My daughter and I look at each other puzzled and start laughing. We are walking from the Louvre to Shakespeare and Co. bookstore in Paris, on a gorgeous June day, and suddenly vendors everywhere are selling… padlocks.
Not Eiffel tower key chains or Victor Hugo action figures, but padlocks. With keys. Random…
Then we get to the Pont des Arts foot bridge and we see the reasoning. The entire expanse of the grating on this bridge is covered with padlocks sporting the names and initials of couples, embellished with hearts etc. Once the lock is put into place, the keys are thrown into the Seine, so that the lovers are forever bound. The “Love Bridge”.
My daughter swoons, “That’s so romantic.” It makes me shudder.
I am a deeply romantic person. Madly in love with love. Love loves to love love. God knows I need that kind of fire in my life, but I am also realistic. I was married for 22 years. Then it ended. I have had other relationships in my life that ended too. Like they sometimes do. Not because they failed, but because they were done. Sometimes that choice was mine and sometimes not. No matter how emphatically you declare your love, you cannot promise that it will remain the same forever. That you can “lock” yourself to another human being. Chain them to you for all eternity. Control how that looks and behaves. That is a wild illusion.
A couple of days later, we had dinner with some friends of ours and I asked what the story was behind the bridge. It was met with snorts of disgust from our hosts. It was not some romantic French fairy tale, but something that some tourist started a few years ago. Now it had become this crazy spectacle. But most intriguingly, the locks were changing the structure of the bridge…. the weight of the locks was destroying and weakening the bridge. Now there is a metaphor to end all metaphors.
I need another model. Marriage feels like a bizarre construct of play acting and conformity. The weight of the lock. A numbing sort of domestication and complacency. It feels inattentive. I know you are never supposed to say never, but I will say I have a hard time imagining ever, ever wanting to live with someone again, much less marry them. This does not mean that I do not love fiercely, with great devotion and cherish having someone in my life.
Polyamory feels like a weird new take on free love. It feels slippery and noncommittal. If you are just wishing to sleep with numerous people for sport and not get emotionally entangled, I can see how that could work. The idea of being one of many…”Monday, meatloaf with Marcia…Tuesday, that must mean it’s filet mingon night with Jodeen” does not fly with me. (Notice I did not say “two for taco Tuesdays”?)
If I am going to open my heart to someone, it is just for them, not to be an extra item on a menu. I need my relationship to be monogamous in all ways, and I will gladly do the same.
And….I love being alone. Really, dearly love being alone. I crave it much of the time. I love sleeping in my bed by myself, making snow angels in the sheets searching for the cool spot. Spending time with my friends, my family, my writing, my art projects, my books. In my home with my stuff. And…I think about the one I love all of the time when I am not with him. I miss him. I look forward to when we are reunited. That sweet ache. My time apart is not to keep myself “open to someone else”, but to keep myself available to ME. The “other” I seek is myself, and she seems to dissolve when I am in a relationship. This separation seems to keep her in tact and to also fan the flames of intention within the relationship.
This is very hot indeed.
“Love does not just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” -Ursula K. Le Guin-
So I want love in my life. Strong meaningful committed love. And I want my own life. Parallel lives, not a single track. I do not see that this is mutually exclusive. Some people can do that and be with someone all of the time. I cannot seem to do it. I turn into a horrible version of me under those circumstances…and, yes, it is something that I am looking into, but.. perhaps, I am onto something healthier and more sustainable. At least for me.
So do I need to forfeit all together because it doesn’t look the way other people are doing it?
I don’t think so.
Love is a verb. An action. It is dynamic and changes all of the time. There is some magical sweet spot of committing and not being enslaved. Being willing to stick to something and knowing when it just isn’t healthy for anyone anymore. Longevity but not imprisonment. Total monogamy, not just “technical” monogamy. To have the courage to let someone go when it is the best possible thing for their soul, even if it breaks your heart. To love someone dearly, honestly, specifically and to know simultaneously that it can always change, on either end and to have the balls to do it anyway.
Let’s skip the locks and just jump into the river together and swim. Maybe that’s the key.