The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Why ‘Modern Romance’ Is an Oxymoron

Posted on | April 23, 2012 | 40 Comments

Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody in Damsels in Distress

That which is romantic is almost always in some sense old-fashioned, but we cannot be old-fashioned if we know nothing of the past, and most young people have no idea what Edmund Burke meant when he lamented that “the age of chivalry is gone.” Maggie’s Notebook linked to a column by Thomas Hibbs, a dean at Baylor University, reviewing the new Whit Stillman film, Damsels in Distress. Hibbs remarks of contemporary campus customs:

Nowhere is the absence of customs and purpose more evident than in the confusion about relations between the sexes. Dating has nearly vanished from college campuses. How dire the situation has become is evident from a recent piece in Boston College Magazine about the popularity of philosophy grad student Kerry Cronin’s lecture, “10 Reasons You’re Not Dating and What to Do about It.” Cronin reflects on being shocked at one student’s response to her response to the question, “How would you ask someone out on a date?” The student, with notebook and pen in hand, abruptly interrupted Cronin’s initial, somewhat abstract response. “No,” she clarified, “what are the words?”

A very old-fashioned book I once read — written sometime in the late 1940s or early ’50s — offered this simple advice: Date to mate.

That is to say, the entire purpose of dating is to find a spouse. Thus the near-disappearance of dating from the college scene is a symptom of the decline of marriage, which is in turn related to the widespread acceptance of non-marital sex. Yet it seems to me that conservatives keep trying to change the wrong variable in this equation. If we wish to encourage young people to wait until they’re married, we ought not expect them to wait too long to get married. And if they’re not interested in getting married, why are they dating at all?

What is called “dating” was a 20th-century adaptation of what was once called “courtship,” a transition perhaps best explained by the title of a book, From Front Porch to Back Seat. Courtship naturally leads to the altar, and we cannot expect young people to engage in something so quaintly old-fashioned when we insist on placing the altar off somewhere in the far-distant future. Bad habits begin with bad ideas, and most of the ideas young people get about love, sex and marriage from popular culture — or from their peers — are very bad indeed. One nowadays hears talk of “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” while kids are still in elementary school, and we thus hear quite shocking tales about middle-schoolers, while perhaps accounts of the libidinous adventures of high-schoolers shock us much less than they should.

By the time they get to college, a majority of students have long since become “sexually active,” to use the politically correct language for what used to be called screwing around or, even more judgmentally, fornicating. We have lost the language of judgmentalism for fear of being thought sexist or homophobic or otherwise old-fashioned, as if it were a hate crime to tell young folks, “Hey, keep your britches on!”

Perhaps even more disastrously, too many people seem to assume that it is unrealistic even to suggest a high moral ideal, simply because people are apt to fall short of those ideals. Not only is it considered “unrealistic” to say that young folks ought to keep their britches on, but the praise of virtue is nowadays supposed to be psychologically harmful, given the prevalence of vice.

Why, for example, have feminists lately gotten so worked up about “slut-shaming”? Because we might hurt their precious self-esteem!

We wouldn’t want some tramp, vamp, hussy, floozy, or common slut to feel bad about her promiscuity, would we? Perish the thought! Because no matter how harmful to her health or happiness such behavior might be, there is nothing more important than feeling good about yourself — or at least, not having anybody suggest that what you’re doing is wrong, bad, shameful and dangerous. (Don’t even think of saying “sinful,” you christofascist godbag!)

Religious faith, cultural tradition, ancient customs — all of these are strictly forbidden as guidelines for the behavior of Young Moderns, and even ordinary common sense has been cast aside. Your grandmother would have told these girls, “He ain’t going to buy the cow, if he’s getting the milk for free,” but the basic supply-and-demand logic of that equation makes no sense to them. Strange to say, egalitarianism has progressed to the point that quite often the girls are on the demand side of the equation, and any halfway attractive young fellow can scarcely keep up with all the girls craving his amorous attention.

Well, having lectured disapprovingly of what is, I hesitate to conclude by suggesting what ought to be, lest Professor Reynolds should again be shocked that I would offer “dating advice.”

Whit Stillman’s films are subtly didactic, and I’m sure that Damsels in Distress is another excellent lesson. But I also wish young people would watch more old movies, which provide so many wonderful examples of politically incorrect romance.

