24 January 2015

How Does A Non-Romantic Write A Love Scene?

The first time I was called an ice queen, I knew the title fit.

We are all born romantic, in the same way that we're born artists, and then slowly, creative and romantic urges are beaten out of us, usually starting with our parents. Or not.

I was encouraged to draw and paint. My father was an artist. But, my need for affection was starved, because my stepfather, who I lived with while growing up, resented my artist father for proudly and willfully being a deadbeat as a judgement and punishment to my mother for leaving him. It was a hard. I got pens and paints. Not hugs.

That is the sort of reality that breeds non-romantics.

When I explain my childhood, most people ask at this point, "But, where was your mother?" She was there. She was always a very pragmatic woman who kept things together, but not naturally warm. Her mother was warm. Her youngest sister was very warm. You had to look closely for evidence that my mother loved her children. It was buried. Maybe she made us each quilts. Or remembered to buy a sticker every time she went to the grocery. She was consciously unselfish, but never extravagantly unselfish.

And neither was her father. I worshiped the ground he walked on and there was even one time that he looked directly at me and said, "You're a pretty good kid." Yeah, it was once, and I just walked away stunned. I'm still stunned.

You'll never convince me that wasn't the ultimate expression of love.

Over the years, I've been a bit of a disappointment to the men I date. If you ask me, it's their expectations that disappoint them not my incomprehension of romantic gestures. It's not that I reject them, I just find out afterward that I was cold and unfeeling about the whole thing. The few men who have kept me in their hearts, if not their lives, have been those that valued my intellect, my support, my willingness to forgive and my loyalty. It's not the exciting stuff. It's not passionate.

If romance was a roller coaster ride, I'd be the person, obviously coerced to board the infernal contraption, sitting quietly with their head between their knees breathing slowly, waiting for it to stop. In fact, that is how I cope with actual roller coasters.

But, when it comes to writing, I can't shy away from love. And mostly, that's okay. The ancient Greeks identified a few different types of love:

Philia - a deep nonsexual, long lasting, bond
Ludus - a more playful affection
Agape - a more mature, more generalized, sort of love

And there is storge for your family and philautia for loving yourself.

But Eros?

Why would you want that?

It hurts.

I mean, it really, really hurts. Eros is the drug addict's version of love. You ride on a high of emotions and hormones until the fantasy ends and everything crashes down... down... down...

To reality. That's what people don't like. They love being in love. It's when they see the object of their romantic notions clearly that they stop believing in love.

And just to truly earn that ice queen title, I'm going to explain why. When we find eros, we hope it transforms into philia, ludus and/or agape. Romantic love is the notion that we can be vulnerable with both our bodies and our hearts. Unfortunately, that's not how it works and many of us run down the isle, high on love, thinking it will last. And it doesn't.

After the sexual attraction starts to wear off, there is often no playfulness, no commitment to the other person's well-being regardless of what happens. The object of love has left to seek eros again...with someone else.

Yeah, so I tried online dating for the first time this year. I was looking for someone who wanted a partnership. Someone who wanted another person to have their back, be there when it mattered and enjoy the world beside them. What I found was that a lot of guys who are still looking for love later in life are the romance junkies. You're either their next hit or you're nothing. Ugh.

At this point, I have to ask myself why I feel pressured to write romantic scenes in my work anyway?

It's probably the same reason I feel pressured to go through the motions with men who are dating to find chemistry, i.e., drugs... i.e., hormones. I feel like I'm supposed to want it. And I feel like there is something wrong with me, because I don't.

I've been accused of not liking sex, of only liking sex, of being too afraid to love, of not having a heart, of using people, of being a tease, of being afraid of commitment, of not really caring, of having too high of standards, of going after men who aren't good enough for me... But, more often than not, I've been subjected to listening to men, young and old, who have been conditioned to believe that all thirty something women are desperate - and there are soooooo many of them - tell me how much I want them and how they're willing to give me very little in exchange if I'll give them the world.

Sigh. I'm obviously never going to be a romance writer.

I can't even stomach reading the genre. I hate Twilight. But, I have to reject the idea that the type of love I prefer isn't good enough for life or literature.

They say write what you know. Well, there hasn't been a shortage of love in my life. It just looks a little different. And it's no less real, because it lacks dangerous levels of passion. It's in the laughter and the companionship. It's in the forgiveness and the little things.

Love is many things.

So, I might not be able to write an epic love scene, but I can write what I know and hope that there are people who can appreciate it. If there is one thing I have learned from the romantics, it's that we all want a love we can believe will last. It can, but the passionate type is fleeting. Some of us just are too painfully aware of that before it even starts. You know, what some people call love, others call lust even if it came with roses and expensive dinners. They might be right. Is there such thing as eros? Or is it just friendly lust?

Sometimes, we look back on what we had with people and say it wasn't real. Or we look at those people who stay in our hearts and say, it was. We may call someone our soul mate or we may take another person's devotion for granted until arrives when we need it the most.

But, I think, for myself, the issue of writing about love has made me confront one truth: you can't substitute someone else's definition of love for what is real to you.

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