Friday, February 13, 2009



Valentine’s Day approaches. You can go down to the pharmacy, pick out a heart-shaped plush figurine and give it to a person who “means something to you.” You can buy a box of candy or even some flowers for that “special someone.” You can even buy a little card and write how much that “special someone” means to you. In short, you can profess your love for another person, even if it is someone you just met.

Go ahead. Show your love. I don’t give a shit.

What the hell difference does it make whether some horny teenager claims to love a girl? It is a matter of utter indifference to me whether he feels insistent emotions swirling in his stomach. I do not care whether he scores or whether he “truly cares” about the girl. What do his feelings do for me? What does it matter whether the girl says she loves him, too, or whether they go on a date? No matter how important it may be for little Romeo to get it on with the object of his desire, I really could care less. It doesn’t pay my bills, nor does it get me hired at a job with benefits.

“People do everything for love.” Oh, really? Personally, I think that love is highly overrated. If it came between love and money, do you really think a poor man would rather take love from a poor woman? Or would he rather take the money? You tell me. It is simply not true that people do everything for love. People do most things for economic reasons. They go to graduate school to learn arcane details that will later land them an interview. Their education will provide a basis to write resumes and respond to employers’ questions in a semi-intelligent manner. Their job will allow them to receive a paycheck, which in turn will allow them to pay taxes and buy real estate and groceries. What does love have to do with this? Nothing. If they fall in love sometime during their economic odyssey from graduation to death, it means nothing in the end. They still owe money, they still have creditors and they still need to eat.

If love does not matter, why do so many people obsess about it? Sigmund Freud said that love represents a “path to happiness.” Civilization and its Discontents, pp. 32-33. No matter how irrational or immaterial love may be in our economic existence, countless people follow “the way of life that makes love the center of everything, which looks for all satisfaction in loving and being loved…What is more natural than that we should persist in looking for happiness along the path on which we first encountered it?” Id. Love, then, allows people to forget their worries and experience strongly positive emotional sensations. Freud links the search for love to the search for sex, since sexual pleasure is the body’s natural way to entice human beings to be intimate with one another: “A psychical attitude of this sort comes naturally enough to all of us; one of the forms in which love manifests itself—sexual love—has given us our most intense experience of an overwhelming pleasure and has thus furnished us with a pattern for our search for happiness.” Id. at 33.

So this is why we hear so many stupid songs about love on the radio. This is why we read so many dumpy novellas about corny liaisons and secret trysts. There is a cynical explanation after all: A person seeks love because he wants to make himself happy; the other person is just an instrument to that end. A man wants to feel good; he wants to experience “strongly positive emotions.” He wants to free himself from worry and unhappiness. True, love requires an object, but that does not mean a person must respect the object. Many people assume that love involves mutual trust and caring. According to this fallacy, people who “love each other” must care about each other. If one partner suffers pain, so does the other. But this is not necessarily the case. According to Freud, people seek love for themselves, not for others. And he explains why heartbreak is so devastating: “The weak side of this technique of living is easy to see; otherwise no human being would have thought of abandoning this path to happiness for any other. It is that we are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love, never so helplessly unhappy as when we have lost our loved object or its love.” Civilization and its Discontents, p. 33 (emphasis added). In this light, we see that a person who loves does not suffer for another’s pain; he suffers individual pain because he loses an object that “belonged” to him.

In this context, I repeat: Who gives a shit whether you are in love? I do not care how much money you make, nor do I care whether you are in love with Mary Horvath. In both cases, you are attempting to make yourself happy in order to experience “strongly positive emotions.” Money makes you feel good because you ward off inexorable creditors who threaten you with homelessness and ruin. Love makes you feel good because someone you think is pretty tells you that you are special and might even give you an orgasm. Who the hell cares? I certainly don’t. Whether you love Mary Horvath—and whether Mary Horvath loves you—does nothing at all for me. Therefore, please do not write sappy songs about how much you care about Mary Horvath, or how special you feel when you hold hands. I just don’t care. And frankly I would rather not hear about how happy you are, especially if I am feeling like shit. You see, when you sing about love and how good you feel, you are really just talking about yourself. How selfish. And if you believe you are singing to show how much you care about someone else, may I say: How insincere. In the end, it’s all about you, isn’t it, lover boy?

