you can’t hurry love

November 12, 2012 § 54 Comments

I’ve been reading sad books. Books about sad people. While I was reading Suzanne Scanlon’s Promising Young Women (which I reviewed here), I was rereading Two Girls, Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill, and at this point in my life I must have reread it five or six times. It’s always a bad idea for me to read this book—I’m always in a funk for a week after, sometimes longer, or perhaps but now it’s just lodged itself somewhere inside me and each time I reread it it’s like lighting a match. Two Girls is about two girls, but it’s also about gender war(s), heterosexuality as violence. Chris Kraus writes about wanting to solve heterosexuality before turning 40 in I Love Dick but I feel like every conversation with single straight women friends over beer is an attempt to solve heterosexuality, and after a few drinks the solution is simple: Drink some more or dance; failing that, overthrow the patriarchy and end heterosexuality (somehow).

But what do I know?

It’s just that when I walk around this city I wonder if it makes sense to talk of the Neoliberal Heterosexual Couple. Gym-toned bodies, “tasteful” dressing (“Keep it classy!”—I fucking hate this fucking ubiquitous phrase), identical cannot-be-arsed-about-anything-except-ourselves faces. The couple that won’t let go of each other’s hands even in a crowded walkway; not so much because they’re so In Love and cannot bear to let each other go, but because they have so much contempt for everyone around them who is not-them; contempt written on their faces. Handholding as a weapon, maybe, handholding as a contemptuous gesture. I mean, not being able to step aside, even for a second, for an elderly lady with her shopping bags. The Couple as a Fuck-You-to-the-World might have been a romantic idea at a certain point in time, or even a form of resistance against the status quo, maybe? But now just a part of the obnoxious status quo.

But what do I know? I am single and bitter. (Maggie Nelson, in Bluets: “I have been trying, for some time now, to find dignity in my loneliness. I have been finding this hard to do.”)

And no doubt dying to get married, as various members of the “older generation” have implied to me over the last year. Not even a question, “Do you want to get married?” No. They just know that you need to get married because if you do not you will rot and die. I bumped into an old acquaintance of my father’s a few days ago, while I was with my sister, and among the things he said to me after not having seen me for close to twenty years (I didn’t even recognise him!) was the ever-reliable, “You should get married and take care of your family.” It was the last bit that puzzled me, this idea that I could not be otherwise taking care of my family if I was not married. But it’s not a puzzle really; Tamil people everywhere are on autopilot when it comes to giving Life Advice to wayward young (and not-so-young) women doing horrible things with their lives like being unmarried, cutting their hair short, and wearing red lipstick. GET MARRIED> MAKE THE BABIES> TAKE CARE OF YOUR FAMILY BY MAKING MORE BABIES> YOUR MOTHER IS WORRIED

Etc.

Overthrow the patriarchy. End matrimony. (I shouted, in my head, while smiling vaguely into the distance while this man gave me free life advice. Oh, the smile, how it makes you fucking complicit.)

Thinking about singleness and marriage, stewing over it, often means that I start thinking about beauty. Because it’s beauty that I’m struggling with at this point in time. That is, I lack it, but this is not news to me; when I say “this point in time”, I mean that at this point in life as I know it, it seems that everything is the exterior, that the image is you, and you are nothing but the image. (This day in Capitalism it was discovered there is no there, there.) Romance is a marketplace, and you are one of the many images on sale, and if you’re not the right image you are, essentially, shit. “Never before has society demanded as much proof of submission to an aesthetic ideal, or as much body modification, to achieve physical femininity,” says Virginie Despentes in King Kong Theory and I’m suspicious of the phrases here—“never before”—“society demanded”—yet this sentence rings with truth, for me, and perhaps for other (cis, straight) women who are single and wanting (yearning? dying for?) a connection with someone else that isn’t predicated on aesthetic ideals, all of us who identify as “normal-looking” or “not beautiful” or whatever-

“What if the self-commodification of individuals is all-encompassing, as the analysis of the job market suggests? What if there is no longer a gap between an internal realm of desires,   wants and fantasies and the external presentation of oneself as a sexual being? If the image is the reality?”

“Objectification implies that there is something left over in the subject that resists such a capture, that we might protest if we thought someone was trying to deny such interiority, but it’s not clear that contemporary work allows anyone to have an inner life in the way that we might once have understood it.”

-Nina Power, One Dimensional Woman

What if the outside is all we have left?

