Okay, a bunch of the people I know who are on LJ have recently posted things about their feelings towards romantic love and I figured that while the subject was flittering around on the february breeze I might as well take a crack at it. After all, I mean, I'm BEN.
I guess I should start off by restating some stuff I've said before. I am a very staunch romantic. I believe in outdated concepts like chastity, faithfullness within the context of marriage, and love based on personal connection rather than socio-economic appeal/big titties. I am not however a religious or spiritual person. I don't believe in soulmates, that there is "one special person out there" in true love at first sight or destiny. I think that one can be a true romantic without resorting to supernatural flotsam. In this post I will try to outline my views, some reasons for them, some results of holding them, and why certain things that might seem to be contradictions actually are not.
I think that romance is primarily about compatibility and trust. It's about two people who for some reason or another FIT together finding eachother and holding on, and it's about the two of them becoming close enough so that they know that they can trust eachother absolutely to the point of relying upon eachother with something approaching absolute certainty, knowing that the other one will be there to support them when they need it, provide companionship and comfort, and be their refuge in a harrowing world. You see despite being relatively civilized the world we live in is still very much a savage place. People jockey for position, compete for resources, and posses an almost unlimited capacity for cruelty. Man's inhumanity to man and all that. When I go to school I view it, as perceptive readers may have noticed, as a competitive almost combative process. There are always people out there trying to tear you down and you have to be prepared to repulse their assaults. You need to be ready for people to try and knock you off your high horse if they see you as an academic threat, or tease/attack you if they see you as weak. Unless you are fairly anonymous you will be a target at some point or another and even if they are few and far between you must always be on your guard. Even with my "friends" i know that there rages animosity and distrust beneath the surface of the relationship. Anyone who has studied children (where social norms haven't forced aggression to become more subtle) knows how easily they turn on one another. There are subtle jibes at one's academic institution or social failures. Good natured teasing quickly turns harsh.
So what does this have to do with romance? Well we all build defenses against the world and we rarely let others see us without them up. But your romantic love interest should be the one person who can see the knight without his armor. The one person you don't need to be on your guard with. That's what differentiates love from friendship, besides strong attachement etc. You can give your lover a knife and turn your back to her and you will KNOW that she won't plunge it into you, no matter what the possible benefit. With a friend you can be reasonably sure, but not absolute in your conviction. With a lover there should be no doubt whatsoever.
This is naturally a tough situation to achieve though, because as I've stated before almost EVERYBODY out there is armed with some sort of weapon and some sort of agenda under which they won't hesitate to use it. If the only people who could make adequate lovers were the exceptionally weak or the exceptionally noble this theory of romantic love would be all but useless. It might function as an ideal but the sheer impracticality of having to find a specific and very rare type of person would mean that in application it would be ludicrously limited. The thing is that I believe that you CAN forge a partnership which makes it undesireable or impractical for either partner to harm the other. I believe that almost all people DESIRE the intimacy that being around someone else unarmored can bring and that what is needed to achieve a balance so that neither person will hurt the other is that the partners be so compatible that there are no alternative partners who are both available to one of the partners AND significantly better enough to merit the trouble of disolving the current partnership and forming a new one. In other words your wife has to be so Beautiful, talented, funny (insert whatever traits you prize most) that to leave her for another would be folly no MATTER what the traits of the other. This might seem to be an impossible standard for any but the most magnificent women (or men) for that matter to achieve but I think it's significantly less tough than it seems because everyone has different standards by which they judge the suitability of a mate. Joe might want a woman who appreciates the finer things in life, who is cultured and refined. Jim might want someone who is adventurous both in and out of bed. Todd might just want someone who can enjoy a quiet evening with a book and mutual footrubs. Of course since the women all have standards too the situation is much more complex than some sort of Superchickmarket, but the wide variety in desires at least allows a much greater number of matches than the gold standard theory.
