Thomas Rowson continues his exploration of society through the lens of love
Last term, in one of my earlier lectures, we were asked the question, ‘what is love?’
There were two main reactions from the room: half the class were mumbling about how deep and introspective the question was; the other half groaning and rolling their eyes. And me? Well, I started singing ‘baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more’ under my breath. Why? Firstly, it is an absolute classic from Haddaway. But the main reason is that I don’t think it’s something that can be discussed, or measured, or even defined.
“I don’t think it’s something that can be discussed, or measured, or even defined.”
That hasn’t stopped sociologists and psychologists from trying to decode love. Because of them, we know that we are more likely to fall in love with someone if we meet them on a rollercoaster than in an ornamental garden, for the simple reason that rollercoasters, being scary, make our hearts beat faster, and we misinterpret that sensation for feelings towards the hottie sat alongside us. We know that holding hands and playing footsie creates perceptions of closeness and attractiveness between those engaging in the activities. They have certainly helped us learn ways that might help us fall in love. But none of them have truly told us what love is, and these ‘keys’ to unlocking love will never create something that isn’t actually there.
It’s not just the academics who are obsessed with love. Musicians have always been fascinated by that old black magic. Dean, Frank, and Sammy seemed to sing about it almost exclusively. But even musicians can’t agree. McFly tell us that ‘Love is Easy’, but the very next minute James Morrison says that ‘Love is Hard’. Foreigner doesn’t know what love is! And yet, somehow, they all get closer than the scholars ever could.
When Lionel Richie and Diana Ross sing about ‘two hearts that beat as one,’ or when Bruno Mars tells a girl that ‘you’re amazing just the way you are,’ or when Michael Bublé explains how ‘you make me sing; you’re every line, you’re every word, you’re everything,’ that is love. It’s not something you can quantify on a clipboard; it’s a feeling inside.
Another place where we start to get the right answer is in the movies. Sometimes I wish that my life was a rom-com, where the plucky, underdog guy gets the girl that everyone wants, and where instead of just saying ‘alright darling, grab your coat you’ve pulled,’ he has a long, heartfelt soliloquy, that ends with them slowdancing in the middle of a field, at the exact same time as the London Symphony Orchestra happens to be playing in the adjoining meadow. Even when he does something stupid, he can create some grand gesture to win her back. There is always that happy ending.
“In a world full of Barney Stinsons, I am a Ted Mosby.”
I know that I am a dying breed. In a world full of Barney Stinsons, I am Ted Mosby. I am the most hopeless of hopeless romantics. It’s normally only in the movies that the guy writes poems for the girl, but I am that guy. I am the guy who will smile just because someone said her name. I am every character that Hugh Grant has played in every film that Hugh Grant has been in (apart from Bridget Jones).
Call me a sentimental (old) fool, but I like being that way. I hate the fact the world has moved away from that, where it is now all Tinder and eHarmony, who have a scientific formula for love. No-one meets in a bar anymore. And as a society, we can just about muster up enough romance for Valentine’s Day, but only that one day of the year. It should be every day. What happened to going out to dinner on any evening, sharing some wine and laughs, talking about everything and nothing, and concocting silly little games so that you can look into the eyes of the person sitting opposite you? In fact, the only evening I can think of that would be better than that would be a quiet night in, just the two of you, with a sofa, a duvet, some nice wine, popcorn, and Pitch Perfect on DVD. What more do you really need?
“It’s all or nothing, why play games?”
Okay, so there are drawbacks to being part of an endangered species. I’m very aware of the fact that I’m out of date. I also know that people don’t, as a rule, think about the next fifty years when they are just starting to get to know someone, but that’s how I think. It’s all or nothing; why play games? The downside is that, so many times, I get caught up thinking about all of this, that I build an incredible amount of pressure on my own shoulders, making it difficult for me to tell a girl that I like her. Like, like her like her. But I’d still rather go through all that than not. It’s who I am. It’s who I’ll always be. Even if I’m the last person in society like that.
So, to answer my lecturer’s question, what do I really think love is? Well, I’ll leave you with the words of one last musician, Jack Johnson, who sums it up perfectly for me: “Love is the answer, at least for most of the questions in my heart, like, why are we here? And where do we go? And how come it’s so hard? It’s not always easy and sometimes life can be deceiving. I’ll tell you one thing, it’s always better when we’re together.”