— Bud Norman
Today is Valentine’s Day, which obliges us to forgo our usual glum political and economic assessments in order to address the matter of people falling in love.
People do still fall in love, we presume. Not often in our circle of acquaintances, at least not lately, and not even an old school chum who used to fall in love with an exasperating frequency, but there must be somebody out there still doing it. Many of the people we have Facebook-befriended announce on their pages that they are in a relationship, which is not necessarily the same as falling in love, as we understand the modern parlance, but surely a few of these vaguely familiar people must be feeling some deep emotion or another.
The lack of romance among the company we keep isn’t just a result of advancing age. We make a point of socializing with the young folk from time to time, and have found them generally disinclined to fall in love. Indeed, the young nowadays are often quite cynical about the very idea. There seems to be some “hooking up,” as the youngsters so delicately put it, but that’s also not necessarily the same as falling in love, and judging by the hard luck stories we’re forced to endure there doesn’t even seem to be as much of that as in the past.
If you’ll forgive the brief interjection of a glum political and economic assessment, the younger set’s romantic desires might be constrained by its bleak financial prospects. Parents’ basements are notoriously lousy bachelor’s pads, wining and dining are increasingly expensive, and the prospect of parenthood is downright daunting to a debt-laden twenty-something with an unmarketable bachelor’s degree. The contemporary aversion to romance seems to have predated the economic downturn, however, and even the most financially well-off young people we know seem content to parlay their success into a series of relationships rather than fall in love.
Perhaps it’s a consequence of all the divorces over the past many years, something our young friends mention with depressing regularity, or the sweeping social changes that have obliterated the traditional sex roles and mating rituals without having settled on any universally recognized new ones. There certainly isn’t much falling in love going on in the popular culture, where romance once ruled but is now reviled. Violence is more common across the cultural spectrum than any kind of love, and there’s usually an ironic detachment from both.
We no longer keep up with the latest pop music, which is even more of a young person’s pastime than falling in love, but what little we hear of it as we scan across the radio dial is more likely to be an angry screed than a soulful declaration of love. The couples on the television sit-coms seem to insult one another constantly. Romantic comedies remain a popular movie genre, but they always seem to find the notion of romance comedic. Romance novels still sell in large numbers, but are not considered respectable. There might be romantic poetry in print, but no one reads poetry.
— Bud Norman