For a boy, the end of that first (meaningful) relationship can be life-changing, especially when it hasn’t ended on your terms. I was mired in an existential funk only time – and a lot of philosophizing – extricated me from. There was the standard stuff: the bad – no – awful poetry; the declamations against love; the vows to exact one’s own toll on love via the agency of unsuspecting – and sometimes, fully suspecting – females.
If that relationship had blossomed into something bigger than the sum of its parts, I am certain there are things – essential things – that I would be delightfully oblivious of, to – who knows? – my later detriment. Heartbreak – or the experience of it – helps to situate the question of love within a framework of loss, a framework that in my opinion presents the most meaningful avenue for contemplating such heartly matters. Let me repeat that: Heartbreak situates love within the immensely appropriate framework of loss. If before entering any relationship one accepts the possibility of its end, perhaps dealing with that end might present a less onerous task. Of course anticipating being struck by a stone is one thing, the reality of the strike is another. No matter how much one is prepared, or feels he is prepared, loss still is loss.
They say monogamy (not merely in the marital sense) is unnatural, and that humans are wired to hop. Which is fine. But evidence suggests – and in a more evident manner – that the proprietary impulse – that imperative to outright and exclusive ownership – is more fundamentally human than polygamy – or simply “poly-immersion” – may be. She is mine. He is mine. It is mine. And would you believe it, they are mine.
No matter the biology of it, the arguments for poly-immersion strike me as convenient, the same way as the arguments for crass, unfettered capitalism. Much of humanity lies in trade-offs, adjusting the yearnings of the self to accommodate the commonwealth of yearnings. It is these intersections and unions that birth concepts such as criminality and morality and convention and fairness.
It helps to realize that we bear within us a force that prompts up to own exclusive rights; jealousy, after all, isn’t something learnt. (Communal ownership, a feature of some cultures, has its bounds, and I am ready to listen to arguments on the socialization of jealousy.) For those who are capable of making it, this realization necessarily erodes that all too familiar sense of self-entitlement. This realization breeds a further realization: that selflessness does not guarantee any returns. Life suddenly becomes easier, less grim. The flip side of this is that it is all too easy for this outlook to flip into an unhealthy, outsize cynicism.
And now, it certainly helps if you’re one of the superhumans who have breached the confines of that proprietary impulse. You are one of the select, one of the 144, 000. You are the cream of the crème. You are the ones to whom swinging or polyamory is not verboten (in the doing, not in the watching *wink*). You’re the one who was married at 19 but has slept with roughly 3000 men*. You are Marie Calvert. You are Barry, her husband.
Barry is Marie’s world, and together they don’t put sex on a pedestal. For them, sex is what it is: “separate from love” and off a pedestal. “Barry goes with other women.” Marie doesn’t get jealous because she knows he loves her. It’s all very I’ll eat my cake and have it, thank you very much.
It is a notion that flies against my own outlook on the world. It scares me, to be honest, this post-proprietariness. I simultaneously admire and loath it. Admiration because it signals a transcendent emotional makeup; loathing because that transcendence I fear is beyond my grasp. In any case, many self-ascribed transcendents boast a malformed, hypocritical transcendence, vigorously unable to brook what they themselves eagerly pursue.
But Marie Calvert’s dichotomy calls to mind another more egregious – contextually – dichotomy: that between love and lust in romantic relationships. Lust is of course a broader concept than sex, given that the former is an impulse and the later one outcome of that impulse. In my conception of love, lust is essential. Love – romantic love – and lust are Siamese twins, this time conjoined inseperably, no matter what Ben Carsons may be brought to bear.
I cannot claim to know what goes on in Muslim homes despite what the evidence of my name suggests. In (semi-)Christian homes, you’re taught, premaritally at least, to abhor lust, as if that were possible (now, note that I am not suggesting that you give free rein to your lust so much so it culminates into fulfilment every damn time). And this is how this dichotomy has taken root.
The fact of the matter is that when I love you and give expression to that impulse, there is as much lust in that decision as there is je ne sais quoi. To love you, I have to desire you, materially and emotionally. I have to lust after you, in addition to a cerebral attraction – a sapiosexuality – and a willingness to sacrifice my self in service – not entirely that kind of service – of you. Otherwise, what’s the point? This trinity I imbue with an existential caution, a lightning conductor, a proactive insurance policy whose one term is to make sure nothing burns down again in the unlikely event that lightning strikes twice in the same place.
To return to the Calverts, I believe sex can be separate from love in two ways: 1: If the parties – assuming a normal, committed relationship – agree to the dichotomy; 2: If the parties are outside of committed relationships, where sex is simply sport, recreation, a luxuriating in superficial depths.
Outside of those, I – and this is simply a matter of I – privilege responsibility. A relationship, both an intersection and a union, should necessarily curtail the extent to which the self indulges itself, although I am well aware that the sustainability of this self-limiting process is not assured, and the consequences of that self-curtailing, in the long run, can be every bit as debilitating as self-indulgence. However, it is not the curtailing that is on trial here; what is on trial is the selfish willingness to indulge the self over and above every other consideration (considerations we often willingly accept to make), because we would rather take the broad road.
*To be fair to Mary Calvert, the bonanza only started from when she was about thirty years. She is currently 60+.