When I talk about beauty I don’t know what I’m talking about, particularly if I’m also talking about desire, and I want to talk about beauty without talking about Plato or Kant (I just can’t with Kant), and I know for a fact that desire is a colonised space.

“We speak, act, think, behave, and micro-manage ourselves and others according to the “score” that is the general intellect—in short, the protocols or grammar of capital,” Jonathan Beller reminds us. Love in the Time of Capital. Yes, okay, I tell myself I know how to grasp this intellectually, but the bigger fear is that this is the only way I know how to love: according to the protocols of capital.

“Aren’t simple desires dead yet? Are we still so obsessed with the hegemonic body?”

/

I watched Love of Siam a few weeks ago and cried all the way through it, and after it was over, cried some more, and felt like I couldn’t understand myself—why all these tears? And the movie is a “tear-jerker”, in a sense, in the vein of Asian family dramas that are a blend of realism and melodrama, and so it wasn’t unexpected that a person watching it would cry. But it’s also a film that’s unabashedly pro-love. And as soon as I write that I know it sounds silly—what does it even mean? But I guess it means what it is: it’s a film about love, and not just the “provocative” aspect of young gay love between two Thai adolescent boys that’s highlighted in all the promotional reviews of the film, but also about all the banal and taken-for-granted forms of love between friends and family, the kind that is familiar to me because the families and the communities in Love of Siam remind me a little of what I knew growing up in Malaysia, of how I came to understand the intersection of multiple identities. The differences between these (often conflicting) identities–of discovering one’s queerness, of being a son of an alcoholic, of being a brother, a friend, a grandson, a pop star, a boyfriend—aren’t reified; one identity doesn’t trump the other, and it makes no sense to speak of Love of Siam as a movie only about romantic love or gay love. I contain multitudes, said some American poet and everyone went ooooh, but come on, Asian people have known this forever.

But a big part of this movie is about love between these two boys, Mew and Tong, and it’s the genius of the movie (the result perhaps of the direction and the casting decision to go with two young, relatively inexperienced actors), that the love between these two boys feels so organic and unforced, an entirely surprising yet predictable outcome of shared moments and the pull of desire. Looks are not the currency, eroticism isn’t purchased or a choice[i]; love happens because two people like each other so much, and the question of attraction—sexual or otherwise—is not absent or glossed over so much as it is depicted whole. Mew and Tong are attracted to each other because they’re drawn to each other as people containing multitudes, not because they possess an alluring physicality; not once does anyone tell the other “You’re hot” or “You’re sexy” and I don’t know if I’m regressing or blossoming into full-blown prudedom, but it was so fucking refreshing I don’t even know how to talk about it. I recognise that a lot of the movie’s dialogue and scenes are necessarily circumscribed by the cultural norms in which it was made—in this case, Thai society and Thai censors—but it’s astonishing how much is and was conveyed through looks and faces, and tenderness and understanding. So much of how we understand romance these days is mediated through this narrative of consumerism: “I’m worth it”, “You’re worth it”, “I deserve the best”, “You’re hot”, “I like a nice smile and nice tits”, “I need a man who’s all man, you know what I mean?” All these standards that we think arrive fully-formed in our heads without any external influence, all these principles of picking and choosing The Right One, of having control and autonomy—this movie sort of chips away at those assumptions very quietly and tenderly. The camera loves its subjects; the film loves its characters. The act of loving reveals the love.

But talking about how it’s not a choice doesn’t simply mean that love is something that chooses you. It’s a convenient poetic fiction, and poets and writers and artists talk about it this way all the time, and I fall for the force of that fiction: It wasn’t my choice, I can’t help who I fall in love with. In order for that to happen there has to be an “I” who stands outside of economic, political, social, and cultural influences. So maybe part of my love of Love of Siam is a desire to want to believe in that fiction again. I don’t know though: everything I just wrote down, I believe and don’t believe. Love is attachment, so maybe love is a kind of choice or decision to allow oneself to like/become attracted to a person who is close to you (literally, in the sense that the other person is physically present, as opposed to, say, an image on a dating site; also, figuratively in the sense of a mental and emotional connection based on shared moments, experiences, conversations, and silences that constitute shared time[ii]). Mew and Tong turned inward, toward each other, and it was love. But the movie didn’t require them to turn away from other people, or from life itself. (Although there were necessarily moments where they retreated from life, from people, pulled away and stood aside in order to stand beside each other. But it wasn’t a mode of being, this retreat from life. Their love isn’t about making an investment in coupledom as the only form of solace in a difficult world.)

