Romantic Regimes
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Love in the West is consumerist – we choose a partner to give us what we think we need. But Russians do things differently.

Worth reading and yet

the no-man’s land of love – that minefield of unreturned calls, ambiguous emails, erased dating profiles and awkward silences – must be minimised. No more pondering ‘what if’ and ‘why’. No more tears. No more sweaty palms. No more suicides. No more poetry, novels, sonatas, symphonies, paintings, letters, myths, sculptures. The psychological man or woman needs only one thing: steady progress towards a healthy relationship between two autonomous individuals who satisfy each other’s emotional needs – until a new choice sets them apart.

The juxtaposition of suicides and paintings here seems self-aware, and yet still objectionable.

In the Regime of Choice, committing oneself too strongly, too early, too eagerly is a sign of an infantile psyche. It shows a worrying readiness to abandon the self-interest so central to our culture.

This is far too kind to the infantile psyche in question. I can’t tell you how many adolescents I knew in my adolescent days who leaned on their limerence to protect their own brains from all the stuff they’d rather not be thinking about, which was uncalculated self-interest in its own way.

The trouble is, a bubble bath cannot substitute for a loving gaze or a long-awaited phone call, let alone make you pregnant – whatever Cosmo might suggest. Sure enough, you can have IVF and grow into an inspiringly mature, wonderfully independent single mother of thriving triplets. But the greatest gift of love – the recognition of one’s worth as an individual – is an essentially social matter. For that, you need a significant Other. You’ve got to drink a lot of Chardonnay to circumvent this plain fact.

This is a messed-up view in my opinion. You don’t need romantic love to feel recognized as worthy as an individual. In my life, that came from family and friends in years of singledom, and very little Chardonnay was involved. For all the scathing references to therapy in this piece, the author doesn’t seem to grok the underlying principles. She writes: “Attachment is infantilised. The desire for recognition is rendered as ‘neediness’. Intimacy must never challenge ‘personal boundaries’.” This sounds like some kind of hell involving dating in New York, and does not resemble the relationships of the people I know.

While incessantly scolded to take responsibility for our own selves, we are strongly discouraged from taking any for our loved ones: after all, our interference in their lives, in the form of unsolicited advice or suggestions for change, might prevent their growth and self-discovery.

This does not make sense in a way that makes me wish the author were more plain-spoken about exactly what she’s thinking of. I would bet all the money in my checking account there is an Incident underlying this sentence.

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