play Romeo's going on about how in love he is with Rosaline, and then he sees Juliet and decides he's in love with her instead. It's not love, it's teenage lust, which tears apart the city of Verona and ruins both those two great families. This is why the play is a tragedy, a point which many people miss in this day and age, thinking instead that it's a great romance etc, when it's not. I may be belabouring this point, but I've had it put to me in stronger terms, and it is, as I said, something people miss. Also, Romeo and Juliet is far from Shakespeare's best work, and yet it's probably the best known of his plays.
Continuing on the subject of love being down to more than just physical appearance, that's something which can be missed in portrayals or descriptions of it. Romantic poetry, or just poetical descriptions, tend to focus on how beautiful the subject of the affections is, hair, eyes, etc. (There would at this point have been a link to a video of me singing 'Take a pair of sparkling eyes' from The Gondoliers, but it turns out the microphone built into my laptop can't handle me singing at full volume. I might redo it on my camera, cope with the excessive upload time and use it in a post about singing and stuff) Now this may be because it's more difficult to get too poetic about aspects of people's personalities, and there definitely are cases when fictional characters will talk about how wonderful their lovers are as people, rather than as objects of beauty, but it's still something which can be missed.

Let's see. Another aspect which can be missed in fictional portrayals of romance is simply that not every relationship is true love. I'm sure this does come across in some things, but on the other hand there are some things where breakups pretty much only ever happen due to extenuating circumstances (Frequently involving death - though that may be down to my tastes in TV) and never because the relationship just isn't working and the people aren't quite right for each other. Of course, the main reason people are likely to say this should have been portrayed in a specific case is to get rid of a fictional relationship they didn't like, and doubtless if it were portrayed some people would be outraged because they love that relationship. But to be honest, I'm pretty sure there's no way you're going to please everyone when it comes to things like that.
I wonder if I should touch more on the subject of shipping at this point, since I have sort of just passed it there, but I can't think of anything to say about it that would be directly relevant, and discussing it properly I could go on for quite a while and this post is going to be long anyway. Well, I suppose there's a point about love in there with the fact that you can look at the way two (fictional) people interact and assume they're in love, or at least lust, with each other, while other people (Most notably the author of the work in question) may be completely unable to see what you mean. It's all subjective - and of course this does also apply in real life, leading to the possibility of people getting entirely the wrong impression.

Finally, moving away from media and back to confusing words: Love. Of course given one is told that being in love is a serious thing, you don't want to declare yourself to be so prematurely, even though you may feel like you are. Certainly, in the course of my life, there have been times when I kind of thought I could be in love, but looking back on them, I definitely wasn't. On the other hand, for one or two, maybe I really was. This is where of course we get to the confusing point - there are, as we know, different kinds of love. People typically love their families, but incest is quite rare. People may well say they love their friends, but that doesn't mean there's anything going on between them (I mean, sometimes it may be, but sometimes it isn't, and of course, sometimes it might seem like it is when actually it isn't). So there are these different types of love, and how exactly are we supposed to clearly define which is which?
It gets particularly complicated in that sometimes they can get pretty close together. As I've brought up, of course love is down to personalities. And then so is friendship. So the kind of person one might fall in love with will quite possibly be the same sort of person one would be friends with, and the two may overlap. Personally I have found that in some cases, the distinction - the line between friend-love and romantic-love, if you will - can get a bit nebulous, while equally in other cases it's very clear. I have noted, on occasion, that  some of my friends appear to fulfil all the obvious criteria for me being attracted to them, except for the most fundamental point that, well, I'm not attracted to them. And conversely some of my friends can quite easily jump back and forth across the friend/crush line (Which is not generally as confusing as it may sound - also it has the potential upside that if I ask one of them out and get rejected, it shouldn't take me too long to recategorise them, as it were, as just friends. Put them firmly on the side of the line which will cause me to get less depressed about the situation. Weird, I know, but that's the inner workings of my head for you. I'm now getting paranoid about possible reactions to this, so I'm going to stop before my ramblings get onto any more personal subjects. Not that I can think of any more that I'd really bring up at this juncture, but if I keep rambling, who knows what could happen?)

Oh, but I just remembered another thing I was going to mention. One more Patience quote for you:
"You can't love two people at the same time!"
"Oh, can't you though?"
"No, you can't! I only wish you could!"
However, I've completely forgotten what I was actually going to say on the subject, and I've decided to stop anyway (I actually recalled that I was going to mention this just as I finished the blog post), so you can muse on it yourselves. Polyamory! Opinions!

tl;dr summary: Love and relationships are really confusing, because of words and media and words. Also, I'm strange. (That last point could really be given as part of a summary for any of my blog posts)

Coming soon: I casually analyse things I've read/watched/performed in. And maybe, just maybe, I might one day make a blog post completely free from random introspection. It's an outlying possibility.


  1. I agree with just about everything you've put in this post ^_^

    I never used to put any importance on Valentine's Day at all, for exactly the same reason that if you love a person then you should show them every day. However, it is a wonderful excuse to be even more romantic than usual.

    It's always annoyed me the way love and relationships are portrayed in the media, most particularly films and it seems the only way they can show acouple not instantly falling in love is to have them hate each other until the last minute when they realise all those feelings of anger and annoyance were really masking their love. The two most extreme examples possible and neither of them are any way close to being realistic.

    I remember studying Romeo and Juliet and knowing it was a tragedy (quite clearly, because people are constantly dying through it, how is that not obvious to some peopl?) but my favourite Shakespeare play has always been Midsummer Night's Dream. Just a little side-note there. Which also reminds me of one of his sonnets...lemme just check the number...(I really need to re-read these more carefully) Sonnet CXXX, 'My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun'. It's my second favourite of his sonnets (that I have read more than once at least :P) because it breaks all of those cliched metaphors that romantic poetry entails.

    Anyways, I was going to say something more about different types of love, then I got sidetracked by sonnets and now I have to leave for lectures.

    Might comment again if I remember what is was I wanted to say :)

  2. If he ever acts unkindly shut your eyes and love him blindly.
    Should he call you names uncomely, shut your mouth and love him dumbly.
    Should he rate you rightly leftly shut your ears and love him deafly.

    I was going to put that up on (or gayday when I am feeling particularly grumpy =p) on facebook but I thought people might htink I was being bitter =p

    I have the issue that I don't know that I "fancy" someone until anything starts happening.
    I also don't know when people are hitting on/flirting with me. I think I have an oblivious setting that won't turn off =p

    I love the portal vid. I watched it before you mentioned it but I love that it starts off seemingly like it's factual and being a bit silly.

    stuff... ¬¬

  3. It occurs to me I had much more to say about love in media, like how everything seems to have a romance in it even if it's completely irrelevant and has to be awkwardly shoehorned in. But I forgot about that, and other points, probably because it was late and I was half watching Neverwhere while I wrote the blog post.
    Also, amusingly, as I write this comment, I'm watching the episode of 'How TV Ruined Your Life' about love. Which of course brings up more points about unrealistic portrayals of love in media.