I hate romance. I despise how society prioritizes romantic love above all else: how romance pervades almost every song on the radio, how we have a separate romantic “relationship” status on Facebook, how we glamorize marriage as the ultimate act of commitment, placing it far above friendship. A large part of my now-21-year-old self thinks romance just serves as a patriarchal ploy; another part of me feels repulsed by giving into a clear-cut social construction like romance.
But I want it. No matter how much I fight it – no matter how much logic or self-love I throw at it – I still want it. Sometimes, I want romance so much it hurts.
How can I desire something I dislike so much? I want to experience romance, the intertwining of physical and emotional connection within one bond. But I detest the notion of allowing romance to influence my upcoming grad school search, when I have always prioritized my career and my service to others above all else. I revolt against thinking so much about romance when I could spend my time volunteering, researching, and writing instead.
I used to think that we all used romance, like drugs and sex and video games, to safeguard us from our insecurities. And while some may indeed do just that, I feel secure in myself: I have confidence in my strength, my values, and the ares I must work to improve. I just want more. I want romance.
In her most empowering, flawless, and romance-driven album yet, Ariana Grande includes a super fierce lyric in her song “Bad Decisions”: “Ain’t you ever seen a princess be a bad bitch“? Through asking this question, she asserts that, yes, she and other women can be more than one thing, both pretty and pristine as well as powerful and dangerous. Grande embodies this nuanced message throughout the album, singing her heart out about desire and heartbreak and contentment, all under the umbrella of asserting autonomy.
I can want romance while detesting how much society emphasizes it. Conflicting feelings can coexist; you can survive cognitive dissonance. As Ariana drives home in “Bad Decisions,” everyone can be more than one thing. I can confront the fear of never finding a man who will satisfy me while also celebrating all of my dear friends and mentors who have supported me so well. I can jam out to spectacular pop music about attraction while researching the underlying social implications of romance. I can claim my desire without any hesitation – yes, I want this, so what? – and empower myself as a result.
As the years have gone by, I have grown more comfortable tolerating discomfort. In Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart, the spiritual leader advocates for sticking with challenging feelings, embracing pain instead of running away from it. Delving into pain has proven worthwhile for me – doing so has helped me to overcome my eating disorder and my trauma, to improve as an aspiring psychologist and writer, and to live with empathy and compassion. Accepting and sticking with the multifaceted challenges of life brings pain, as well as joy and sorrow and satisfaction. May 21 bring many worthwhile challenges, both romance-related and not.
I could not have made it this far without all of your support, so thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment on and to read this blog over the years. Did you do anything crazy to celebrate your 21st birthday – or are you planning to? How do you feel about romance? Also, I forgot to mention that I once had a girlfriend many years ago before I came to terms with my sexuality (a story for another post). Hope you all have a fabulous day today, and see you all soon!