Sunday, June 28, 2009

real love

Yes, yes.  This is the article I have been waiting for that perfectly explains why I look for love outside of the hyper-educated liberal elite that I am a part of.  RISK.  PASSION.  LUNACY.  That is what makes love so grand.  Not the companion-ship bullshit currently being played out in sunday brunches across the nation and at IKEA.  FUck.  

I knew something was wrong and leave it to the NY Times to FINALLY figure it out.  Because they themselves ARE the hyper educated liberal elite, they are a bit slow on trends and only 5 years down the line get it right.  Iraq war, slow food, and Kristof wrote about polluted water supply the other day.  When I was talking about, way back when, I was called paranoid.  But things slowly take their turn in America.  

Obama is compilation of everything that has come before.  The country truly responds and changes, albeit slowly, but it comes around and is not tied to any dogma.  At heart, we are a practical people, and if it don't work, we are game to fix it.  Health care is coming around.  And eventually so will all the other irrational and unjust policies out there.  We have been pushed to the brink.  And there is no better time to be American, and to be a part of all these changes.  I see them clearer in the distance.  

The times, they are a changin.  

I still loathe Americans, don't get me wrong.  We got a long way to go.  Especially culturally.  The hyper pragmatism is daunting and completely uncool.  It gets things done, though so do sweatpants.  But like Seinfeld says, if you wear sweatpants outside the house, you might as well say you've given up.  For Americans, what they have given up is:  The good life.  

Time to be a dignified Empire, worthy of emulation.  Step it up, come on, the world depends on us, if you haven't realized already. 

_______________

It's been a good month for reckless romance in America. The nation's most famous reality-television father, Jon Gosselin of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight," threw over his marriage for a fling with a 23-year-old schoolteacher. Not one but two prominent conservative politicians torpedoed their careers with public confessions of adultery — with Mark Sanford's Argentine disappearing act eclipsing John Ensign's accusation of extortion against his lover's spouse.

These irrepressible passions make a fascinating counterpoint to the complaint, advanced this month by two of the nation's finest essayists, that modern relationships have been drained of danger and purged of eros.

In her new polemic "A Vindication of Love," an assault on the idea of safety in romance, Cristina Nehring complains that contemporary couplings have so restrained true passion that "the poor beast has become as impotent as it is domestic." In a post-divorce essay for The Atlantic, Sandra Tsing Loh autopsies not only her own marriage but those of her peers, a cohort of middle-aged Los Angelenos who've let the quest for security turn them into sexless drudges.

Both writers depict a country where pragmatic anxieties — think of the children! think of the mortgage! — are forever trumping romance and dulling the libido. Theirs is a nation of nesters who have clipped their own wings.

So which is the real America? Is it Tsing Loh's dystopia, where everyone "works" grimly on their relationships, and post-feminist husbands happily cook saffron-infused porcini risotto but rarely practice seduction on their wives? Or is it tabloid country: The land of Jon minus Kate, and governors who vanish to "hike the Appalachian Trail" — not to mention gossip-column fixtures like Britney Spears (rumored last week to be contemplating her third marriage in six years) and the mistress-parading Mel Gibson?

One possible answer is that our stars and politicians are a species apart — more impulsive and incautious than the average Dick and Jane, and more libidinous as well.

But the evidence suggests the opposite. The high-wire love lives of a Jon Gosselin or a Mark Sanford — or a Spears, or even a Lindsey Lohan — are remarkably true to the America that watches their shows, buys their CDs, and votes them into office. It's the highly-educated, highly risk-averse milieu lamented by Nehring and Tsing Loh that's a world unto itself.

Their complaints about this world's romance deficit are substantially overstated, obviously — and shot through with a dash of self-justification. (Tsing Loh had an affair; Nehring recently became an unwed mother.) But both do put their finger on a post-sexual revolution paradox — namely, that the same overclass that was once most invested in erotic experimentation ended up building the sturdiest walls against the passions it unleashed.

As Nehring observes, our hyper-educated, socially-liberal elite is considerably more romantically conservative than its blas√© attitude toward pornography or premarital sex would lead you to expect. The difficult scramble up the meritocratic ladder tends to discourage wild passions and death-defying flings. For bright young overachievers, there's often a definite tameness to the way that collegiate "safe sex" segues into the upwardly-mobile security of "companionate marriages" — or, if you're feeling more cynical, "consumption partnerships."

This tameness has beneficial social consequences: When it comes to divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births, Americans with graduate degrees are still living in the 1950s. It's the rest of the country that marries impulsively, divorces frequently, and bears a rising percentage of its children outside marriage. Indeed, if you're looking for modern-day Percy Shelleys or Mary Wollstonecrafts (to pluck a pair of Nehring's romantic risk-takers), you're more likely to find them in Middle America than among the environmental lawyers and documentary filmmakers who populate Tsing Loh's depressing social world.

Better, perhaps, if this dynamic were reversed. Our meritocrats could stand to leaven their careerism with a little more romantic excess. (Though such excess is more appropriate in the young, it should be emphasized, than in middle-aged essayists and parents.) But most Americans, particularly those of modest means, would benefit from greater caution and stability in their romantic entanglements.

Maybe this reversal could start with some creative matchmaking across lines of class and politics. The dutiful, somewhat-boring husbands from Sandra Tsing Loh's Los Angeles, for instance, sound like ideal soulmates for Kate Gosselin, the soon-to-be-single mother of eight.

And as for Cristina Nehring, who can't live without being "derailed by love, hospitalized by love, flung around five continents, shaken, overjoyed, inspired and unsettled by love" — well, maybe someone should introduce her to Mark Sanford.

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