People get pretty wrapped up with each other in relationships (especially in the beginning). Some people move seamlessly from one relationship to another (I mentioned this years ago; like with not leaving a job before getting another, these kind of people have a partner (I hate the term 'partner' – though it applies a bond of sorts, it has such a corporate, unloving feel to it. Still, it's not as bad as 'my other half') in the wings before they ditch the last one); others have been in the same one for years. I know plenty of people, all they've ever wanted was to be in a relationship; as soon as they got laid, they got stuck with that person for life. I'm very happy for them. But I'm bemused by both: how to stay in one relationship, and how to go from one to the other.
Either way, do we want to end up like our parents, bickering and boring and loveless? Apparently so.
'They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.'
– This be the Verse, Philip Larkin
Gotta love a bit of Larkin. I'm all for couples, but they are largely dull. They stay in, watch TV, have sex, eventually turn into one person and lose their individuality. My perennially single friends do loads of things, they're more adventurous and outgoing. But they probably only make an effort to do stuff because they're lonely. Having said that, one of the best things about being in a relationship, almost alongside regular sex, is having someone to go on holiday with. I'm told there's nothing worse than walking around Lisbon on your own in the rain.
It's easy to see how beautiful people get together, but I've always wondered how ugly people get together. How do they become attracted to each other? Maybe they just like each other and have great personalities. I suppose we all realise our limitations fairly early on and have to make do with what we can get. Maybe it's actually easier being ugly and meeting someone similar. But attraction is in the eye of the beholder, and most of us look roughly the same anyway: you know, two eyes, nose, arms, legs, etc.
(I don't really mean this. Ugly is a strong word; hardly anyone is actually ugly. If they are, it comes out in their personality, not their looks. I mentioned a few years ago my rather suspect theory about films and women, good ones and bad ones all having something redeeming, like a fleeting beauty, a gesture, an earlobe, a smile, whatever. I also remember Godard's maxim: a film is a girl and a gun. And Hitchcock's dream: boy meets girl.)
But even with beautiful people, one person is always more attractive than the other. The less attractive of the two is always paranoid the other will go off with someone more attractive. When one of the couple is a lot less attractive than the other, one thinks how ever did they end up with each other? Who knows, eh? That's the complex and mysterious chemical mix that makes up attraction. Or maybe it's just his money.
(We were in a pub in Camden. There was a couple that fascinated us: he was a tacky, roguish Italian skinhead in a shell suit with a gold chain, she was a beautiful classy woman in a polka dot dress and high heels. We couldn't understand it. Together, they looked like they were off to a fancy dress party. My boon companion suggested a drugs connection; I don't know, I suspected great sex.)
But what about love, you ask? Well, there's this (for example):
'somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands'
– somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond, EE Cummings
(Dodgy spacing and punctuation intentional)
The Larkin and the Cummings are my two favourite poems, ever. I first heard the EE Cummings in the Woody Allen film Hannah and her Sisters, where
Michael Caine clumsily reads it out to Barbara Hershey, who he has an affair
Anyway, I'm not bitter or cynical in case you're wondering. I believe in love.
Previously on Barnflakes:
Notes on Jobs and Girlfriends
Women vs films