Thought Catalog
April 22, 2011

Romanticism, Selfishness and Hypocrisy

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On International Women’s Day I went to a Toril Moi lecture. It was about a novel by Simone de Beauvoir and it was being given in honor of a fellow at another college who had died recently. The first thing I thought when Toril Moi stood up on stage was, well, she’s hotter than I thought. I felt that I should not have thought that. But why did I think that?

I combine chauvinism with prudishness. That could be a definition of Romanticism. Why do I tell myself I’m proud of the fact that I have never slept with somebody I didn’t love? It’s not that I haven’t wanted to. I would have slept with Toril Moi in a second. Or maybe I wouldn’t have. Maybe it would have felt weird and wrong. Is this feeling of pride just a way of excusing myself for not having slept with more people? Why would that warrant an excuse?

In High Fidelity, John Cusack’s character cares mainly about men, not women. When he finds out his first girlfriend got married to the boy who stole her from him, he is happy. Being dumped for the future husband is like being knocked out of the playoffs by the team that will go on to win, and that’s okay. So is it all about some great big score-board in the sky?

I lose interest in girls when I hear they’ve slept with people who did not love them, or whom they didn’t love, or really anyone. I hate the thought of anyone I know sleeping with anyone at all. Except me, obviously. I think that the saddest thing about love is knowing that there were other lovers before you. I don’t even allow myself to think there will be others after. Does that mean I’m just worried that I won’t live up to the memories of other men?

Love is a way you can escape from being crushed by not being the best. There’s always someone better than you, even at the thing you do best in the world. I find that hard to live with. But the thing about love is that you can find someone for whom you’re the best person in the world. But what if you’re not? What if she’s thinking about someone else? How can there be more than one best person?

I think a part of love is trusting someone totally. I think it is, unlike most things in life, about intentions and not outcomes. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t buy the flowers that you wanted to buy or if the shop just happened to be closed (look up the Wendy Cope poem, “Flowers”). But it does matter if you want to sleep with someone else, even if you don’t. Is that true? And so then why wasn’t I completely trustworthy when I felt like I was in love? How can love be about trusting but not be about being trustworthy?

Shyness is an excuse, maybe, but it’s also a kind of narcissism. In my experience, the really humble people are often the most outgoing. They are more interested in other people than themselves. Like the believers who walk out into the road without looking, they know that if they die (out there, on that stage) they’re going to heaven anyway. In bed at night when I feel lonely, I think of someone being there with me, not of me being there with someone.

I want to perform (and frequently imagine) romantic gestures of great scope and artistry. For someone? But mainly to make myself look good and to justify myself. I only want to put one point up on the score-board. But it has to be the greatest, most magnificent, most virtuosic, timeless point that anyone has ever scored, because it’s all about me. TC mark

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