 

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Comments

  • Anamika

    “It is as absurd to say that a man can’t love one woman all the time as it is to say that a violinist needs several violins to play the same piece of music.” –Honore De Balzac

    I can only add, if a person doesn’t know how to play the violin, handing them a Stradivarius isn’t going to turn them into a great musician!

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    If only I had a dollar for every “piece” of “music” I’ve ever “played” with my trusty “violin”. There have been plenty of times when I played without any “music”. I just “resin” up the old “bow” and “play” by memory.

  • Gary

    Per the definition of love, I accept. I have revived my relationship with my most passionate lover.

    She has now dumped the student she plucked, as a guidance counsellor, from the high school where he attended and she worked, and cuckolded her 2nd hubbie with by moving the student into her home, divorced #2 and married after 7 years and is now on the make once again. I never ceased to love her and was not surprised to see her turn into the preditor that got off scott free, and am going to try and write something about her unusual life experiences.

    I have never seen a person with such meglomania as she is saddled with and the experience is going to be rich and juicey.

    Any ghost writing assistance will be met with renumeration upon publication.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    Aww, isn’t that cute. Anamika has developed a male personality to converse with.

  • Anamika

     This project sounds like trouble ahead. Is one of your “I’s” going to save her? Did all your “I’s” get to vote on this?

    Any ghost writing assistance will be met with renumeration upon publication.

    There’s lots of ghosts here. We’ll all be delighted to assist.

  • Anamika

     Everbody needs some kind of persona to act as a buffer when dealing with a world that is basically indifferent to you, at least on the surface, much of the time.

    (?) Role play.

     It’s good.

    It’s fun.

    It’s healthful.

    And at the end of the day, you can always take off the mask, flop into bed and get a very restful and soothing sleep.

  • gg

    Hey I am also an idiot full of sound and fury–it is just that I no longer identify with many of the idiot “I”s inside and sometimes I do not identify at all–but only for short intervals.

    Really we are all possessed in great measure.

  • gg

    I can only add, if a person doesn’t know how to play the violin, handing
    them a Stradivarius isn’t going to turn them into a great musician!

    Really! And how embarrassing when they try. We should have a TOM’s Got Talent show.
    Just don’t hand me a violin.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    If romance is dead, how come they keep making all these chick flicks?

    Why do people seem to worry so much about Jennifer Aniston?

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     This is really starting to get creepy.

  • Anamika

    Gary, look no further for ghostwriters. Stacy and I and who know who else were just waiting to be asked.

    We wouldn’t dream of letting you toil on so major a work alone. Heck, we will even help decide the casting when it will be made into a major motion picture. Do you have a preference for your role?

    **smiling in happiness at the thought of a project**

  • gg

    Me too! Me too!

     And I’ve got a ghost lurking in the closet that is dying for a project.

  • Gary

     

    We wouldn’t dream of letting you toil on so major a work alone. Heck, we will even help decide the casting when it will be made into a major motion picture. Do you have a preference for your role?

    My aim is to sell this have Meryl Streep play the lead.

    Interviewing my stepmom, with whom I have not spoken for over 10 years will yield the foundation story where it is disclosed that the bible totin mother of the preditor mom has a raging affair with her son-in-law gets knocked up and bears this preditor child. With bible belt fanaticism the mom operateds the trailer park and restaraunt where I live and work for a time just after I get dumped.

    I will need to do lunch with the star and get a bottle or something that has her DNA and also get a sample from one of her four neices or nephews in order to verify that she is indeed the product of her sister’s hubbie and her mom. This should not be too much of a problem.

    My aim is to get a fat amount of American Dollars for this book, script, movie, play. This is such a classic plot and all can be verified with the eyewitness account of my stepmom and the DNA tests.

    The preditor babe has heard the rumors of her lineage, I have even spoken to her about it but she is not too concerned as she is always looking forwards since the past stirs up her tiny conscious.

    I do not know how to introduce the nudie pix however as she was 15 and I 18 when our romance erupted. I hope Stacy McCain can be of some help in that regard.

  • Herman Cain

    With bible belt fanaticism the mom operateds the trailer park and
    restaraunt where I live and work for a time just after I get dumped.

    OK, I can play the preacher!! Oh the Spirit of the Lord is coming well nigh unto me NOW, O Happy Day!!! Halleluia!!!!

