Apprehensively excited is what you might say I felt. Apprehensive in that I was about to see scholarly exposition on a topic I love, and excited in that I love the topic. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist, presented an interesting, albeit somewhat awkward and plain, lecture on the biology of romantic love.
Her view, in tandem with that she was presenting love as a biological mechanism — “reducing”, if you will, love to a science — was depressing. She asserted that love, romance, is a biological drive, a branch in evolutionary history, and I believe she said something similar to, “It’s elevated levels of dopamine.” Is romance something we only dream, ravish in song, and melt into literature? Do we naively believe this illusion without any desire to discredit it?
Beyond depressing! Dr. Fisher spent 30 years of her life dedicated to studying the specific topic of romantic love, and she made that lame and lifeless conclusion. She says that the romantic drive is stronger than the sexual drive, but I can’t see her basis for that assertion. By simplifying love, Dr. Fisher has effectively severed its mysterious and lustrous qualities. ((If you watch the lecture, you’ll notice that she quotes a number of distinguished persons regarding love. None of the quotes, in my opinion, were effective — evidence that she dulled love.))
I’m frustrated with her research. Not only because it doesn’t agree with me, but mostly because it’s so simplified and ugly. She describes three drives: the sex drive, the romantic drive, and the attachment drive. These three drives ultimately serve the evolutionary purpose of reproduction: Finding a mate, concentrating on a mate, and staying together to raise the offspring. Rubbish. Love isn’t a biology; it isn’t textbook; it isn’t Darwin’s theory; you can’t contain it. That’s an intelligent escapade, and perhaps there is some light of credibility in those perspectives, but I believe romance — and Love so much more — is intensely larger than what Dr. Fisher is reducing it to.
Then, what is romance? I suppose much of romance is found in emotion, but I believe that emotion is quickly naive and immature. ((I don’t mean all emotion is garbage, only that emotion easily draws us toward either side of the trapeze.)) Although largely emotional, I think you would be missing the entire idea of romance if you focus solely on it; it would be like using a telescope to watch your television. Romance must have some deep relationship with the other facets of love. If you want to know romance, you have to know love in its entirety — exactly what I’d like to know. However, I also believe romance is a learning experience. Embarking on that experience is a large step for me.
Earlier in the week I was chatting with a friend of mine from back at university, Tegan. It was a lightly fascinating conversation about love. Specifically, our dialogue engaged us in our dating philosophies, romantic history, and — as Dr. Fisher might say — wishes for elevated levels of dopamine. I found most interesting our different approaches to dating. I don’t recall Tegan’s approach, but my approach largely focuses on the transition from friendship to romance.
I don’t understand the difference between a friend and a girlfriend. I like spending time with my friends whom are girls, but I’m almost certain that I would like to spend time with my girlfriend too. I like talking with my friends whom are girls, but, likewise, I believe I would enjoy it just as much, and perhaps even more, with my girlfriend. I speculate that emotion plays a large part in discerning friend from romantic partner. A girlfriend is someone that moves me to exhibit love’s qualities exclusively to her. What would move me to do such a seemingly selfish act? ((And what does that mean about love? Does it tolerate this “selfish” intent? Is it selfish at all?)) I propose that only experience can reveal this answer.
Is it disgusting that I’m dissecting romance like this? Perhaps, but I think it’s a smart move. I feel that too often people will think they’ve fallen in love when they really haven’t. I’ve noticed that when I first meet a girl that I have some sort of romantic interest in, I’m swept; I fascinate the thought of dating her, and saying she’s mine. It is my conjecture that failed loves and marriages are merely drawn out episodes of that experience.
I think romance is essentially a branch from a foundation in friendship. ((I feel like this is incredibly obvious. What healthy marriage or relationship wouldn’t say that their partner is their best friend?)) What separates the friendship from romance is what stirs the romantic emotion — not the emotion itself. This distinction should be largely variable, but I’m curious to know whether there is a common element.
Note: Title borrowed from a Relient K song from their self titled album. I thought it was somewhat interesting to observe that most of the love songs are usually about one person professing his or her love for another person. 17 Magazine is probably the only song I have that talks about love in the broad sense, and even then it is a stretch to say that. It’s probably an insignificant observation, but interesting nonetheless because what does that say about entertainment and love, if anything at all?