This is why I want to barf when I hear songs like “Hey There, Delilah©.” Listen to this gibberish: “Hey there Delilah/ What's it like in New York City?/ I'm a thousand miles away/ But girl, tonight you look so pretty/ Yes you do/ Times Square can't shine as bright as you/ I swear it's true.” Here we have some lovesick adolescent whining about the fact that his “girl” is far away. He compares his love object to Times Square lights—a pathetic overstatement if ever one were made. He is simply telling us that he wants the “strong positive emotions” that his “girl” brings him when they are “close together.” What does that mean? That means he misses his own good feelings; his love object gave him those feelings in the past, and now he is upset and sad because the object is beyond his grasp. There is nothing noble about this. He only cares about the girl because she is no longer physically available to make him feel good. You selfish prick.

Here is some more selfish garbage: “Hey there Delilah/ I know times are getting hard/ But just believe me, girl/ Someday I'll pay the bills with this guitar/ We'll have it good/ We'll have the life we knew we would/ My word is good.” So now he’s talking about commitment. A postpubescent boy talking about “having a life” with another human being. What the fuck does this bourgeois white punk know about life? He’s just sitting there feeling sorry for himself because his love object can’t give him orgasms in Omaha, Nebraska from Manhattan. It’s not about Delilah; it’s about him. He doesn’t like the fact that he doesn’t feel “strong positive emotions” the way he did when his love object was physically available. He probably also doesn’t like the fact that he is stuck in Omaha with a guitar and his hand. Finally, our lovestruck balladeer says: “My word is good.” Commitment? From a 19-year-old? What am I, an idiot? You cannot possibly believe that I trust this punk to stay true to his word. What’s more, I have news for him: Delilah is probably not holding to her “word,” either. After all, she is New York City. There are plenty of available horny fellows right around the corner. If he thinks she is going to wait two years for him to satisfy her feminine urges, he has another thing coming (no pun intended).

Our starry-eyed friend voices hope in a later verse: A thousand miles seems pretty far/ But they've got planes and trains and cars/ I'd walk to you if I had no other way/ Our friends would all make fun of us/ and we'll just laugh along because we know/ That none of them have felt this way/ Delilah I can promise you/ That by the time we get through/ The world will never ever be the same/ And you're to blame.” Here, we see that love has completely overturned this young man’s reason. He is so upset about losing his love object that he makes ridiculous statements, such as volunteering to walk one thousand miles to New York. Of course he won’t; he is simply not thinking rationally anymore. He is willing to say anything, even if it makes no sense whatsoever. He even engages in delusions of grandeur, telling us that the “world will never be the same” when they get back together. Wait a minute; your world may never be the same because you get to have sex for a couple weeks. But my world will remain the same. I never knew you or Delilah. Whether you two fuck again will not determine whether I get a job, whether I pay my bills or whether I enjoy my life. Thus, it is sheer nonsense to say that “the world will never be the same” when you squawking lovebirds reunite. How dare you compare your delayed lovemaking to a world event? “The world will never ever be the same…” Are we talking about World War I or something? Player, please.

I mention all this because I really do not care whether people fall in love. That is their business. I simply observe that, in most cases, love is not selfless. Rather, love is an individual pathway to happiness in which another person serves as an instrument. I do not doubt that people feel intensely positive emotions when they are in love. I have felt love in the past and it is wonderful. But I do not need to declare how good I feel to everyone else. In my view, too many people misunderstand love. It is not always altruistic or even good. In most cases, as in the Delilah song, it embodies pure selfishness. Nonetheless, I understand that love exerts a remarkably powerful influence on people. Freud correctly theorized that people pursue it recklessly because it yields so much pleasure when it works. I can accept that. I just do not want to hear about it. I do not care whether someone is in love. It is no different than hearing that someone is happy because they got a job, an inheritance or a promotion. It is all about them and how good they feel.

Of course, this is hopeless dreaming on my part. People will always talk about love. Authors from Homer to Virgil to Shakespeare to Danielle Steele have written about it for centuries. Whether they were ever in love does not really matter. What matters is that love is important to human beings. It offers a path to happiness in a desperately unhappy world. It feels wonderful to love and be loved. But there is nothing noble about it. It is just another way to “get yours” during our brief sojourn on this planet.

To that extent, go ahead and love. It won’t change my life, so please stop gesticulating about it.

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