Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Old-timey love

I've been trying to formulate my thoughts for a Valentine's Day entry for a couple of days now. I'm no big Valentiner. I've never been in a relationship over any holiday besides Halloween, and even that was long distance. I haven't received Valentines since grade school, and I don't foresee much Valentine's revelry for awhile yet.

That being said, I've known love, in many forms, including the romantic/relationship variety, and the heartbreak when it's gone.

So, my topic? Old timey-love and how I think, in a nutshell, it's the modern equivalent to a hard crush. Because of this, I think we’ve all been in love and/or loved a lot more than we might admit.

I'm mostly basing what I know of old-timey courtship from novels. For the sake of this argument I’m using Pride and Prejudice, but most Austens, Brontes or Dickens will do. Let's take Mr. Darcy. After knowing Elizabeth for an estimated six months he declares his love for her. He loves her. With no reciprocation, he has decided he loves her and asks her to marry him. What would happen these days? Darcy would probably have said "I like you a whole lot, let's go out sometime" and indeed, modern adaptations of said event have made that very change. I also wonder if he'd have "asked her out" sooner, or have chalked it all up to a silly crush and gotten over it before it came to a declaration of love. 

With shorter life spans, infant mortality, and premarital fidelity, old-timey people had to mean business. I’m not sure we’d describe their admiration of each other as a “crush.” Even with Kitty and Lydia Bennet they meant business. Everyone was a prospect for lifelong companionship and procreation (you can argue this is most true of women of the time, rather than men). The jump to love, or at least enough admiration to make a marriage was readily made. Gosh, take a look at Lydia. Not the best example of old-timey values, but she wanted to get married. Now, with ridiculously long lifespans, and a diminishing urgency for marriage, why would we admit to being in love so soon? We don't jump straight to that oh-so-dangerous four-letter word. Why would we? We have plenty of time, and plenty of benefits without "love." I say if a person is physically attracted to another, has an emotional and social connection, and is concerned for that person's well-being more than the average, those are pretty strong ingredients for love. 

I am not saying all the boys or girls you fancied in college were the love of your life, but there's got to be a fella or a lass you might have really crushed on hard, or even dated, that you might not have spoken the words to, but meant much more than a mere fancy. Gosh, how many people have you been in love with? My number's still low, but maybe more than I've admitted to myself. And I'm not saying it's bowl you over, heat of the night, kill yourself love, but on some level I think we love a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. Just me?

But back to old-timey love for a moment. It must be addressed that in the old-timey days some couples just weren't in love, and some couples, based on their dozens of children, were very much in love. Going back to the Darcy example I think he did love Elizabeth after that first six months. Was he ready to accept her as a wife? No, but he loved her. Let's not over-romanticize old-timey love (oddly enough, I don't think that's what I'm getting at). With a good novel there might be love, but the author(ess) lets it continue to develop into what it needs to be. Darcy and Elizabeth have another six months to get on the same page. Anne and Captain Wentworth have eight years, almost all Austens after an initial recognition of love take further months to make it into what it should be, same with the Brontes (here I cite Anne and Charlotte. Emily I do not support as a healthy example of appropriate love).

While I don’t think old-timey persons had the same concept of “crushes” as we do, let’s not ignore that we might label some minor relationships in Pride and Prejudice as crushes. We are told Jane Bennet had a man in love with her when she was 15, and Lydia and Kitty are certainly obnoxious in their fancies for men, and lest we forget Elizabeth’s attraction to Wickham. These were all pretty minor. Going back to my initial point, old-timey love is equivalent to today’s hard crush. I’m talking the kind of crush where you make yourself run into someone, you think about them all the time, you love their face, you notice where they have grey hairs (you know how I roll…), you can’t wait to talk to them about something that reminds you of them, your face hurts from smiling when you’re around them, all of those extra things you do when a crush has developed into something more. Reciprocated or not, the basis of a relationship or not, I say these types of intense crushes border or cross into love territory.

I think we've taught ourselves to undermine and devalue and pervert so many fundamental and simple things that love has become one of them. We've invented "crush" like we've invented "adolescence" and "Mcjob", to label something that's come about with how the times are a-changing. I think deep down we don't want to forever "crush" on someone any more than we really want to have a "fling." Fundamentally and simply put, we want to love and to be loved and any degree of "crushing" is a step to finding that. Indeed, the intense crush I speak of is well on its way to love.

I'm not saying crushes are a bad thing. You have to like someone before you can love them, and there are as many forms of love as there are moments in time (Jane Austen movie quote, anyone? anyone?), but how about we take a good hard look at ourselves, step back from “crushes” and admit to a few more love affairs than we'd like to believe we've had. You know you loved a boy in first grade, why not one a little later on?

So, this Valentine's Day, if you're alone or even if you're not, look at the loves of your life and see if there aren't a few you missed counting. 

1 comment:

  1. Michael (you know the One)February 13, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    Beautiful, Shelby. . . It makes me sad.