    I’m already starting to speak in tongues. La Bashanda Korananda, sayeth the Lord of Hosts!

    Yeah, I really want to do this. I feel that it will be good for my career, I really do. And look, I’ll work for scale!! And Merryl’s name can appear above mine, I have no problem with that at all, needless to say.

    I do not know how to introduce the nudie pix however as she was 15 and I
    18 when our romance erupted. I hope Stacy McCain can be of some help in
    that regard.

    Hey that’s no problem. I can work with you on that. Really. I think there’s a statute of limitations on that sort of stuff, although I’m not really sure.

    Anyway, we can work it out, with the help of Smitty and Wombat_Socho.

    Hey look, I’m really pumped about this project. Especially the nudie pix part. Hey maybe the preacher can get caught with….well, yeah, I got LOTS of ideas.

    Let’s do lunch. I mean e-lunch.

    H

    Praise the Lord!!!!!!!

  • Gary

    OK, I can play the preacher!! Oh the Spirit of the Lord is coming well
    nigh unto me. NOW, O Happy Day!!! Halleluia!!!!

    Mr. Cain  you’d be perfect playin the minister–however he figgered in three years earlier when his daughter seduced me and all the members of our little karass by the sand mines. 

    He would whack his daughters on their heads with a book and have a good romp with his wifie, after a good sermon sunday afternoons. His church still stands, he is long interred. 

    I was crazy for his daughter and being a romantic at the time sent her scented letters each day. Alas she tossed me for a Peruvian Gyno who was interning at Jackson Memorial. She became a nurse and they live comfortably outside Atlanta. 

    Dad always kept a box of French “enablers” in the store room of his filling station, that were huge and grotesque some with horns and faces. We would use them sometimes as well as one of those old two D cell flashlites in out play inside my old trailer ham shack=(amateur radio). She was by far the randyest of all my squeezez. 

  • Wombat_socho

     Cleanup in progress in paper goods…

  • The Preacher

      you’d be perfect playin the minister–however he figgered in
    three years earlier when his daughter seduced me and all the members of
    our

    OK, well this is even BETTER!!

    I see a much more expanded role in this for the preacher.

    I think we should give him more ARC.

    You know, let’s do some back story to show just HOW the preacher’s daughter became such a slut.

    Could it be that she herself was seduced by the preacher and then
    abandoned to Satan when the preacher saw that his daughter had not
    sufficiently repented for having tempted him into committing the almost
    unpardonable sin?

     Also, I want to show the basic conflict that the preacher himself had
    to deal with, having himself been sexually abused a young child by the
    visiting Bishop of his fundamentalist Christain sect.

    BTW, Let’s shoot for an R rating!!

    I’m too old to do nude scenes but you can show me dreaming about them.

    I was crazy for his daughter and being a romantic at the time
    sent here scented letters each day. Alas she tossed me for a Peruvian
    Gyno who was interning at Jackson Memorial. She became a nurse and they
    live comfortably outside Atlanta.

    Yeah, those Southern Baptists are really f***ed up, I know.

    ThePaganTemple can play the Peruvian. Anamika can play the preacher’s slutty daughter.

    She was by far the randyest of all my squeezez.

    Hmmmmm, maybe Meryl Streep would be better, after all.

    Praise the Lord!!!!!!!

    Hey yeah, God is Great. F*** ThePaganTemple. He’s
    going to Hell anyway, but I still he’d make a good Peruvian Gyno,
    nevertheless.

    He could bring a certain….old school romance to the role, which would be good, I think, overall.

    Hey I love these brainstorming sessions.

    I really think we’re making progress.

    I really see this thing shaping up in my mind.

    I want it to open around the Holidays..it’ll serve as a good
    counterweight to all those Feel Good movies that really have no Depth or
    Meaning.

    Yeah, look, I’m really in pretty good shape, come to think of it.

    Why NOT do a few nude scenes, is what I’m starting to think now.

    Yeah, why not???

  • K-Bob

    Sex with strangers or even acquaintances is nothing more than a form of masturbation with another person.  I truly feel sorry for people who’ve never experienced the incredible feedback loop that grows from giving up your entire heart and soul in eternal love and total trust to another who has done the same for you.