Similar to the points Elaine Castillo makes about Senna, another movie that moved me in an almost forceful way, Love of Siam is in love with faces—long close-ups of faces dominate throughout. The camera lingers tenderly, lovingly, on faces. I watched it online where the sound and subtitles were off-time; characters would say things before the audio and subtitles kicked in, and although it’s one of the most agonising ways to watch a movie, I kept watching because once I watched the first ten minutes I was hooked. I had to closely watch and observe the faces to understand what was going on before the subtitles arrived to provide the language with which to make sense of these faces. The camera follows their faces slowly and closely, and because the two actors in the lead roles were so young, and almost naïve, watching their faces is a kind of heartbreak. The close-ups of Mew and Tong’s faces are also meant to reveal how much they want to look at each other. The frequency with which they simply look at each other is astonishing; astonishing in the sense that it’s unashamed and assertive. (Here I think about Nicholas Mirzoeff’s The Right to Look, and what it means that two queer Asian boys claim this right so forcefully and tenderly.) I also think about Kelly Oliver’s “The Look of Love”:

“A loving look becomes the inauguration of “subjectivity” without subjects or objects. In Etre Deux, Irigaray suggests that the loving look involves all of the senses and refuses the separation between visible and invisible. A body in love cannot be fixed as an object. The look of love sees the invisible in the visible; both spiritual and carnal, the look of love is of “neither subject nor object”.

Irigaray’s suggestions about the possibility of loving looks turn Sartre’s or Lacan’s anti-social gaze into a look as the circulation of affective psychic energy. The gaze does not have to be a harsh or accusing stare. Rather, affective psychic energy circulates through loving looks. Loving looks nourish and sustain the psyche, the soul, as well as the body. Irigaray’s formulation of the loving look as an alternative to the objectifying look, and her reformulation of recognition beyond domination through love, suggest that the ethical and political power of love can be used to overcome oppression.

There is no happy ending in Love of Siam, though. Nothing is “resolved”. Life goes on and love adjusts its proportions to let life pass through. Love is the vessel and life rushes in to fill it. “If we can love someone so much, how will we be able to handle it one day when we are separated? And if being separated is a part of life, and you know about separation well, is it possible that we can love someone and never be afraid of losing them? Or is it possible that we can live our entire life without loving at all?” Mew asks Tong, and it’s a question that isn’t answered. “Now that we’re grown up, loneliness seems so much worse,” says Mew, and it’s true, and the movie doesn’t rush to fill the loneliness with love. Rather, it suggests that love doesn’t replace that fundamental sense of aloneness, much less transcend it. In the end, Mew and Tong don’t end up together as A Couple, and Tong tells Mew, “I can’t be with you as your boyfriend. But that does not mean I don’t love you.”

/

Maggie Nelson, in Bluets:

238. I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.

239. But now you are talking as if love were a consolation. Simone Weil warned otherwise. “Love is not consolation,” she wrote. “It is light.”

Like when Courtney Love sings in “Malibu”, “I can’t be near you, the light just radiates”.

No happy endings in sight.

/

When I think about Senna, too, I think it’s a film about love. It feels like it was made with so much love, and it’s also a movie that’s in love with its subject, a subject who’s not afraid to love his life’s work, the people who matter to him, God. I love that Masha Tupitsyn focuses on what is, for me, the most moving scene in Senna: that brief moment between Senna and his father, which she describes here:

In the scene where Senna wins the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1991 (after he won the race, Senna actually passed out, so great was the anguish of his ecstasy. Victory.), he suffers unbearable shoulder pain from the tremendous stress of the race. He is literally pulled out of the race car and driven off the track. He can barely move. But when Senna sees his father, he calls over to him, “Dad, come here. Come here.” His father hesitates, but Senna insists. “Come here. Come here! Touch me gently,” he orders. His father, much taller, stands beside his son, as Senna rests his head against his father’s chest for a moment. When he starts to walk back, Senna tells everyone else (even before anyone actually touches him; even if no one is trying to touch him at all), “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” He commands everyone but his father to get away from him. This scene, which is the difference between touch me gently and don’t touch me at all, between everyone else and you, between a son and his father, beloved and not-beloved, can also be read as a love story.

