Since we are very young we are bombarded with images and ideas of romance. It is an important factor in our society that affects and reinforces specific ideas about how relationships are supposed to form. There are problems inherent in this method of choosing mates, however, and they go beyond the purely superficial. It could be argued that romance is an excellent indicator of a successful marriage, but evidence for this is hard to come by.
Television, movies, books, magazines, and even rumors often speak of romantic love between people. As children we learn to love our parents, as teenagers we learn to love the feelings associated with flirting and sexual activity, and as adults we learn to love people in the most real sense. Until that time when we are old and mature enough to truly understand these feelings are we able to put it into perspective, and sometimes not even then. It is a culturally-derived idea that romance is the truest path to love, and this very well may be the case. But years or decades before this is even possible, we are pressured by our society to put romance ahead of all other factors when choosing a mate or a spouse.
Not everyone in our culture puts the same emphasis on romance, but a significant percentage of it does. Because it is and has been such an important aspect of our culture, we find its influence in the practices and rituals of modern life. Young women are particularly targeted by this, which can be witnessed by simply turning on a television. Most women used in advertisements, especially for products that closely relate to grooming and appearance, are young and seemingly attracted to the most superficial aspects of a man (229). The great influence this idea has over our society is also bolstered by its own success, allowing this shallow approach to mating to flourish with very little true resistance. Even people who have a very pragmatic view of the world can find themselves uncontrollably distracted by a pretty face.
It is undeniable that certain people may seem attractive to us (both on the physical and personal level), but this does not mean that we should necessarily marry them. This method of choosing a mate is highly unstable in that it forces people to focus on aspects of a mate that are irrelevant to the continuation of the relationship or the biological “success” of reproduction. Anyone can fall in love. Furthermore, because our society has a proclivity towards attractive people, young adults are often taken advantage of. From something as harmless as putting their face in a commercial to something like dancing nude at a strip club, our physical and other basic urges are used to serve purposes that have nothing to do with mating or marriage.
Though we may not be able to deny our instinctual attraction to certain things — or, to be more precise, people — this does not mean that romantic interest can accurately gauge the potential success of a relationship. Romance is a product of our passion which is a product of our ancient biological heritage, and as real as it may seem or actually be, that is all it is. It is like our urge to smash something when we are angry. Sometimes it is impossible to stop ourselves from bursting out (to whatever degree). Before, during, and afterwards we know that it changes nothing (except, maybe, the object we struck), yet we feel the urge to do it anyway. Romantic passion is the same kind of urge, and has just as much ability to affect the future as any other urge: none. To some cultures, the idea of leaving something as important as marriage up to young people is considered foolish (230). In our culture, we can only hope that the romance lasts as long as it can, and that a more realistic bond is formed during that time.
From a very early age our culture unconsciously trains us to seek romance (once we are old enough). We find it in many aspects of our lives, and it influences us all. Though this is not necessarily a bad concept, it is not a very good set of criteria to base lifelong partnerships on. Romance is real, and its effects are real, but it alone does not ensure a positive outcome. It is, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery, said in The Little Prince, “Experience shows us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction.”
List of Works Cited:
Haviland, William A. (2002). Cultural Anthropology (10th edition)
Merriam-Webster Dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com)