    I wouldn’t trade holding hands with my wife for all the hedonistic pleasures possible to the super rich, which I’m certain makes “college sex” seem like the equivalent of smoking cornsilk behind the barn.  In fact, hedonism itself is unable to create the level of pleasure I get from sitting with my wife and talking about the kids.

    And you can trust me on this, because I’ve been a rock musician all my life, and hedonism is rock’s middle name. (If you can parse that phrase, then you’ve probably been there, too.)

    Mao, Hitler, and Stalin, all at the peak of their power and control, could not possibly obtain what two people in genuine love create for themselves.  I think they found out that “having it all” means you don’t.

  • Adobe_Walls

    Because they think they can fool some of the people all of the time. I suspect they are right.

  • Gary

    Re. The Preacher

    You know, let’s do some back story to show just HOW the preacher’s daughter became such a slut.

    At the time panty hose were 6 months away from coming on the market so garter belts wer the norm.

    The “pill” was only a couple of years away and abortion was illegal but most of the class was doing it anyway.

    She was smart, overweight, and a rebel so slutlyness was a given.

    On the “unpardonable sin” part: NO — but she did get often fondled by her family doctor.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Mao, Hitler, and Stalin probably weren’t any more capable of living a hedonistic lifestyle than they were of engaging in a loving two-person relationship based on mutual respect and trust. Hitler’s idea of a rollicking good time was probably brown sugar and raisins on his oatmeal.

  • Tennwriter

    Thank you, K-Bob.  Words to remember.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Thank you.

  • Anamika

    AAAHHHH but love K-Bob, what about love? that unique bond between a man and a woman (OK!) that could at times be expressed by the channel of genital devices and accomplish what we are on this planet for, LOVE, what is life worth otherwise, old and young it makes no difference, the zum-zum will find its zam-zam. This is what we were designed for and so we need to keep the zum-zam going.

    HahaHa! Much hype goes on about love and hearts. Three innocent little lambs have been sacrificed for our sake. So that we can say there but for grace, or luck goes I, and examine our own hearts. The heart is a hungry beast, it wont hesitate to hurt, or steal to eat. No matter how many times you attend the Church, it won’t satisfy that unexamined hunger that one day will make you do things that we thought we were incapable of.

  • Anamika

      Hedomism postulates the pursue of pleasure, and the avoidance of suffering as the supreme good. One can refute that by saying that pleasure, depends on satisfaction of a need–suffering. And, therefore, both pleasure and suffering are inextricably entangled. In this resides the hedonistic paradox.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

     I used to have a paradox, but they flew away.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

     You are one sick puppy.

    Stay ‘way from the White House ’round dinner time,  mmmkay?

  • K-Bob

     You’ve clearly taken a damaged view of love.

    Nothing in human experience–those things you allude to with, “thought we were incapable of”–can compare with the growth of basic human love.  Emptiness cannot be salved by unleashing self-control.

    Here’s what an absence of the very concept of true love leads girls to do.

  • K-Bob

    Yeah, eaten with the smug satisfaction that “the Jewish problem” was being dealt with.

    *shudder*

  • Adobe_Walls

    Why are you discouraging it from kenneling in the White House kitchen?

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Deep down inside, I think there are a lot of people who desire to have romance back in their lives, but we have all been told that it is a foolish, old fashioned notion so none of us is comfortable with admitting it — which leads of course to many not even knowing what it truly is anymore.

    I think the difference has already been well explained by the differing views of K-Bob and “Paganini” here.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Life just hasn’t been the same since I dated Aubrey Plaza

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Hope you had fun with that…cigarette?

  • http://bobagard.blogspot.com/ Bob Agard

    Stacy,
    I am glad you wrote about this. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    Smitty, here’s a song you might like:

    “Is It Guilty In Here or Is It Just Me?”

    http://youtu.be/NO32hWm1Eac

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    “We wouldn’t want some tramp, vamp, hussy, floozy, or common slut to feel bad about her promiscuity, would we?

    Let alone any letch, horndog, cockhound, cooze cruiser, panty-sniffer, lothario, don juan, playboy, jizzmonkey, etc….

    Just leveling the playing field a skosh…

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

     Sorry, I left out roué, voluptuary, libertine….

  • Cal-J

    And landed in my pool. Thanks for the extra bills.

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