If ever a moment could be charged with love, a love so rarely seen on screen in its rawness and vulnerability—the love between father and son—it was this. I think I scrunched my eyes a little when I watched that scene, I wanted to keep looking and then I looked away, mostly because I wanted to cry (tears! again!) because watching felt like I was looking right into a bright light.

Being a witness to love can often feel like an affirmation of something (of what? something you had but lost?), but more often it feels like a wound. Late-capitalist society doesn’t tend wounds; it just looks for ways to avoid it and move on.


[i] There is one scene that involves a kiss. The camera doesn’t intrude; it pulls back, and then goes a little closer, but maintains a respectful distance—this kiss isn’t for the benefit of an audience.

[ii] Which makes me think of this: http://likeafieldmouse.tumblr.com/post/33874562265/felix-gonzalez-torres-perfect-lovers-1987-91 What if lovers are not in-time? “We conquered fate by meeting at a certain TIME in a certain space. We are a product of the time, therefore we give back credit where it is due: time.” And yet—as if it can ever be that simple—“[A]s military time has become militarized time over the past few years, time itself, what is defined as ‘my’ time, has ceased to exist in any meaningful way. We are in the time of service.” How does militarised time shape how we love? What is the neoliberal couple in service of?

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§ 54 Responses to you can’t hurry love

  • hahaha i fucking hate “keep it classy!” too.

  • renelow says:

    The raw emotions expossed in this post made me tremble. Can I write with such courage and vulnerability? You are an inspiration, one that for me transends the sour society that we are all swimming in. Bravo!

  • SookyumL says:

    interesting blog, I enjoyed reading it

    http://sookyuml.wordpress.com/

  • mcolmo says:

    Great post, now I must watch those movies.

  • segmation says:

    I hope you find happiness in your lifetime and are happy!

  • Pipeta says:

    I enjoyed reading this so much I can’t even make an articulated comment. But a “like” would suck, so here’s a comment anyway.

  • sweetsound says:

    So well written, I loved this.

  • […] know, it’s so many blog posts in one day. But I just read this blog and loved it: The Blog of Disquiet: you can’t hurry love. It’s long, but so good. My favorite […]

  • One of the most interesting and thoughtful writings about love/ beauty/ romance/ relationships I have read in a while. I am writing a story at the moment that deals with a woman’s love/hate relationship with “beauty”, the idea of beauty, the desire for beauty, etc. At first I was doubting some of my philosophies shaping the book, but reading this post reinforces them. Thanks for taking the time for such investigations.

  • Forget marriage! I tried it. In fact I tried it a few times! I apparently am incapable of picking a compatible mate. I’ve done very well with dogs though and they provide all the love I need.

  • Wow. I admire your ability to put your heart on the page so rawly, so eloquently. I have often felt the same- that the exterior is the only thing that matters- when wanting (and wonting) love. I read a quote by Paulo Coelho, from his up and coming book, Manuscript Found in Accra, that I think applies directly to this:

    “Pity those who think: ‘I am not beautiful. That’s why Love has not knocked at my door.’ In fact, Love did knock, but when they opened the door, they weren’t prepared to welcome Love in.’
    They were too busy trying to make themselves beautiful first, when, in fact, they were fine as they were.
    They were trying to imitate others, when Love was looking for something original.
    …They were trying to reflect what came from outside, forgetting that the brightest light comes from within.”

    Love will come when you realize that you love yourself, just as you are. You don’t have to be any sort of status quo type of beauty to deserve love, attention, or affection.

  • Elle Kay says:

    ooo girl tell me about it!!

  • hnguyen1174 says:

    Reblogged this on Soul Journal and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  • sporadicblogger says:

    Subashini,

    I was completely completely gripped by your post. You write so well, so magically well. The melancholy is captured so beatifully that only you can express the beauty in the way you have done it here

    Much love

  • Tamils are crazy! (I can say that because I am one.) I hate the whole you need to get married to look after your family shit. I am looking after my family. I have been since I was 18 and hell to the no I’m not married! I wish people would realise that marriage is not the key to greater goodness! Great post.

  • ryan says:

    You have written something very powerful, tender and beautiful. Thought provoking and moving. I look forward to reading more.

  • A rather exhaustive account of your thoughts on love and happiness. If this serves as any benefit to you and other readers, I have found peace and satisfaction by understanding that “happiness” is the ultimate form of contentment.

