Sunday, January 23, 2005

Beyond Romance

This is the name of an article in the December 2004 issue of Utne. I read it a few weeks ago during one of mine and Isaac's hung-over breakfast bondings at Filter.

Beyond Romance: Nine types of everday relationships that are more intimate than you think.

This title intrigued me and it was a thought-provoking article-but probably not in the way the author intended.
  1. Coffee shop connection (customer--barista)
  2. Circle of friends
  3. Bumper-sticker bonding (N/A--no actual interaction)
  4. Co-worker confidants
  5. The new homosociality (The ability of guys to be close friends with one another without people assuming they are gay. This is new? Weirder is that it cites Sam and Frodo--didn't everyone joke that they were gay? I know I kept wanting the hobbits to kiss.)
  6. The Mother-Nanny Relationship
  7. Animal kingdom (pets)
  8. Object relationship "Armed with cellphones, iPods, and Blackberrys, we have become the people we used to hate. Card-carrying Luddites notwithstanding, most people these days would be lost without the various objects they see simply as extension of themselves."
  9. Cyber Fan Clubs "The ubiquity of chat groups, Web sites, and blogs devoted to tracking our various celebrity obsessions means that armchair connoisseurs can, as never before, ooh and aah with each other over their favorite musicians, filmmakers, and artists, forging an intimacy based on mutual unrequited love for one another.

OK--so there's the background about this article. I've only read this issue, but it seems to gear towards the Conscious Choice, Whole Foods, educated, progressive, green, New-aged crowd. The back cover is an ad for an SUV hybrid--and I think this best illustrates the demographic as the people who are eager to spend, spend, spend more money for the causes they believe in, but are not willing to give up any component of their typical American Dream.

Different relationships irked me for several different reasons. First--the barista and mother-nanny relationships assume a pretty damn high level of income. Sure the Utne readers may get their caffeine from an indpendent coffee shop instead of Starbucks, but they have still decided to spend almost $1000 annually on coffee, and probably get it 'to go' in a disposable cup (260 disposable cups a year + sleeves or double-cupping). Great. The mother-nanny assumption is fucking crazy, but the actual commentary was good because it discussed the employment/exploiting issue, considering that so many of the nannies are immigrants. Still, nannies!?! I still think that nannies are for the elite and really quite creepy.

I don't have a cell phone and don't plan on getting one anytime soon. I don't want an iPod and I will run screaming from a Blackberry. Shit--I had to look up what exactly a Luddite was, to see if I should be offended or inquire as to where my membership card was. I guess my eschewal of cars and cell phones might make me qualify, but I pretty much adore the internet, which nixes my acceptance by true Luddites.

Anyway...back to the idea of relationships with objects--this is totally fucked up. People see these little electronic boxes as an extension of themselves? iPods are storage devices that access music--I don't feel a special relationship with file cabinets, drawers or CD players. Same with phones and email--they are communication tools. Tools are meant to facilitate human actions--they are not a party in a relationship. Seriously people--step away from the fucking gadgets if you are developing a 'relationship' with them.

Same thing for people who develop an obsession with celebrities--get a life of your own. Please--for your sake and for society. What other activities or relationships are people forgoing in their own lifes when they are vicariously living through celebrities, or when their actual personal relationships are based on mutual vicarious celebrity? This is sick and seems to tie in with the iPod phenomena. Both celebrate commercialism and celebrity disguised as individualism and creativity. Create your own damn music/art/experiences instead of wearing other peoples as a badge. Or at least worship the 'art' itself instead of the celebrity* or the little shiny box you store it in.

Now that the rant is over, it is time for me to shine this light on my own life. The first things that come to mind are email, blogs and bicycles.

I check my email often during the day--who says I wouldn't be a cell-phone junkie if I had one?

I also write this blog and read other people's. Besides my brothers, I never expect to meet these people. Sure it is a hell less superficial to read these people's thoughts than to obsess about who some celebrity kissed or what she wore, but it really isn't very interactive nor does it enhance the relationships in my life that deserve extra effort. Typing my own blog doesn't bother me too much, because there have been several times in my life when I have kept a journal, and I think it is a good practice for me. Writing issues down often forces me to clarify my thoughts and confront my hypocracy in a way that just thinking about them doesn't. Plus it also put's me in my place when I discover how whiney, bitchy, doormattish, weak, shallow, mean or inconsiderate I was after reading old entries. Overall, I don't know how blogs cut--I guess a lot of it depends on the content I am reading and writing.

Another question is whether blogging affects people's real relationships positively or negatively. I can imagine it cutting both ways. In a way, blogging is an outlet for people to share and receive advice and support independent of the actual people in their lives. This certainly can be helpful if it teaches insight and empathy towards others, without any personal interests at stake to muddy the waters. However, it may also give people an excuse to avoid developing true intimacy with their real friends and family because their internet connection fills the need adequately. I can imagine this leading to icky situations where people interact with one another in person on a very supercicial, but frequent, level while basically remaining strangers. Couples have already found enough ways to live together and share experiences, but fail to connect--now it may be even easier to mentally log out of the relationship while still physically participating.

On to bikes. Do I consider my bike as an extension of myself? Often when I am riding it, and I miss it when I am out of town. Is it the bike that I miss or the riding? Obviously I can't ride without a bike, but how attached am I to the bike itself? Hard to say. Seeing it often makes me happy, even when I am not taking it for a spin--but memories of previous rides and anticipation of rides yet to come certainly must play into my reaction. Perhaps my current bike is not where the trouble lies--but my yet unknown future road bike may get wrapped up in some weird way with my identity. I'll have to stay on guard.

This blog entry is quite unsatifying for me because I don't feel like I have fully thought through this article. It still irks me, but I have a 'tip of my tongue' sensation that indicates I have missed an important point that could tie it together for me. There may be more on this subject.

* Certain artists deserve more consideration than others. The celebrities and artists that I am referring to are the omnipresent, no-talent types that generally grace magazine-covers and are usually only discussed because of their romantic life, wardrobe and/or hairstyles.


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