Some day, I am (quietly) convinced that we will treat the pop lyrics of the 1980s the same way we currently treat the writings of Nostradamus. Some of them seemed to actually predict the future, you know; "Are 'Friends' Electric?" Asked Gary Numan, decades before our tablets and smartphones became our favourite sidekicks. Alison Moyet's Love Resurrection actually featured the phrase 'show me One Direction' long before Harry Styles was even born. And Howard Jones reflected on love in 1983 in much the same way I have come to think about it all these years later in 2018. What is love, anyway? Does anybody love anybody, anyway?
February is the arbitrarily-designated Love Month (well, they had to fill the shelves with something between the sugar-orgies of Christmas and Easter), and in a way, it's a perfect symbol of what romance is; a fashionable marketing ploy that has about as much to genuinely do with love as chocolate orange has to do with the birth of Jesus.
Because romantic love, the kind that we've been really encouraged to buy into and to not settle for anything less than, is essentially a product of the industrial revolution. Yes, that thing that sells novels and films by the bucketload and keeps Hallmark in business is as much a product of popular culture as hair straighteners and leisure wear. And 1D, come to think of it.
Prior to that, marriage was something arranged between the families of the couple involved for boring and mundane reasons such as having enough food to eat or shoring up a bit of capital (it still is, in some places). Back then, people thought of passionate love as a kind of intrusive, unwanted sickness; the psychological equivalent of a seventeenth century Katie Hopkins, if you will. It was only when society moved more from an agricultural model to an industrial one that people began to pick partners for different reasons. Well, men anyway. It would still be a couple of hundred years before women had the same kind of independence.
Which is all well and good, but by the time the twentieth century rolled round, the media had cottoned on to the idea that romance could be used to sell just about anything. The result was that popular culture became saturated with romantic films, books, soap operas, songs about unrequited love. We were sold an unrealistic idea about what relationships were and what we should expect from them. We all believed it should be like it was in the movies.
And often it was- in the beginning, at least. Because ultimately, that's all you ever really see in the love stories- the people getting together after beating whatever odds they had to overcome to seal their union. We never saw the couples ten years down the line where one of them was sick of the other one's irritating laugh and they hadn't had sex in a year. We just saw that first kiss, or that first admission of love, and as our endorphins careened around our bodies shrieking 'You too can have this, 24/7!' we vowed to accept nothing less than a love that didn't feel like it somehow completed missing bits we didn't even know we had.
Our relationships started well, but we didn't know how to sustain them. When the shine wore off we were left with a feeling of boredom and disappointment. When people fell off their pedestals and became human in our eyes we found it curiously repulsive. Who wanted a normal person, with normal quirks and normal smells and a weird love of the Screwfix catalogue (waaaaaaaay less interesting than the name suggests, if you're not familiar with it)?
It's no wonder, really, that Tinder was born off the back of this disillusionment, no wonder that everyone found themselves relentlessly swiping right, reluctant to progress text messages to actual face-to-face meetings. That's if you even got a text message...They say a picture is worth a thousand words; if that's true, penises have said more about romance since the early 2010s than Shakespeare ever could. Maybe they're just being honest.
Now, I'm not saying in any way that romance in and of itself is bad or wrong. Nor that we should choose our partners for any other reasons than that we think they're pretty great and that we can be happy together. What I am saying is that the idea of the all-encompassing, breathless 'holy' relationship that will fill us up, validate our existences and erase all our demons, whilst simultaneously continuing to set our hearts and loins aflutter for the rest of our natural lives, is a bit rich. Relationships take work. They lose their magic only to be replaced by something more solid. If we let them, that is.
But if romance as we have come to think of it is dying, perhaps its not a bad thing. There's evidence everywhere that we're waking up to a more real version of love, one that is more embracing of all relationships, rather than just one unattainable ideal. People are beginning to see the true value of human connection, of community. We're celebrating more diversity. The patriarchy is being eroded. We're starting to question the motives of the same media that we have been spoon-fed by for all these years. No one laughs at people who do yoga or meditate anymore. We are, dare I say it, waking up.
And yes, we also live in a world where Donald Trump is president, but consider this; history shows us again and again that radical change for the better tends to come about after society has been faced starkly with the alternative. And Donald Trump has quickly proved himself to be that grim alternative, and a whole lot more.
Are we living in a post-romantic world? Possibly, and it may well be for the best.