So, that's great for marriage (you say, convinced by my wicked cool logic) but how does it relate to me getting my groove on with some blonde cutie in a Bristol Pub (You are Aaron in this case because he's the only one reading this who has a remote chance of scoring who is not already attached like Chuck or Jeff) Well I'll tell you. There has to be a symbol of this connection you are establishing to your lifepartner. Something that you give eachother to seal the deal and show how serious you are. The natural choice would be...your body. It is one of your most private possessions and also one that is in short supply (I.E. you only get one.) What can be a stronger symbol of love, commitment, and TRUST than yielding your body to the other person's pleasure? Not to mention the biological reinforcement of the relationship achieved through copulation. Now if you go fucking around with anyone who has ANY characteristic of your potential love interest (I.E. Dude...those are like...Double Ds. Heh...heheh....dude....that rack is HUGE) you cheapen that gift by showing that you are willing to share it for reasons far less than to offer proof of your willingness to be defeneseless in the face of love. You are willing to use it just to get off. So when the time comes where you find that lady who is going to be your shelter in the storm, your neutral zone in the civil war of life, you have nothing to give her but promises. Nothing but words. Words that many men have used before to get it on with chicks they liked. Chastity is proof of her specialness....a concrete statement of how much more she means to you than anyone else ever has before. That's not to say that absolute chastity is absolutely neccesary...people make mistakes and someone who THOUGHT they had found miss perfect a couple times in the past and gifted them with his body is certainly entitled to valid romantic love, but rather that sex should not be taken lightly or purely physically. Each time you lie with a new partner you dilute the meaningfullness of the act and have to replace it with some other action to prove your love. Each time you get drunk and laid you show how easily you will shed your clothes (part of your armor) just for enjoyment's sake....how cheap your (temporary) trust can be won.
But Ben (you say because you're Aaron and you're a little address posting bitch) what if sex is important to me in a mate as part of my list of traits. How can I know if she's right to me without it. To that I have no absolute answer which is why I don't think premarital sex is neccesarily wrong. All I would say is that you should make sure she possesses the other traits you need before you go ahead and make love to her. Personally I take it to the point where I don't want to recreationally date anyone who I don't think has the capacity to possess what I want in a potential wife. It's true that I haven't had many opportunities to date but that summer at camp I did have a couple of chances. The first with A who was a fellow C.I.T. and probably the prettiest girl at the camp. I became close enough to her as a friend that just about everyone in the camp thought we were dating, and she asked me to do what I percieved as boyfriendy things like see her off from the bus stop at 6 AM and take long walks in the woods alone with her. I never made a move though partially out of shyness and partially because she was attractive and vulnerable but also pretty screwed up. She had been promiscuous with other guys who were clearly undeserving of her sex and she had a nasty temper and a very entitled attitude. She also kissed some guy she hated after I got suspended from camp and I knew that she was not my type. The second girl was B (those are actually their initials) and she actually asked me out. It was towards the end of camp at that point and I had dropped 50 lbs so I was looking actually pretty decent. Anyway after I snatched the note back from an apparently jealous A I agreed to meet with her and we got together a couple times over the course of the next couple weeks, where I attempted rather lame conversations and she looked mildly less awkward and confused than I did. I settled for writing her rather overwrought love letters which she responded to in absolutely DELIGHTFUL british handwriting but without much substance. Jeff kept telling me to go for something physical and I was tempted but I asked myself whether I could see anything there and though I WANTED to quite badly I honestly couldn't. (BTW on a side note Jeff still keeps telling me to go out there and be promiscous which is a pretty odd attitude considering that he started treating me when I was pretty damned young. He should still see me as a thirteen year old to some extent and not be telling me about how a blowjob will open my mind almost as deeply as love might) In the end I left camp early to get away from the situation and A only called me two times after that although we did email for awhile. What happened with B I am somewhat ashamed of. We exchanged relationship type letters for about a year and she even offered to come visit me when she swung by New York for the winter break. By that time I had regained some weight and was embarassed about that, plus I had determined that she was just not bright enough for me (as HORRIBLY elitist as that may sound, I'm sure she was a perfectly smart girl I'm just a complete asshole sometimes) so I lied and said that I would be away for winter vacation. I did maintain correspondance with her until one of my emails wasn't replied to and then I thankfully let it die. I knew she had trouble with email and I SHOULD have sent something via snail but at that point I was SO glad to be done with the whole thing that I let it die. She emailed me about a year and a half ago and said I had a profound influence on her at one point and asked if I remembered her. I told her that I did and asked how she was doing but she never responded. I am pretty damned ashamed of what I did with respect to her, especially since I started off agreeing to date her partially to get A jealous (although after we actually talked a couple times I started to like her more than A). My excuse that I was just 16 rings as hollow in my ears as I'm sure it does in yours. I don't consider what we did dating though since we never physically touched and never spent more than like 2 hours at a time together. It was the potential beginings of something but it never materialized.
