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Writer's Block: The Meaning of Love

What does love mean to you, and why? Have you always felt this way?


Love is a word that encompasses everything from your favorite food to your mate, your prospective mate, your children, your friends, your career, your religious faith, the things you most like to do and how to feel about yourself if you want to be sane. Yet there's a big romantic myth about it and whenever it's asked like this, the obvious is romantic love. It never worked out the way it's described for me, and though I know some happy couples, very healthy couples, it doesn't look like it's advertised.

I'm a frustrated romantic who used to believe that true love conquered all, that there is someone for everyone, that somewhere out there was a person cooler than anyone else in the world who would always be on my side, never hurt me or betray me, and stick with me for life. Boy was I wrong. Romantic love has more to do with breeding genetic offspring than I ever wanted to credit it, and the number of romantics who don't want children is pretty freaking low. Romantic love is cultural and Western and there are plenty of cultures all over the world that don't pay attention to it.

This doesn't mean that people don't make it real all the time or that only straight breeding couples get it. It's more that down on the Darwinian level a partner that wants kids, whether that's by adoption or genetic, is going to be looking for a high status partner with good health that's going to give their kids all the advantages in life. Of course a lesbian couple is going to marry and may well want to have kids. Of course a gay couple is going to marry and may want to have kids. And they'll get help with the process like any couple that doesn't have the lazy easy way of having kids open to them. Don't take my biological speculations as any reason to denigrate gay marriages, because lesbian women and gay men are still human beings and mammals who may want children and a family.

But people who want children and a family may have a lot more success in forming a long term bond with a mate because there's a biological reason to get along and make it work. Humans are socially monogamous, not biologically monogamous. We could live like bonobos and be happy. We vary a lot -- individuals vary on that scale of monogamy whatever the culture says about it. And maybe in capacity for romantic love.

I've felt it and tried and tried on the mating ground. Gay and straight, I've given it my best shot. I've bonded to lovers to the point where losing them made life not worth living, was loss of self, ripped me apart and felt like it was down to the cellular level. I honestly don't know if widowing or divorce is worse. I suspect that when someone's deeply bonded it comes to the same thing and it's a fine point whether the absent beloved is absent hating you and looking for someone new, or absent because they're in the grave. I think the grief is the same, and people don't really take divorce grief seriously enough. Or widowhood for that matter.

Romantic Love at its start gets a ton and a half of attention and is the way to show the whole pack of humanity that you were fit, you were cool, you are one of the best because look at what a great and choosy mate you won. Romantic love at its end, widowing or divorce, is shoved under the carpet and ignored, pretended it didn't happen, pull yourself together, you get a day's compassionate leave for the funeral and you better function afterward. No surprise, death, accident and catastrophic illness and any other bad things that happen to good people get treated with the same thick layer of societal denial. Anyone that can't keep up gets run over.

I'm not looking for Romantic Love right now. I'm looking at my first love, my writing. I should've listed that up there in the top sentence, the Things That Love Is. There. I inserted Your Career into the long rhythmic sentence. Because I do love my craft. Gods do I love the process of writing fat fantasy novels. I am at a point in my life where if I had to take off for a year to court a beloved and do nothing but court my beloved, think and eat and dream and breathe Romantic Love to win the beloved, I would come to a grinding screeching halt on everything else. And that's generally what will happen if I fall in love and the beloved actually likes me and wants me.

Afterward even if things settle down ... I have no idea what would happen if I did get my dream and meet someone like Tabitha King. If someone who loved my writing as much as I do married me and was independent enough to enjoy his or her life without subsuming everything in my life to the Us to the point that I still had the energy and time to be the writer I am. Or in some way was involved in my writing to the point that it just got enriched by the Us and could come back up to prominence. Conceivably another writer also needing plenty of time alone could work out, that came close to working out last time. Or an illustrator who loved my work, your Mercedes Lackey-Dixon approach. Or an agent that'd manage my career from the heart and care about that.

But I'm not easy to live with and not physically standard. I'm way ahead of many rivals in some regards and abysmal below average in others. I'm a weird bloke. It may take a weird lover to find the limits and flaws and troubles that I adapted to and take as normal both livable and minor compared to the high points. Or weird enough that some of them are high points. Someone who hated going out might find life easier with the excuse that I'm the one who can't go to that social expectation. A good friend who hated having to speak up often used to say he loved hanging around me because I'd let him be quiet and listen and stay involved without having to say anything. He was shy but no one noticed when we were together.

