At 24, it seems uncool to be into romance, as if the idea of commitment automatically ended with you living in the suburbs with your children Subaru, Forrester and Grand Cherokee and becoming a Facebook baby factory. In your twenties, “commitment” is a dirty word, conjuring up images of straitjackets and asylums — everything Sylvia Plath warned us about. When we see pictures of our older friends or friends from high school smushing cake in each other’s faces, we think either “there but for the grace of God go I” or “DON’T GO IN THERE, IT’S A TRAP!” We feel like commitment is a horror movie, that everyone in a marriage or a long-term relationship is unhappy, because our parents were unhappy, because those two married friends of ours were unhappy, because after Titanic, Jack and Rose were together again in Revolutionary Road and they were unhappy and (SPOILER!) Rose had an at-home abortion and died along with your dreams of romance.
Culturally, we tend to romanticize the first kiss, the first sexual experience and the wedding, but what about the stuff in between? For proof, think about almost every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen: it’s always about how the two leads end up together, culminating in their first kiss or first “I love you.” These movies are only about finding the Happily Ever After, and if you watch Valentines’ Day or New Year’s Eve, it’s that sort of thing on speed. However, those movies rarely tell you about what happens afterward, the sacrifices that it takes to make happily ever after work, or that those struggles can be enjoyable, too. What about the third kiss or the thousandth kiss? Are they not great, too? Shouldn’t there be a moment when you hit that high-number smooch when confetti comes down and people jump out and scream, “One million served!”?
As a culture, we don’t talk enough about what it takes to make a relationship work, and we are almost gleefully pessimistic about the prospects of Happily Ever After. We tell women that their life is basically over after they have their first child, that almost all people in marriages or long-term relationships are unhappy and that their coupling will inevitably end in divorce, death or a miserable cohabitation where you fantasize having sex with ANYONE else, including the pizza delivery guy. (How else do you think that genre of porn gets made?)
But here’s the thing about commitment and even marriage: It doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. That miserable couple down the street who spend the bulk of their days bickering about laundry detergent and who gets the remote control? That’s not your relationship. Your parents’ marriage isn’t your marriage. Kim Kardashian’s marriage isn’t your marriage, and just because the divorce and unhappiness rates are high doesn’t mean commitment has to be like sailing off a cliff in glass slippers and a veil.
Because guess what? Life is hard. Commitment is hard. But why is that such a terrible, boner-killing thing? It’s a LTR, not oral surgery from a Nazi dentist. As someone who was semi-recently on the Laura Ashley Marriage Track with their Long-Term Boyfriend, I can tell you first-hand that some days it’s difficult to wake up and not stab your significant other in the chest with an ice pick like in Basic Instinct. Sometimes you’re just in a bad mood and you resent them and, hey, you want to fight about it. Sometimes commitment is struggle, but other times, commitment is pretty fucking sexy. To me, there’s nothing in the world sexier than someone who loves you so much that they are willing to stay with you, even though they really hate you sometimes, even though they could easily pack up their stuff and move on. There’s nothing hotter than someone who knows what a total jerk you can be and won’t give up on you anyway.
If you are still unconvinced, have a great, big, blowout Fight of the Century with your significant other, then spend days talking about your problems and feeling like you might not make it and you might break up — but then you finally work it out at the 11th Hour before missiles are fired on Cuba and everything is destroyed. Because after that, you get to have Make-Up Sex, which is the greatest sex ever known. Then you can get at me about whether or not you think commitment is sexy.
I think even more than that, commitment isn’t just sexy; it’s necessary as people to commit to things, or we’re going to stay the same forever like in Tuck Everlasting, which will not be hot at 50 or 60. It will be creepy and weird and you will become Charlie Sheen. I once heard a great quote that God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way. I’m an atheist, so no thank you, but I think that love is like that, whether it’s love from a friend, the love of your life or from your Mom. Love and commitment push us to be better, more grateful, more giving people — in and out of the bedroom — and not everyone is cut out for that. Let’s be honest: not everyone is meant to be in a relationship or can find the joy, the beauty and sex appeal of struggle. Not everyone can make it work — or even should make it work. I’ve seen Scenes From a Marriage and scenes from my parents’ marriage, and I know that sometimes, you just aren’t right for each other.
And that fear lingers for many of us: what if we commit and fail? What if we give all of ourselves to a relationship that just goes belly-up? Haven’t you seen the divorce rates? But the thing is: almost everything you do in life you will fail at most of the time. You will not get most of the jobs you apply for, especially if you’re a recent college grad, and most of the friends you have you will not end up being friends with someday. But like that Flaming Lips song, we can spend the rest of our lives fearing that life goes fast and it’s hard to make the good things last or we can take advantage of the time we have and give a crap about other people. You don’t have to get married or have babies now; you just have to be willing to let someone inside, take the next step and be ready for the journey. Sometimes that journey can be like spending the rest of your life with your best friend — which sounds a lot more attractive than ending up as that guy from Shame or being on Grindr forever. For instance, I was on OkCupid the other day, just browsing, and I saw in someone’s profile that he was into “commitment, cuddling and hanging out with his family.” Upon reading this, I shuddered like I was reading 50 Shades of Grey. I don’t know if that’s cool, but it sure is hot.