It took an impeccably beautiful and talented divorcee masseuse at The Gurneys Hotel in Newport, Rhode Island telling me about her love life to impress upon me one of the most critical lessons of my twenty years thus far. She didn't conceive the few words herself, but, it was her presentation that made them linger in the space between us: "You teach people how to love you".
Cue the eye rolls. I know, I know...how trite, how common, how simple. Now don't get me wrong, if I would have read this message on a Kombucha bottle or on a fortune cookie I would certainly agree. However, this masseuse (who we will call Cindy), Cindy, somehow saw something of herself in me and as she listened to me complain about the shallow dating scene of our age, she understood.
There is no denying that technology and apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge have changed so-called romantic interactions, perhaps diluting the charm of discovering the quirks of someone slowly and with purpose-yet, there is something timeless about Cindy's words of wisdom. I do still believe dating apps commoditize attraction, I do still use dating apps as my own cultural anthropology research method, and I do still believe in good old-fashioned love. But, even medieval romances written by female French poets emphasize the physical attraction that love sprouts from. What does this say about human nature, are we fated to find love primarily out of physical attraction and is this 'bad'?
It seems the issue stems back to our inherent animalistic tendencies. For evolutionary purposes there exists the survival instinct for human beings to reproduce, thus contributing to the conservation of the 'tribe'. There is also the human desire to seek pleasure...we could spend an entire lifetime exploring whether or not Freud's ideologies are valid and if Oedipus is a fraud. The point is, human sexuality is a fluid and complex thing and it is critical that one does not confuse lust with love or sex with romance.
To lust for someone is easy, especially in our sexually charged society that is chalk full of innuendos and taboo that plays with our puritan roots. It seems love requires the admirer to exercise self-control over lustful thoughts in order to show their loyalty and respect for the admired. This notion of love reflects the simple truth that often what is the highest path or most fulfilling avenue of action requires a degree of sacrifice.
It is "easy" to hookup on the first date if you find your suitor incredibly attractive, but sex that relies purely upon the superficial is not romance. I use my words carefully here so as not to offend those who do find fast-paced hookups non-problematic and conducive to a meaningful connection. I cannot speak for all, but, I do speak for many females that are fed up with the world of non-commital flings. For those of us who are deeply frustrated by being objectified, mislead, etc. the realm of romantic love is shrouded in complexity. I see the most beautiful, passionate, and intelligent women finding themselves in one-sided "non-relationships" that are unhealthy mind-f*cks.
Cindy told me she fell for a man who she had her family with and who loved her but not unconditionally. For Cindy, they had "made it" with a big house, great schools for their kids to attend, a Range Rover, and a house-cleaning service. The first few years of their marriage seemed to be a stepford dream, externally perfect yet internally deeply flawed. To Cindy their love would only become deeper with the adventures and challenges of parenthood, age, and all the experiences a family shares, but for her husband, age was a repellent that wore away at their flame.
Cindy told me she should have realized that she was playing his game, that she should have known that the material "Keeping Up With The Joneses'" mentality would transcend the car and house and become problematic in other aspects of their life together. Cindy told me that she should have married someone "sweet", someone who valued depth over an age-defined conception of beauty. She told me that although people wear masks, it actually is quite easy to distinguish the people in our lives who value our love in its authenticity rather than as a stroke for their ego or a balm for desire. Cindy said, "You teach people how to love you, so you better know what you deserve and when you teach them, they better listen."
Cindy is right. No more settling, no more making excuses for the disappointments, and no more time spent teaching people how to respect you. Let love come in and give it wholeheartedly in return to those who learn your love language.