Highschool sweethearts are a concept almost everyone dreams of achieving. In reality, the likelihood of it happening is almost slim to none in most cases. (Photo courtesy of Ellie Bruno)
In my AP Language class with Mr. Phillips, we all had an interesting conversation during our realism unit. While we were discussing some feminist writings from the period, specifically “A Wagner Matinee” by Willa Cather; this story in particular depicted an older woman who cast her music dreams away to follow her husband to Nebraska; her passion for music was lost until she visited a matinee and realized what she’d been missing for so long. Phillips brought up an interesting point when our conversations came to a head: Is love just a social construct? Have we been taught by society that we as people are only halves until we meet our soulmate? Would this idea of love exist without these societal norms and representation?
Think back to some of the earliest ideas of love in pop culture: Princesses and their heroic princes, their knights in shining armor, swooping in to save the damsel in distress. Right from the start, these stories depicted women as a frail creature that constantly needs to be saved. Their story isn’t told until a savior comes in — and that goes for both parties; these men are written for the sole purpose of saving the princess. Some people swear by the idea of a soulmate, searching the world to find that one person that makes them feel special, but that ideal doesn’t work for everyone.
An article on The Odyssey — written back in 2016 — pokes holes in this ideal of a single human that was meant to be your other half. The article notes that this mindset is a “narrow-minded perception” of how the world works, and even though some people have seemingly achieved this dream, there’s plenty of doubt.
Now I’m not trying to be a cynicist, but I am curious about the modern view of this phenomenon called “love”. As one philosopher explains, “love is a hugely messy topic”, and does vary greatly between different people. This is a recognized concept — love looks different to everyone — but when social ideals start to come in, love becomes messy. Societal norms expect a marriage and even kids at the peak of a romantic relationship, but there’s a lot missing in-between.
The ideals and expectations of a long-term relationship have shifted with the times, but there are still some underlying concepts prevalent in society. I remember when I was younger I wanted a fairy-tale romance: A random, incredibly attractive person rides into my life on their horse and sweeps me off my feet, taking me away to live happily ever after. That doesn’t happen in real life. High School Musical made me think I would find my soulmate in the garden on the roof of the school — in a rainstorm. Crazy right? In what world would that ever happen to anybody?
I’m not trying to be a cynic, just a bit realistic. Love is a wonderful thing that brings people together and forms incredible bonds; I just tend to watch rom-coms with a bit of doubt and realism. I would gladly let someone come around and prove me wrong, but until that day comes around I won’t sit waiting for my “perfect match”. In the end, a soulmate doesn’t make you whole, only you can. A partner should be an addition to your life, not a crutch. That’s one of the clear flaws with this “ideal love” — you have to love yourself before you can even begin to love someone else.