I do that thing that all mean mothers of teens are obliged to do. I pull the wings off her romantic flight of fantasy and point out that Katy Perry split with Russell Brand after barely a year
Not much unconditional love there, darling girl.
My daughter knows every word of every tune. She hasn’t fallen in love yet. I wonder what she makes of it all?
She encounters these unrealistic notions of eternal devotion everywhere she looks.
Seems to me that “unconditional love” is not only an unattainable, but dangerous ideal. I don’t want my child to go on loving a person who mistreats her. Don’t want her to throw herself off a bridge if she’s dumped.
Is it time we grew up and got a grip on romantic love? Blow the whistle on the whole overblown, needy, expensive catastrophe?
We live in a time when “true love” has become a religion and when it slips through our fingers, we are ex-communicated from everything worth
living for. We are exiled from grace.
In our increasingly secularised society, God is now sitting in the back seat, so we turn to our fellow humans for unconditional love and absolution.
I, for one, am not up to the task. Nor is my husband, my beloved and helpmate. If you want something to worship? Go to church, find a wave,
get a hobby, hug a tree. We’re not into mutual idolatry.
It ain’t me, babe, as Bob Dylan sang in 1964.
“You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’s never weak but always strong.
To protect you an’ defend you Whether you are right or wrong.
Someone to open each and every door. But it ain’t me, babe.”
After almost 20 years of marriage, my husband and I look to something rather more prosaic to sustain us – partnership, a common outlook, financial security, family and forbearance.
After years in the love game, I found a fellow unromantic traveller in UK philosopher, Simon May and his 2011 book, Love. A History.
Challenging love is the last great taboo, he says. It’s getting around naked in the Emperor’s New Clothes booby-trapping relationships with deluded expectations.
“It seems that, if only we work at it, love can be a cocoon of perfection: it can make us feel totally secure, wanted, and respected in all our individuality; it can redeem the brevity and imperfections of life; it can give meaning and purpose where nothing else can; it can protect us from every abyss,” writes May.
Jesus didn’t have a whole lot to say about the romantic love between a man and a woman – greed, sacrifice and social justice were more his bag. Buddha called out the myth as an “ego illusion” and Muhammad had multiple wives – some marriages made to form political allegiances
and out of compassion for the wives of martyrs.
Most of the world’s marriages are still transacted in this way.
We’re not gods – only they can do the whole “unconditional” thing.
In the most controversial words I may ever write, my husband and I don’t think of each other as “friends”.
I shudder to hear those plaintive marriage vows: “Today I am marrying my best friend.” Friendship is now embalmed in saccharine eternity, like a sugared almond.
When I married, I brought to my marriage as a dowry – my friends.
These are the people I bitch to when my husband is being a pain in the arse. My husband also has his treasured confidants and we’ll both take our precious property with us if we ever leave. That’s a given.
Our dear friends are the flying buttresses keep our shabby little temple still standing after all these years.
Even BFF’s don’t not have access to the heart of a marriage. Even a long court case in front of a jury and witnesses can’t get to the reason why we stay and endure.
Don’t ever give the role of “best friend” to the person you sleep with, I sternly tell my daughter.
Who will call me if you are in trouble?
Perhaps the greatest taboo of all is to question the ideal of unconditional love of a mother and father for a child.
It shocks when we hear of brave parents disowning the actions of offspring who have committed abominable acts.
Although, children are carelessly abandoned every day.
For solace in the face of his human infidelity, I look to the old-fashioned virtues as qualities that are worth striving for. Ones that can be just as fulfilling as true love: mercy, courage, courtesy, respect, reliability, loyalty, trustworthiness, prudence intention,
diligence and humility.
Why do the Seven Deadly Sins get all the action when the Seven Heavenly Virtues go unremarked upon?
Back from our trip down the shops, I asked my daughter to nominate her favourite love song. She belted out a Tim Minchin lyric: “If I didn’t have you, someone else would do.” Phew!
In turn I sang: “I can’t live, if livin’ is without you!” Harry Nilsson 1972.
Tragic. Isn’t it?
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