My Mum and I go to the beach to talk
We go to the beach and talking is what we end up doing the most. Not sea-bathing, which my Mum cannot do, on account of the freezing temperatures of the water. Nor sun-bathing, which I have always hated. Instead, we talk, and talk. We are chatty to begin with, but our natural tendency is compounded by the fact that we see each other once every 2 years or so.
Here’s a story she told me, as we sat under the big parasol, next to each other, facing the sea, drinking “mate”.
There was a man she knew of, a Jewish man, who married a catholic woman. Every day, his mother and aunts would come to his house and cry, and cry, for hours, over his marrying a catholic woman. You would think they would get tired after a while, but no. They continued to visit daily to cry to him until they all died.
After finishing the story my Mum clarified her feelings for me. She would not be opposed in the slightest if I married a Jewish man. Or a black man. Or a man of any race, ethnicity, or nationality. She would feel the same over my brother’s choices.
We are both reacting to this freedom by being perennially single.
We Don’t Think Like This Anymore
There’s a sense in my family that these notions of who is allowed to marry whom are “superadas” or “overcome”.
My Dad told me the story of a Jewish boy he knew, possibly a classmate of his, who also went on to marry a catholic girl. They had a daughter. Yet his mother remained so opposed to the marriage that she never even met her grandchild.
My Dad’s response? “He should have said to her ‘Mama, asi ya no se piensa”, which translates loosely as ‘Mum, people don’t think like this anymore'”.
It’s easy for my parents to see the wrongness in the ideas held by people born at the beginning of the 20th Century.
You know what’s challenging? Seeing the wrongness in the ideas we hold *today*.
When Does Love Matter?
My “ex-boyfriend turned friend” came to see me last weekend. The last time we met was December of 2010, when I left the little English town I was living in to move across the country with a guy (who turned out to be a colossal mistake).
We had no contact in all that time.
The experience has shaken me somewhat. In many ways, little has changed. I still think the world of him. I still believe in him. And we can still have a conversation about “the deep stuff”: politics and now spirituality.
Here I am feeling warmth and love for a man I have not seen or spoken to in 8 years. We lasted all of 2 months as a “couple”, and most people would not consider this “dating proper”.
And yet, here they are, these feelings. A subtle warmth and love, and the certainty that I will care for him for a long time, perhaps forever.
I told my mother my friend had come to visit. She didn’t say much. She didn’t say much because she doesn’t think much about it, and this in itself is telling.
I told my housemate that my friend was coming and he had a more appropriate response, as would befit someone from my generation.
He was amazed that I could still be friends with my ex-boyfriend. He told me, twice, “I don’t even talk to any of my ex-girlfriends”.
Well, neither do I. I wouldn’t want to speak to any of my other exes, not that there’s been many.
But this friend is… different.
Perhaps because his Sun sign matches my rising sign. Or perhaps it’s because he’s odd like me, and as Abe Sapien says ” If there’s trouble, all us freaks have is each other”.
My Mum, however, is nonplussed.
To me, and others of my generation, it is amazing that I can share moments of connection and tenderness, closeness and sparks of adoration with a human being I had loved once and haven’t seen in 8 years.
To my Mum none of that matters. None of that matters because it doesn’t add up to anything tangible. It doesn’t lead to the familiar story of “marriage” or “career” or “status”.
My friend and I aren’t going to get married and have babies. Or get married and buy a house. Or get married and gain status.
My closeness with my friend won’t lead to anything important, so why care? Why bother?
The Space Between “Friend” and “Partner”
After my friend left, I stayed wondering why there isn’t any “space” for a relationship that sits between “friend” and “partner”. Why is it not possible to love someone a bit more than as a “friend”, while remaining clear that you are not to pair up for the long term?
Why isn’t it possible to just ride that wave of love, go wherever it takes us and then let it pass?
Why isn’t it possible to just love without attachment, without turning every “love” into “Big Love”, or “Forever Love”, or “Share a Mortgage With Love”.
That story of “marriage”, though. It’s so heavy.
And I’m tired.
I’m tired of having to force “love” into a story so Grand, to stretch it and mould it until it fits, or despair and try harder when it doesn’t.
Marriage is a wonderful story, but that’s it, just another story. It’s just another form that love can take.
And I wonder what it would be like to love people for as long as you love them, without worrying about whether this love will last decades or days, or what it says about you, or them, if said love lasts days and not decades.
I want to be able to love when I feel love.
I want to be able to love without fear of what it means, or what will happen.
I want to be able to just love.
Perhaps it’s up to us, the “Millennial generation”, to expand the story of love so there is space in between “friend” and “partner”.
Who’s to say we aren’t doing it right now?
Loving for the Love of it
To my Mum, the old-fashioned views of who we are allowed to marry or not are just… “overcome”. We simply don’t think like that anymore. It is not worth it to fight with your child over who they choose to marry.
This is progress, yes. It makes the world a more harmonious place, where love can flow more freely, taking new paths it was unable to walk through before.
I believe those of us outside of the familiar Grand story of “Marriage” are also breaking down barriers to love. We are pioneers, exploring different stories, creating new paths where love can flow, for as long as it wants to, without it having to lead to a particular destination.
We are learning how to love without a “point”, how to love for the love of it.
If the point of love is to get married? We are failing.
If the point of love is precisely love itself, then we’re on the right path.