    That doesn’t mean you’re settling but rather that you’re content with life’s gifts that have been bestowed upon you. Enjoy them in whatever shape or form they may take. Each day comes with more of life’s gifts and not all of them are neatly wrapped with the proverbial bow beckoning you.

    And, love falls into the same category of happiness as defined above. You should set aside society’s labels and suggestions as to what is considered attractive and sexy. Come up with your own but most importantly keep an open mind to accomodate various personalities and interests.

    Best wishes in your journey through life!

  • 216shades says:

    a very nice read..hope you find your happiness, I am slowly slowly finding mine.. ;)

  • Subashini says:

    Thank you for all your kind comments (& encouragement). It means a lot.

    @whatwereyathinkin: I have four dogs and no spouse, so yeah! Think that’s how I’m gonna roll. :)

    @tryingoncemore: Preach!

  • I sooo love this movie i cried. I am gay, and sometimes i feel like i love even better than the straights. if you know what i mean. This is a great post, thank you!

  • pickledwings says:

    That was quite something to read! I’ll be processing and reprocessing it in my mind for a while to come, I’m certain.

    I grow weary of a lot of the social constructs that others try to impose on this that or the other aspect of life. The “need” to get married and the “need” to have children are two that really get tiresome for me.

    I’ve been with the same woman for eight years and we barely mention marriage, we’re loyal to each other and this is probably as married as we’re ever going to be. No problem for us but if someone else feels some sort of need to see us ceremonially married, they should take a good look at their own lives and not use us as an excuse to avoid dealing with what their own lives may lack.

    Same as for children. Children are not for everyone and nobody has the right to press anyone else to have them. I’ve seen too many women have kids just to shut someone else up. Worse, I’ve seen too many have them because they’d been brainwashed since infancy that their true value to society was through motherhood.

    I’ve long said that society needs to take a good hard look at how it raises children. Values and life requirements are not static from one generation to the next and what was expected of one generation may be totally irrelevant to the next.

    One generation’s fear of change should never be the next generation’s prison.

  • kaitlynkady says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. Great post :)

  • Great piece. When I visit family (which isn’t very often), the first question everyone asks me is if I am seeing someone. Being from a very small town (actually, it’s deemed a village), where being gay is not acceptable, it’s a question I dread even more than a straight person would. I don’t understand what everyone’s preoccupation with being married/settled is all about.

  • blackshepherd says:

    This post is full of useful insights and wisdom about love, individulality and identity but at the end I was left feeling that the meta-message is that the world really is divided into two factions. One is capable of deep empathy for the feelings and struggles of others and one is not. One faction goes to any length to accomodate the needs of others to fully express and “be” themselves. The other faction oppresses either directly or by default all day every day. I’m grateful today to have the time to sit and reflect and to have the freedom still to read the writings of people like you. I remember reading Martha Nausbaum’s book “The Fragility Of Goodness” as an undergrad and the the passion for justice that reading books like that aroused. I’m realizing in this moment the degree to which that passion has waned as I crawl out from under the wreckage of a prolonged mid-life adjustment. I’m grateful now just to have survived and I’m simaltaneously aware that in many cultures today I would not have survived. There would have been no space, time or even a crevice within which to make such an adjustment whether optimal or poor. I’m thinking too how lucky we are to have Obama again for four more years and to have been spared the nightmare of finding ourselves in the midst of an empowered mass of Mitt Wits…I’m truly clinically depressed at this writing so it really is an effort to write a coherent response to your piece but it has aroused in me the awareness I want and need time to think about these things and to have access to the minds of people who care about others and the kinds of issues that affect caring people…thank you.

  • sestraxx says:

    “Keep it classy” is a phrase that should be forever removed from the English language.

  • uglywords says:

    I could tell you that my life mirrors yours in many ways and I have felt many of the things you have felt and described here so eloquently, but really, this is a post beyond feelings. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Kiersten Marek says:

    Reblogged this on Kmareka.com and commented:
    Fascinating post on the nature of relationships and the influence of patriarchy.

  • birdinaword says:

    Your writing is great, deep yet unsentimental and honest.

  • marrymeknot says:

    For some reason, it makes people uncomfortable to not be able to place others in a familiar category. Plus, I think when you live your life outside of society’s expectations and you are happy, people start to resent you for being brave enough to embrace what they couldn’t.

    Strange to say what delight we married people have to see these poor fools decoyed into our condition.  ~Samuel Pepys

  • When my last single friend got married she said, “Marriage is for quitters.” It was an awkward moment when I had to try to find dignity is my aloneness.

