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|June 4- June 10, 2009
American romance junkies
by Dale Bridges
When I was in college, I dated a girl who was obsessed with the movie Splash, and even though she would never admit it, I still think part of the reason we broke up was because I couldn’t turn into a fish. Allow me to explain.
You see, there’s this chemical in the brain called phenylethylamine, and it’s pretty much screwing up an entire generation of Americans. Many neurologists believe it is the primary physiological cause of the euphoric feeling humans experience when we fall in love. The passion of that first kiss, the ecstasy of that first slow dance, the utter elation of that first dry hump — these are examples of your brain being flooded with phenylethylamine like cheap heroin pumping through a fresh vein. However, just like any other drug, people build up a tolerance to phenylethylamine over time, and the body requires more and more of the substance in order to sustain the original high. Eventually, couples hooked on phenylethylamine must make a decision: either break up and get your fix from a new dealer or move on to a more mature stage in your relationship. This is why young lovers always seem to be desperately groping each other in public venues, while elderly couples are usually satisfied with a dignified peck on the cheek. Phenylethylamine can make you feel as though everything in your life is perfect, but it’s a short-term sensation.
In America, we have become phenylethylamine addicts. We are romance junkies.
Romantic love is one of those rare transcendental concepts that every human being can relate to, and, therefore, the entertainment industry has decided to beat the public over the head with it until it becomes a completely meaningless cliché. Romantic love is the driving force behind most modern movie plots and the backbone of almost every song on the radio. We hear about it while standing in elevators and shopping for cumquats at the supermarket. Advertisers use romantic love to sell greeting cards and cell phones and chocolate. Every day, we are told repeatedly that love can keep us together, because love is a many-splendored thing, and when love lifts us up where we belong, we discover that all we need is love.
It’s not necessarily that phenylethylamines are evil or that romantic love is a horrible thing (unless you’re talking about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, of course — in that case, it’s just plain creepy). However, currently this one-dimensional, narcissistic Hollywood vision of love completely dominates our social lexicon. You can’t escape it even if you try.
But who cares, right? Who cares if people have impossible expectations from their personal relationships? What harm is there in believing that there is one person out there who will make our lives complete? Isn’t that a good thing?
Let’s consider the ex-girlfriend who was obsessed with Splash. She also had an unreasonably large collection of Journey albums and Cameron Crowe movies. She was constantly making mix tapes for me and forcing me to watch certain climactic scenes in movies that epitomized what she wanted from our relationship (such as that stalker-esque moment in Say Anything when Lloyd Dobler/John Cusack stands outside of Diane Court’s/Ione Skye’s house with that giant boombox blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”).
And to be fair, I willingly participated in her attempts to turn our relationship into a cinematic epic. I bought her flowers for no reason and put cute little notes on her car windshield and burned enough candles to create my own wax museum. However, in the end, she built up an immunity to my phenylethylamines and dumped me for a musician who wrote the type of cheesy love songs she adored.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Well, you’re just bitter and jaded because the girl broke up with you.” And you are partly right. There’s definitely a part of me that hopes she reads this column and realizes what a great catch I was and comes running back so that I can reject her. However, there’s also a part of me that knows my life would have been miserable if we would have stayed together.
In order to explain my reasoning, I must give you an extremely abbreviated plot summary of the movie Splash. Ready? Darryl Hannah mermaid. Tom Hanks man. They fall in love. Hannah gets rid of tail and moves to New York. Eugene Levy crazy scientist. Captures mermaid. Hanks sad.
At the very end of Splash, Hannah must return to her life as a mermaid to escape the possibly life-threatening experiments the federal government wants to perform on her. In order to be with her, Hanks must jump into the ocean and live the rest of his life underwater. Underwater!
This is why I think romantic love has gotten out of control in our culture. It’s not enough anymore to give a girl flowers and tell her you love her. You have to transform yourself into a goddamn fish.
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