Love in the Time of Modernity: The Changing Ideas of Romance and Relationships

The modern outlook on relationships has helped discover new ways of falling in love, but the idea of love still remains the same.

I have never been in love. So, I would be lying if I told you I knew exactly what I am talking about. I have wanted to be in love. I have wanted to be loved. But, life has a funny way of working in its own mysterious ways, which more often than not means ‘not- going-the-way-you-want-it-to’. Love isn’t something you can force. I can’t just make a resolution to fall in love and expect it to come true. Love happens. Quietly and chaotically. It can’t be planned or controlled, much like life itself.

The other really funny thing about life is that it can be extremely ironic. By the time I hit college, a huge portion of my friends started dating and I continued to navigate through my very single life. I whined about dying alone, while my friends complained about the new, horrible thing their significant other had done.

The funny thing is, almost invariably, most of my friends turn to me for advice. With my practically non-existent experience, I have become the go-to person for relationship drama. I don’t know if this is a conundrum that my other single friends out there have faced, but I find it extremely hilarious that someone who has yet not managed to find her way into a relationship has helped others keep theirs afloat.

So what do I really know about love? I have a few ideas of what I want in a spouse. Of course, throw in the clichés: funny, smart, caring, moderately attractive, has at least Rs 100 in their wallet at all times and has good hygiene. There are other things too, which I don’t know how to articulate without going off into a tangent about who I am as a person, so I won’t get into that.

I think at the end of the day, what everyone wants is to be loved for who they are, flaws and all. Because, that’s what the movies and books have taught us–that at the end, after a good few hours of a cry fest, the hero of your life realises that even the most messed up things you do and your worst flaws aren’t enough to cut you out of their life. Is that what happens in reality? I don’t know. I have seen people call quits for far less.

My family, as extended as I can think, has not been privy to any epic love stories. Most marriages have been arranged, as were my parents. My mother was only 22 when she got married (a year younger than I am today). She didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter. She was waiting for the BSc results and putting her free time to good use by learning shorthand. She wanted was to study further and become a teacher, but that’s not what happened.

The story is a little complicated, but my father was on his way to meet some relative of ours as a prospective bride, when they stopped at my mother’s house. He saw my mom and decided that she is the one he wanted to marry. Apparently, she was in deep sleep when her family decided what the rest of her life was going to be like. Summer of 1987, they were married. Her teaching career boils down to her years of helping my sister and I graduate school and a short stint as a tuition teacher. Like I said, life has a way of just not working the way you want it to. Of course, they are, in their own little ways, happy.

Letters and grand gestures

But, I don’t want that. I want to be swept off my feet. I want to fall hook, line and sinker. I want to marry someone, because I want to and not because I am on a deadline. There is a very cheesy part of me who wants love letters and grand gestures. I want an epic love story. I just don’t know where to find it.

At this point in my life, most of my friends have graduated from flings to more serious relationships and I am still single. I have often wondered if there is something fundamentally unlovable about me. Any one of my friends who have listened to me rant about this will think that it is quite serendipitous that I have to write about love.

I have had so many people suggest that I get on Tinder. I have a lot of friends who have found love through Tinder and other dating apps, so why couldn’t I? So, a friend of mine created a profile for me. As I was swiping across the many prospects, I realised I absolutely hated it. How was I to decide, based purely on a photo and five random lines that this would be someone I would like to talk to? It didn’t work out for me, but it did get me thinking. I have, on several occasions, dissed on the idea of arranged marriage, but, if you think about it, isn’t Tinder the Shaadi.com for hook-ups?

So, with Tinder out of the way, what other ways were there to meet people? How did people find other people? There is the good ol’ fashion ‘being-set-up-by-your-friends’ method. None of my friends seem to know anyone who is single or anyone who would be interested in me. Believe me, I have asked. I could pick up someone at a bar. I mean it did work for Meredith and Derek Shepherd, didn’t it? I don’t honestly have the guts to talk to a random person though. I get tongue-tied, awkward and weirdly silent around people I don’t know. I have a friend who met the love of her life at a wedding. So, maybe I just need to wait for one of my friends to get married, attend their wedding and hope for life to just work in my favour.

So, how else do I meet someone? You would think that with technology making it so much easier for people to talk and stay in touch, I should have this all figured out. I mean, I have a friend who started off her relationship with a guy she never met, but bonded over some fantasy football game on Facebook. I know what you are thinking– that I should probably take some tips from her. Oh, well.

Old ideas are disappearing

There is obviously a lot I don’t know, but here is what I have figured out: there is no fool-proof method to make love last or relationships work. There is no right way to meet someone. There is no single way for a relationship to function. The old idea of the breadwinning husband, and the perfectionist housewife with her two well-behaved children as the picture of a family is slowly (VERY SLOWLY) disappearing.

I, for one, still think that marriage is an outdated concept (one that I will eventually have to give into). It never made any real sense to me, but almost always, it feels like I am the only one that feels that way (my social media feeds streaming with engagement/wedding/honeymoon/baptism photos tells me so). I have often wished that marriage wasn’t that big of a deal in India. Sure, lately there are more people who choose to not get married, or marry the person of their choice and not someone they meet on their wedding day. In fact, even the way arranged marriages work have changed so much, but I wonder, if parents across the country stopped seeing marriage as the be-all-and-end-all of their children’s lives, how many would still choose to get married. Would they instead choose to be in a live-in relationship? I can’t say.

Transition period

The thing is, I am living in what I like to call as the transition period. We are caught somewhere in between the romanticised idea of love and the modern outlook on relationships. It is a tricky space to define, but I think we are not as caught up with this idea of this long-lasting marriage as our parents. At the same time, we want to be the centre of somebody’s universe. So what exactly does love mean to us in these modern times? I think, it means the same as it did a hundred years ago and it will stay the same. People want love because it means that no matter what, there will be that one person to hold your hand when everything else seems to be going wrong and that they will think you are wonderful, even if you farted a little too loudly last night (I told you, all I know about love, I have learnt from movies and books).

However, what I think is constantly changing is how we fall in love and what we do with it. My parents (and I think this is the case for most of our parents and grandparents) learnt to love each other over the years. Today, most of refuse to be married to someone you don’t feel you could spend the rest of your life with. Maybe, a few decades down the line, the entire institution of marriage would cease to exist, or at least become far less important. Of course, people would still fall in love, choose to stay committed and make a family. But, maybe my kids (should I ever have any) would be able to choose to be in a live-in relationship without facing judgement. Who knows? Love is unpredictable like that.

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This article was originally published by gaysifamily.com