Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Valentine's Scrooge

Let's face it: I'm not terribly romantic. I don't deal in grand gestures, I don't write turgid odes to my loves, and I don't have a lot of patience for most of the standard tokens of affection that accompany romance. I don't have anything against any of that -- roses and chocolate are wonderful things, for what they are -- but in as much as they too often merely signify the idea of love without reflecting what love really is, I tend not to put much stock in them. Which isn't to say that I'm entirely immune to them, but neither do I spend much time lamenting their absence. They offer a kind of validation that I hope I don't ever really need.

Love songs especially have been a source of annoyance for me since I was a teenager. Not that there aren't plenty of genuinely good love songs, but so much of what gets pawned off on us, particularly when we're young, is so bad as to be essentially poisonous. The mainstream love song, like the Disney-fied image of Prince Charming, is of the most heinous of lies. Not only does it promise something that doesn't exist, it can inspire one to reject or resent anything that doesn't measure up -- which includes things that, given a chance to simply be what they are, might add some genuine happiness to one's life.

As far as I'm concerned, these are the most vile, noxious, pustulent love songs ever. (The list won't include the song that kills love, because I've already written about that one, and anyway, it was never about the song itself in that case. In fact, since I can't bear to listen to it all the way through, I'm not even 100% sure what that song is about, so it doesn't really even bear mentioning.)

5. "How Do I Live," by Trisha Yearwood -- sweet jesus did I hate this song when it was in heavy rotation on every fucking station. It neatly sums up everything that's wrong and destructive in our culture's attitudes towards love and romance and all that crap:
Without you
There'd be no sun in my sky
There would be no love in my life
There would be no world left for me
And I
Baby I don't know what I would do
I would be lost if I lost you
If you ever leave
Baby you would take away everything real in my life

Madam, here's a loaded pistol. Go behind the shed and do the honorable thing -- you're weakening the herd. If anyone over the age of 16, male or female, has ever listened to this song and though, "yeah, I feel just like that," I think we may have located the source of your troubles. Maybe your One True Love was feeling so crushed under the overwhelming weight of your neediness that a night with a hooker in Baltimore was the much-needed relief he needed from the endless obligation of supporting your fragile identity. My advice: find a fucking hobby before your psyche collapses in on itself.

4. "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston
And I will always love you.
I will always love you.
I will always love you.
I will always love you.
I will always love you.
I, I will always love you.

You, darling, I love you.
Ooh, I'll always, I'll always love you.

In retrospect, we always should've know George Michael was gay. In retrospect, we always should've known that Whitney Houston was a crackhead.

3. "More Than Words" by Extreme
Now I've tried to talk to you and make you understand
All you have to do is close your eyes
And just reach out your hands and touch me
Hold me close don't ever let me go
More than words is all I ever needed you to show
Then you wouldn't have to say that you love me
'Cos I'd already know

Translation: Hold still -- I'm going to come on your face.

2. "Save the Best for Last" by Vanessa Williams

A song written for weepy, over-hopeful suburban housewives whose husbands are porking 25-year-old office interns, as evidenced by the valium and xanax-induced psychosis:
Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes 'round the moon
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

The snow might come down in June if you're an Argentine. But if in fact the sun ever does go 'round the moon, thoughts of your wayward spouse will evaporate along with your flesh and bones as the atmosphere of the planet burns off, exposing you to the full intensity of the sun's radiation. Better to just face facts: that shit ain't ever happening, and your husband is never coming back. Have you considered getting back at him by inviting your son's hockey team over for a gangbang? It'll put the pink right back into your complexion.

1. And my absolute most-loathed love song: "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge. My complaint against this one isn't actually the themes of the song itself, but the way it's usually regarded. It's as if nobody has ever stopped to listen to the lyrics. It's always held up as a romantic ideal -- the very epitome of romantic ecstacy -- when in fact it's just insulting to everyone involved:
When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Tryin' to hold on to what he needs
He'd give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that's the way it ought to be

Translation: women are domineering gold-diggers, and men are stupid and desperate enough to go along with it. Let's play it at our wedding!

As I get older, I find that I'm becoming more pragmatic about love -- not in the sense of "settling" (I'd sooner spend the rest of my years alone than accept a relationship just for the sake of having one), but in that I prefer to avoid idealizing it. And it's not because I don't feel it as deeply as anyone else; if anything, it's an attempt to focus and channel that energy so that I don't become overwhelmed. I've long since accepted that love and partnership and everything that goes along with them will always be something of a catch-22 for me, and that whatever love might develop will then necessarily be somewhat unconventional and well outside the standard love-song paradigm.The love songs I listen to, then, are most often preoccupied with ambivalence, reluctance, even defeat. Never in my life have I had a love -- whether fully realized or unrequited -- about whom I did not at some point quietly think to myself, "I wish I'd never met you." Not because I literally didn't want to know them, but because the meeting always brings madness where once I had sanity and contentment. Bad love songs pretend that falling in love is the greatest and ultimately only good thing in life; good love songs admit that even the most rapturous romances bring loss with them. That's what makes it a powerful experience worth writing songs and poems about.
2:14 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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