I've got some hope that eventually I can go courting and win. Mostly because some of the barriers are down. I'm no longer so far below the poverty line that I have to crick my neck to look up at it. This is a biggie. In courtship it may have been loony my chasing at all because the person hooking up with me is taking on a familial burden deliberately, no economic benefit but plenty of special needs that if they're not met mean that I don't function at all. That attracts codependence and that's the one thing I do not want to pick up again, no way do I want to be dependent on my spouse or I'll be strung up so fast I don't know what hit me. But that's not all of it because I was the breadwinner in the long codependent relationship most of it. Avoiding that isn't just avoiding the situation of being supported by spouse. It's looking critically at anyone who's interested and not just grabbing for anyone who's lonely enough to consider me.

It's funny, but a lot of what's given me some hope and calmed me down about the loss of romantic love is Robert Bakker's novel, Raptor Red. If I imagine myself and my ex lovers as Utahraptors... it's a different way of looking at the relationships all right. One that has a lot less myth and more reason to the view.

For a human, not a Utahraptor where all your relationships are in one small pack, what the rest of the humans think of the couple is a very big deal. Cultures that don't do Romantic Love make that the center of their definition of a good marriage -- what the family thinks, how it unites families, what it does as an economic unit for the clan, what it does for society. They don't expect as much intimacy between spouses but accept that when it happens. It can work either way.

I now have a family and am not just a singular small chap going uphill against insane odds with no resources. It'll help a lot to filter out the bad ideas among prospective relationships to have my daughter and son in law give me unvarnished opinions of them and getting along with my good family is part of what my future spouse needs to be able to do well. Healthy families are a rare good thing, an advantage that's priceless especially if my spouse brings kids into it.

Personal advantage, I'm not bad with kids at all especially when they're old enough to be verbal. I am one heck of a good teacher and get along with one of the most difficult age groups of kids, teens. I could become the kind of stepfather that's a relief -- and never expect to be anything but stepfather/memorable teacher. And I'd take that seriously in courting someone with kids, knowing their kids are part of the relationship and that it's not just one on one, but the kids are the part that will grow up and move out to have their own lives eventually. In that sense whether it's polyamory or not (a situation I'm open to but that would be more difficult to find a stable one with a Robert shaped opening), it's not the classic Romantic Myth country of two where nobody else matters.

That's for teens that haven't bred yet, in any sense. But I did in all the truest sense of the world, and never mind that she hasn't got my genes. kkitten42 is my daughter and I love her and Sascha and Gabriel as if I'd given them genetic material. I love her like she loves hers. They're my kid and grandkids. I love my son in law too, he's the most lovable male family member I've had in my entire life and there are ten thousand reasons for everyone in my family to be that loved. I love them when they're at their worst, grumping or sulking or throwing loud tantrums with the Nazgul Yell that can break eardrums (That last is Gaby, the Boy With Lungs).

So finding romantic love is at once less important and either more likely or less likely. Those not desperate are more attractive. Every time I was actually with anyone was when I'd get dozens of competing offers. If someone's already been picked, it may pay off to check them out. They may have some trait that'll lead to high-survival kids.

Or, to take it one step more human than what Bakker was saying, help ensure the survival of the kids you got, or your own. I don't quite believe in "breeding is the point of mating." Human society is way too complex for that. But when you slip that in you look at other things too like your own survival and status and the survival and status of those others you care about. Human societies have always had a few people in them who didn't breed genetically but made a difference to the survival of everybody's kids. Sex is not just for reproduction and neither is love. But the bonds that hold people together in more successful twos and threes and fours instead of banging around alone in a hard world have to be strong. And on that brute practicality level, I need to be an asset rather than a burden to those in relationships with me, or things start looking very bad and eventually they don't have the resources to carry me.
Explore-Oil-Pastels-With-Robert-Sloan.com Articles at eHow.com, ETSY shop, My Bonanzle Booth, deviantART gallery, SFFmuse and look for art by robertsloan2art on eBay. Listed on Art Blogs 4 U
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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance
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