  • janarilee says:

    Reblogged this on Life at a Glance… and commented:
    wow… makes me think much differently…

  • janarilee says:

    Wow… gave me a totally new perspective(: I hate “keep it classy!” total bull.

  • katieee814 says:

    Reblogged this on kklindg and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  • Micah says:

    This is a great post. I love that this is straightforward and unapologetic. Hurrah! :)

  • Hi Subashini,

    This is an amazing post. I like how love as an emotion has been analysed with regard to all kinds of relationships – between lovers, parents and children by using various mediums such as books and films. This post is raw, real and extremely well written(your name in Sanksrit means well-spoken!). Very relatable as well, especially for single women like myself.

    Cheers!

  • Reblogged this on niceandsweetandsimple and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  • Wish you all the happiness in the world

  • kaash says:

    *awe*

    *tears*

  • Hi Subashini,

    Wonderful thoughts. Love brings different meaning to different people. You have described that beautifully.

  • Single & Existing says:

    I love your post, it reminds me of something I wrote a few months back

    “Mom’s Clock’s a-ticking”

    http://singleandexisting.com/2012/01/28/moms-clocks-a-ticking/

    I think a parents need for their children to marry, and build a family, and take care of the family is universal. I am black, and in American, and my mother would love for me to be married. She’d love to see my hubby, my children, and know I have finally accomplished this “goal” of life. Granted I do want children, and will have them one day, but I don’t feel rushed, and am enjoy the independence that is SingleHood, I have no intentions to rush into a relationship now, or ever. It’ll be natural, and it should be, you most definitely can not hurry love.

    • Subashini says:

      Thanks for the link to your post–I’ll check it out.

      And yes, it would appear as though parents wanting their kids to grow up straight, get married and have kids is a “universal” phenomenon–it’s precisely the universality that bothers me (i.e. heteronormativity is form of tyranny, etc.)

  • hyunhochang says:

    I’m not entirely sure what point you are trying to make here. . . you have a lot of interesting ideas, though.

    I would add, however, that I think that there can be more than one legitimate way to express and show love, both in real life and on the big screen. Different types of people will find different types of affection appealing. So closeups on loving, innocent faces may be what makes one person’s heart go pitter-pat, while someone else is left unmoved. The same goes with more traditional depictions of love and romance.

    . . . also, is there something WRONG with monogamy?

    • Subashini says:

      There’s no “point” to my piece–it’s 3000+ words of me trying to figure out my own thoughts. The thoughts here are filtered through personal experiences and movies, so it’s not meant to be a definitive Treatise on Love.

      Having said that, I too think that there’s more than one way to legitimately express one’s love–except heteronormativity is imposed upon a person, socially and politically. I’m not quite so interested in what individuals like or dislike in love; I guess my general question/concern in my post was the nature/structure of imposed heteronormativity, and it’s implications in a late-capitalist society.

      I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with monogamy as a concept, obviously–yet it’s structured to be the only way society should be understood to work, in which case, yes–there is something wrong with monogamy’s hegemonic dominance.

      • hyunhochang says:

        I understand. I enjoyed your explorations :)

        I’ve wondered quite a bit if hetero-normality and monogamy truly are hegemonic. While these two mindsets are endorsed by the largest groups in western society, this is not the case in much of the developing world, where polygamy is often legally accepted and culturally embraced. Also, in (American) culture, there are growing communities which reject both. I lived in one, and many my age felt that every configuration of relationship was equally valid, regardless to size or shape.

        However, I don’t know that I agree with this oppose side of the pendulum. I concede that a traditional relationship structure may not be the optimal situation for everyone, but i don’t accept that ANY configuration is equally desirable to ANY other. Speaking from my experience as a monogamous, heterosexual male, there IS power is a long-term, committed relationship. The emotional transparency and intimacy involved in a healthy committed relationship both necessitate emotional growth and promote personal development in a way that may not be possible without a comparable commitment. This does not mean to say that monogamy is the only shape for an acceptable relationship, but I do believe that emotional commitment, coupled with love and healthy methods for resolving interpersonal conflict, is one of the better pathways for development and happiness.

