Archive for April 2016

On Love (or You Are Not Aphrodite)   7 comments

IMG_0483We don’t like thinking about Love. We think we like it. We tell ourselves we like it. But Love makes us so uneasy, so fearful, so desperate, that we put lots of rules around it, and try to tame it. It’s too wild, too dangerous, too destructive. But if we define it as thus-and-such, and rule out any form that doesn’t conform with the safe, acceptable mask firmly in place, maybe we can confine it, constrict it, keep it pretty but fangless, bloodless, pain-free, tamed.

It’s good that we teach our kids, boys and girls but in these days it’s okay to add more emphasis to the girls- as always, they’re in greater danger- that Love should be a Positive Thing, and that they need to have their own boundaries in place, and the necessary tools and practice so that they learn to maintain those boundaries under pressure. But it’s a process, and only useful so long as one keeps its parameters in mind. One can define a ‘healthy love relationship’ in fairly concrete forms, at least as each person to some degree modifies it subjectively, but who the hell really thinks that all love is healthy and positive?

Love is not patient. Love is not kind. It does envy, and boast, and hurt, and lash out, and shatter. Sometimes. Love is wonderful, but it is also ghastly. Super-damaged people can love. They probably don’t love well, or appropriately, or according to anyone else’s moral code. But most people are capable of love of some sort, and experience it in some fashion, even if it’s twisted and awful. Even when the outcome isn’t happily ever after.

I recently read a Facebook meme about Romeo and Juliet. You’ve seen it, I’m sure. How anyone who’s actually read it knows it’s not a love story but a dysfunctional saga about two deluded kids who get dead and dead everyone around them. It’s a popular stance. Pretty much any time I taught R&J I could count on parents winking at me conspiratorially and sotto voce-ing about how annoying the angst and drama of teenagers can be. I get it, I guess, but I disagree. You’d have to completely skim it, not read it in any sort of depth at all, to come away with such a facile comprehension. It’s a classic myth in its depiction of Love. Fiery, all-consuming, ecstatic and sometimes cataclysmically destructive. I’m forcing myself to resist the impulse to quote Juliet’s witty sophisticated flirting at the masquerade, her heart-soaring impatient longing, then her shattering honesty at the balcony, the journey she makes in such a short time from little girl to young woman. (I confess to finding her more interesting than him, but he’s a sweetie too.) Anyone who thinks a 13 year old can’t be in love never experienced it. The passion of the awakening young is full and rich and drowning and gorgeous. I’m so sorry for those who missed out on it. It was agonizing and wonderful. Fortunately most of us survive it, and the fact that we grow up, cool down and move on does not mean it wasn’t real.

Real love can and often does strengthen and grow into a lifelong commitment. I’m so grateful to have found a lover with whom I got to experience the hot melty youthful lust, and the steady fires of decades of monogamous entwining. I like that Love looks that way to us. This is some good Love.

But it’s not the only Love.

Heathcliff and Cathy were not good Lovers. But wow. There’s all sorts of sturm und drang over the recently popular Twilight lovers (in addition to ‘real vampires don’t sparkle!!!!!!’ which makes me giggle uncontrollably, there’s lots of suppositions of stalker-ish behavior which modern folks translate into It Can’t Be Love) and the horrible Shades of Grey which still somehow taps into an almost ubiquitous longing for Love. Which may or may not come with whips and chains and nipple clamps. NOT LOVE proclaim many modern feminists, since anything with Power Over cannot be Love.

(Disclaimer- I’m a modern feminist. Just not always in lockstep with my brothers and sisters in feminism.)

Maybe it can’t be Love for everyone. Maybe it can’t be for you. Maybe you’re too well-adjusted to permit power inequity, jealousy, mental instability or poor judgment to cross your good boundaries. I applaud this. I’ve worked hard to achieve this. I’m reasonably sure that destructive unhealthy Love is unlikely to make it over my hard-built battlements ever again.

But fucked-up people love too. Adolescents love. Old people love. Inappropriate people love. MacBeth, that bloody psychopath, and his terrifying vicious wife are atrociously, irrevocably in love. Scarlett and Rhett. Didn’t last, but Love isn’t always forever. Jane and Rochester. Happy ending notwithstanding, talk about a social and power inequity. He’d be pilloried in the press today.

We ‘reclaim’ the old myths, turn the Kore and Hades into a romance with an oppressive mother, not an abduction, because we can’t bear for Love to be so terrible. We find ways to demonstrate compliance in the many mortal and semi-divine women in myth because we can’t get past the rape narrative to find the underlying truths, which are often harsh and unpalatable to modern sensibilities. There’s a value in this that can’t be denied. It’s a hugely positive step that rape and coercion are no longer acceptable in humans. (At least in some places. But that’s another post.)

But Love is greater, more all-encompassing, and more stark than even positive human societal evolutions.

We might like Aphrodite to bestow all her gifts upon us in the form of rose petals. It’s so wonderful when She does. There are lovely examples throughout Nature of ganders twining their necks lovingly around their mates, of elephants touching each other gently and wonderingly, of stallions devoted to their lead mares beyond the needs and behaviors of the herd. Heck, don’t slugs mate for life?

But that’s not all. Aphrodite is also present in rough animal couplings, the fiery sploodge of volcanoes, the lightning strike that wipes out a forest in roaring conflagration, the drowning of a coastline in a tidal wave.

She is greater than political correctness. You don’t get to put Her in a box, hem Her about with musts and nevers and carefully crafted definitions.

Love is greater and far, far more terrible than you. Keep your standards high, but don’t kid yourself for a second that your healthy happy definitions are all of the story.

Nobody puts Aphrodite in the corner.




Posted April 28, 2016 by suzmuse in Uncategorized