Valentine’s Day and the Romantic Delusion

A pink heartHappy Valentine’s Day!

Today is the day that the romantic delusion is the strongest. People have expectations for themselves and their relationships that, more often than not, only cause heartbreak and self-destructive obsessions.

The romantic ideal of modern culture is fixated on the idea that there is _one_special_person_ that can meet all my needs. I’ll have a best friend, lover, confidant and booster that can also meet a raft of other expectations. It’s an ideal of that perfect someone, yet perfection is an inherently unrealistic illusion.

Why is the romantic ideal so strong and persistent? It’s supported by strong feelings and emotions at the start of a relationship. One can see so may possibilities and a happily-ever-after together. Her heart skips a beat when she sees the other. He understands me before I even speak.

Hollywood as has no problem bringing the idea to life with dozens of romantic plots. Cinderella meets the perfect Prince. Snow White gets loves first kiss. Lady starts a family with the Tramp. Shrek marries Fiona and carries her across the threshold of the honeymoon cottage. In return she hurls a mermaid interloper back into the sea.

Popular culture also helps make the concept seem so real. Look at the names of several genres of entertainment… Romance novels, romantic comedies, news reports of a celebrity romance between, say, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. A story about four siblings who together have 225 years of marriage to their respective spouses won’t make a compelling film and is barely plausible.

From one point of view, the passion of a new love is mutual yet selfish. _I_ feel so fulfilled with her. _I_ know that he is going to be the perfect partner. Even though the feeling is mutual, it’s about subjective pleasure. The romantic feeling is reinforced by each others experience of a passionate connection, but it is still about how the self feels. _I_ feel _in_love_ and you’ll be able to help me keep that energy (probably, though, only until enough bumps happen along the road.)

Valentine’s Day is the commercial culmination of the delusion. Buy her roses. Give him the ring that to signifies forever. Let your high school sweetheart know they are their true love with a Hallmark card. Impetuously propose on a trip to Cancun.

What is the true cost of the scripts that prescribe a romantic life for everyone?

Correspondence

A green thought bubble
A friend of mine accused me of being old school today.

Lately I’ve been sending friends U.S. Mail letters.

I think that getting a piece of paper in the mail is appreciated a little more than a missive in e-mail. It’s got some substance that you can decide to save in a scrap book when it comes from someone special. I treasure the letters I got from my grandmother.

When you read the letter, you’re seeing more than merely the traces of my fingers on a keyboard tidied up by a spell checker. You can see that there is a real human that you are communicating with.

What’s more romantic? Getting an email from your date thanking you for a nice evening or a physical card expressing gratitude in a flowing cursive script?

I’m not real enamored with “internet time.” The passage of time gives some perspective. I’m less likely to go on a circuitous rant about the current political dispute if I take 10 minutes writing in ink. I’m not going to hit “send” with some half-baked whining that I’ll regret 10 seconds later.

Time has great power. I don’t take enough of it. When I write a letter, you know that it’s something from the heart.