Another question you might ask is why I allow the use of pornography considering my rather conservative views towards sexual intercourse and oral sex. The answer there is that the consumption of pornography is not an act where YOU share anything with anyone else. The people who you react to do, but they do so willingly and with full knowledge of the consequences. Not everybody has to look for love and if you just want to fuck and always keep your armor on...well...that is your choice. So I don't consider it to be wronging the performers OR your future mate...and I accept that people have needs. I have to admit that this view is partially shaped by the fact that if I imagine a potential future wife and see her...pleasuring herself with aids, I am not effected by it like I am if I see her spending the night with another man. That's not a logical position but it's part of this and I'd be lying if I didn't bring it up.
Another potential problem is that you might never find your maiden who you feel absolutely comfortable with. I concede this and that it is a flaw. Personally I believe so strongly that a relationship where I could be TRULY comfortable and TRULY me would be invaluable that I am willing to take that chance. Others may not be and may say "Forget the whole thing, most chicks are sluts anyway so why not get my fun in before I marry one of them." I can't refute that point entirely except to say that I think MOST married people go to bed with their armor still on. They keep things from one another, they feel they've settled, they whine about eachother to their friends who they actually like better than their spouses. I think that's terrible and not really a marriage at all. It's an arrangement of mutual minor comfort. I'd honestly rather spend my life sleeping alone than with a woman who wasn't interested in my philosophising. I'd rather sleep unprotected and alone than armored up and with another person. You may not and I guess that's a valid choice. I guess.
On another final note this is why I felt so deeply about She-who-has-been-burdaned-with-far-too-many-unweildy-descriptive-sentences. It's not that I thought I was in love with her, or wanted to be in love with her like Kawah seemed to think. It's that I thought we SHARED a lot. She laughed at my jokes. She was capable of finding the things I found funny amusing as well. When we wrote our skit she suggested the things that I would have suggested had I not been so shy. She put herself in the position of the agressor AND the fool (in our skit) which is where I was planning to put MYSELF. She found political jokes about Strom Thurmond to be amusing, as well as puns, literary jokes, and little sarcastic remarks. She was a Phd in literature where my strenghts and true interests used to lie (now not QUITE as much, I've changed somewhat.) She was shy and awkward at times, a dedicated student, a bit of a loner. So I let loose a bit of my armor so as to get closer and that was the time she chose to swing around and accidentily land the hilt of her sword in my solar plexus. It wasn't on purpose but it knocked me writhing to the ground and yes I DO still have an emotional bruise there. I don't blame her but I do wish that I had gotten a chance to know her better. It's not that I think I loved her...it's that I thought I COULD have loved her MAYBE and she was the first woman I ever felt that about. But this is a world of conflict like I said in the begining so I will cinch up my codpiece and go forth once more.
So to sum up this rather lengthy post, I think of romantic love to be trust on the battlefield of life. A lull in the conflict where you can finally sleep in someone else's presence and know that you will keep your emotional head. I may have presented the idea logically but it is a very romantic notion at heart. It is steeped in sentiment and irrational hope. But it's what I have. Do I believe that my ideal wife is out there waiting for me? No. But that can't stop me from looking. Because I'm weary from the war and I WANT somewhere to rest my head. Even if I never find it I can't stop searching and I can't give up the present I keep for whoever it might be that can give that to me. The world is a savage place and I just want to be able to be vulnerable without getting hurt. It's a hell of a lot to ask in a world of 50% divorce and low taboos on cheating, but sometimes you need to stand steadfast to your convictions come hell or slutwater. I believe in this for myself and I think that others might benefit from doing the same, but I realize it's not universal. Still it's where I'm coming from and I thought you'd like to know.
This is why I view cheating as such a vile betrayal. You remove your armor, you lie down with her, feel her warmth...her touch...and then...she's cold. She's still dressed in steel. And she plunges a lance into your back, it comes out between your ribs and she twists. Then she rides off to lie with another. Once you've bound yourself to someone like that, let down your guards and let them see the truth in a real and meaningful way...they can hurt you. They can hurt you more effectively than anyone else can...and if they do then they've broken a trust that goes far beyond sacred. They've turned the whole world against you since they were your only harbor in the storm and they are nothing but hail and lightning themselves. To do that is...unspeakable and your only reaction can be to put on more armor than you had before and to ride as far away from her as you can, taking whatever you can find so that her twisted heart can gain as little as possible from what she did. Another strike against casual sex...once you're used to boffing anybody it becomes much easier to break marriage vows. Better not to open that can of worms at all in my opinion. You can claim that lack of exploration before marriage leads to cheating after as they sow their respective oats but I disagree. It's jumping into marriage cause you're horny that does that. As long as you find the right person you WILL be able to resist...because the thought of not having them will be more horrible than any sex is good.