Hearts beat fastest in this month of hearts, when you find lovers entangled in an embrace, bodies warm and close, defying the limits of space. Each finds the whole world captured in the other’s eyes; it’s an indescribable feeling that takes both by surprise.
But if you ask John and Mary if this love is pure, both will likely say that they’re not quite sure. It’s a relationship without a name; this is a new generation and love is but a game.
And so the birth of postmodern romance and relationships has taken place. Gone are the days of a relationship being exactly that—a relationship. Young people have flexibly adjusted themselves to accommodate new, modern situations and circumstances: whether they be exclusively dating, enjoying a fling, being friends with benefits, or in a setup that’s complicated. In a world that has been shaping itself for our convenience, so, too, have we reshaped our human interactions. It has become such that we can now adjust the level of our commitment to another, like the level of spiciness in a plate of buffalo wings.
Perhaps it all started with the phenomenon of relationships without labels, as though a relationship were generic medicine you can take to address the initial symptoms; it’s like behaving and feeling as if it were the real deal. But when the moment is ripe to take the relationship to a level of commitment, it gets all nauseous and scary. It seems better to keep things just as they are, so that when the last traces of love (and lust) are gone, it will be easy to switch it all off, unplug the machine, as it were, and move on to the next.
If this vicious cycle of picking and dropping and picking again makes it seem like people are merely swiping in a touch-screen era, it is because it is so much like that: swiping. It is no wonder that a dating app, Tinder, has gained such a foothold in our consciousness, because it simply encapsulates the culture of dating in our smartphones. Tinder is like any other online dating tool, but with the novelty of swiping and browsing through people you may like, or may not. Those who like you back gain the privilege of knowing you. That is, until the next swipe, and you become part of browsing history.
Given, these flings still take some buildup time, and need a certain level of energy for cultivation and maintenance. Maybe there can be time for an eventful date or two, and a hint of romance at one point or another. Some of us can, nonetheless, make do without these details, trading feelings for fun and romance for recreation instead. Enter the glitzy world of friendships with benefits—all fun and games with flickers of fire. It’s like traipsing on the thin line that separates love and lust, while the rest of the world is deep into waters in either of the two.
Amid all this hubris—this soulful neglect for labels and arduous chasing after satisfying our desires—the bubbling hookup culture in our conservative society is starting to emerge, comforting all these lost souls too scared to love but fearless to learn.
I used to feel like we are a fortunate generation. For we are not bound by the conventions and complications that once dictated as “simple” and natural a matter like human relationships. I once felt comforted by the idea that we can stalk an attractive stranger online, find his or her nuances a tad unbearable, and thus move on to other prey. We feel liberated from a culture once bogged down by rules on who and how to love. We can reach levels of physical intimacy that used to be shunned by traditional society. We can capture love like it were tangible, materialize it on our smartphones as a mere app, and repeat the cycle again the next day. We have made this thing called pag-ibig a commodity. Therefore, romantic love, for many of us, now transcends commitment, sex, or personality. We can pass it around for free.
But now, I can’t help but think that this is a generation that will never know true intimacy. We have become too comfortable with unbranded relationships bottled with expiration dates and discarded when they are no longer convenient or useful. We have lived off sleeping around with gorgeous people, finding it unbelievably easy to shed our clothes but are too frightened to bare our souls.
Our revolution to claim boundless, unadulterated affairs has turned us into commitment-phobic individuals, not settling for one person because we can’t settle for our own self. Maybe all these hugot are our insecurities just taking the form of silly truths to be laughed at. Because at the end of the day, we are just as clueless as the past generations from which we feel disconnected. Perhaps even a bit more lost than they.
(Granted, not everyone’s like this. For the fortunate handful, commitments are signed with blood and fire, and the happiness of other people is truly their desire.)
Postmodern romance says it has no labels, but still feels the pang of pain when the other is seen with another. It says this is all fun and games, but can’t wait to be treated seriously. It says “Be mine and be still” in this world of Netflix and chill. It says I’m good only for the night, when it needs someone to hold one till the morning. It says this is the new way of doing things brought by modern times, when all it wants is a feeling that will last until the end of time.
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