        I cannot speak directly about poly-amorous relationships as I have never personally been involved in one. But I DO have polygamists in my family history, and many of my peers entered into very open relationships. From what I gleaned from my ancestors’ records, their plural relationships were extraordinarily difficult and often unhealthy. Granted, that was a different time and era. With my peers, however, very few of them have achieved stable, healthy, enjoyable poly-amorous relationships, though it is possible that this is because of their own personalities and traits rather than the shape of their relationships. And it’s worth noting that a minority of my old friends do have what appear to be happy relationships of irregular configuration.

        With all of this, I don’t want to convey the impression that I think other types of relationships to be “evil”, and I do agree that society dictating the affairs of your heart is wrong. That said, I don’t think that heterosexuality or monogamy being seen as “normal” is evil either. In a world where the majority ARE heterosexual, and monogamy is a perfectly legitimate form of relationship which many find pleasurable, I see nothing amiss with those ideologies rising to prominence.

        But I do agree that each should be free to pursue what pulls at his or her heart strings.

      • Subashini says:

        I’m not sure where polygamy is accepted, or even considered legal, outside the bounds of religious law–and talking specifically of Malaysia, polygamy is structured around patriarchal religious laws that affords virtually no protection for women. (See some of the work done by Sisters in Islam on that matter.) So I’m not sure that patriarchal formulations of polygamy should be held up as the triumph of “other” forms of relationship structures.

        We’re coming from totally different ends here, but it’s beyond me to explain to you why it’s not just a matter of ideologies “rising to prominence”; these are ideologies that structure whole societies and countries, and these are ideologies that cause immense harm to those who don’t neatly fall into existing binaries. I’m talking about queer and trans kids who are kicked out of their homes, queer and trans adults who kill themselves because the state doesn’t grant them the “choice” of changing their name/gender, or even in the case of “traditional” relationship structures, single mothers who run into trouble in obtaining documentation/insurance for their children because of how patriarchy structures the law. So for a heterosexual male in a monogamous relationship, it might be peachy keen–and surely the law is on your side as long as you adhere to the rules and norms. But even a straight guy in a monogamous relationship can run into trouble if he crosses the bounds of law that police sexuality–say if he blogs about his sex life online, and his university revokes his scholarship. So I think you *should* be worried that heteronormativity is hegemonic.

        This queer critique of marriage is worth reading, to get a sense of some of what I’m trying to say.

      • hyunhochang says:

        I think you misunderstand me. I’m not trying to denigrate you. I (unfortunately) currently live in an area that is incredibly culturally homogeneous and don’t get to talk to people intelligently about opposing views on issues of gender and society very often. Even when I lived in Seattle, the most common reason I heard for rejecting hetero-normality and monogamy was because of “the man” or some other ambiguous, inarticulate argument. So I’m very grateful to be able to speak to you about this.

        And I think we are ultimately saying that same thing: society saying that the affairs of the heart *must* be done in one particular way, and punishing you if you do not adhere, is a detrimental, destructive, and scarring thing. As it happens, I HAVE been ridiculed for my lifestyle; as I said, many of my peers do not believe in marriage. And outside of that, I have also been mocked for my religion nearly my entire life. Not universally, but consistently.

        And I also agree with you that things are NOT peachy keen. They never have been, though I think we are making progress and becoming more accepting as a society. Unfortunately, from what you are describing, it sounds like some of that progress we have here has not made it to Malaysia yet (you can change your name and gender here, and women here are almost ALWAYS granted stewardship of their children).

        Polygamy is most often found is Muslim nations, though it has been found elsewhere. And I don’t think it’s the champion of alternative relationships, precisely for the reason you have stated. But it is one which exists now and was very common in the past, and as such offers a substantial counter to a hegemonic view of monogamy. Though the problem you cited–little protection for women–probably makes polygamy a less-desirable system than a hegemonic monogamy.

        So I guess what I am trying to argue is that the fact that there are social norms is not in and of itself harmful or wrong. Rather, prejudice and intolerance which often come with those norms are what we want to eliminate.

  • khushali0605 says:

    Reblogged this on kkhushali2011 and commented:
    have patience

  • when people close to you have either got engaged, married or had a baby and then people say to you, “you’ll be next”, i can’t help but think it’s some sort of threat.

  • […] “You Can’t Hurry Love,” by Subashini over at the wonderfully named Blog of Disquiet. This is a wide-ranging essay […]

  • […] the nothing there of other characters. Her scenes with Fassbender, her husband, remind me of what Subashini acidly called “the heterosexual neo-liberal couple”; the well-off couple for whom […]

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