Sunday, August 24, 2003

When last we left, George Bush was mired in excrement...

Hello! I am back from Trina's wedding in Nebraska and ready to rant.

The drive was long and silly (both ways in less than 36 hours), and at one point involved the reading of both Japanese and American fashion magazines out loud. So, if this post in any way offends you, blame Cosmo.

Yes, I bought a "Cosmo," assuring the folks behind the counter that it was strictly for "research purposes." The original intent was to compare it to its Japanese counterpart, but it presented much amusement and consternation in its own right. From reassuring women that they have no right to expect their committed partners to get rid of x-rated movies and photos of former flames (note: Ryan if you rant at me about being anti-porn, I'm going to 1) laugh at you and point to the words FORMER FLAMES and 2) send pictures to prove that my... collection is probably larger and more adventurous than your own has ever dreamt of being), to comforting a reader who had passed out drunk and alone only to wake up and find her boyfriend fucking her with something along the lines of "it wouldn't have happened if you hadn't been drunk," to wholeheartedly endorsing the madonna/whore dichotomy by (explicitly) advising women on how to look like a "naughty angel" in bed.

I nearly screamed, cried, was sick, etc... the resounding message was don't you dare be yourself or have fun if you ever expect to be loved. But remember to always look like you're having fun, because guys don't like angsty girls. And I can't help but ask: what does this say for relationships? How does anyone manage to define a relationship that fulfills their needs and doesn't make them feel slavish or, for men, emotionally stifled?

I know that one magazine does not a complete analysis make, but these are just outrageous examples of messages that I see coming from just about every agency of socialization in American life, from my family's persistence in questioning why I don't have a boyfriend, and their immediate conclusion that I'm dating all of the guy friends I'm talking about (my mom's favorites are Ryan and Forrest), to friends' assurances that "one day you'll change your mind" about not wanting to get married. Then all forms of media jump in and scream about how True Love looks and feels, and it brings back my most vivid elementary school memory, of when I tried to convince a just-engaged teacher that there was no such thing as "true love." And to a certain extent, I agree with my younger self: the romantic ideal that I am "supposed" to want does not exist for me. I am not interested in being the wind beneath anyone's wings, the great woman behind a good man, the silent partner in the marriage -- as all of you know, I am rarely silent, and have no desire to be married.

More complicating is the fact that gender and attraction are not heavily linked for me. I am attracted to people who challenge me mentally, with whom I can hold both serious and silly conversations, who can put up with the fact that I'm ridiculously protective of my friends -- and make no mistake, I see little romantic future with anyone until they are my friend; meeting people for the sake of "auditioning" potential romantic partners has never worked for me, and seems like a situation prone to dishonesty and unpleasant surprises. I am attracted to people who are caring and kind, but not in a syrupy, spineless way, or in a self-aggrandizing way; there are, of course, innumerable other factors, and most of them defy words. The main point is, gender isn't one of them. In the past six years, I have known about ten people whom I would have considered becoming romantically involved with. One was a woman. Nine were men. If you want to call that my "proportion," or plot me on Kinsey's bell curve, fine, but it has changed drastically over time (ask me about the year when only women caught my fancy, and most of them het). I view sexuality as fluid and derivative of attraction rather than the driving force behind it.

So how, now that I've pretty much dumped the common view of How Romance Works, do I go about constructing what works for me? Because I sure as shit am not going to simply adapt someone else's hetero-normative (and dichotomous), male-dominated relationship "rules" to fit my "proclivities." At the same time, this is the template I grew up with, it's what I know, and it's what I know to be "normal." So, the list of questions lengthens: is it worth it, if at the end I get even more trouble for taking the pains to create what amounts to a deviant "lifestyle" (I fucking HATE that word)?

For that matter, why don't I reject the idea of romance altogether? If I were truly so into rejecting social norms for romantic love, I would acknowledge that romantic love itself is a construction mired in the history of patriarchy and the forces that shaped the kind of relationship norms that I hate so furiously. I would simply content myself with my wonderful, fulfilling, fun, uplifting friends and the prospect of making more. A good vibrator probably wouldn't hurt. But, as Melissa once said, "that's stupid. Recognizing that something is socially constructed doesn't render your socialization null and void." Or something like that. I know she said that's stupid:-).

So I can't escape the "need" for romance (a problematic term, at best) altogether, and my attempts at compromise, that is, finding a way in which to conceptualize romance/Love/whatever that works with my beliefs rather than against them, have thus far garnered more problems than answers. And I would be blissfully (ha!) grading final papers, still mulling all of this subconsciously rather than blogging it, if I had my way. Except I have a tendency to speak before I think, especially in late-night conversations, when I'm more likely to be tired and frustrated and to simply want to speak the truth and share the frustration, however unfair that might be, of wanting something but not knowing what it is or how to get it.

So in a way, I really do create my own hell. (<-- the drama queen in me)


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