In casting off our sexual inhibitions, have we become more inhibited romantically?
It’s a question I pondered plenty during my chaste year, and the New York Times‘s latest ‘Modern Love’ essay has me thinking about it again.
The column offers a weekly glug of reality romance for those who find the happily-ever-after of ‘Vows’ too sugary. May 1st’s was written by Alexis Schaitkin and described how, as a young teacher far from home, she became the object of a Thai student’s florid affections.
He left gifts on her desk, wrote her poems, sent midnight texts. After she returned to New York, he stepped up his verbal courtship via instant messages – several each day.
Having discouraged him but from the start, Schaitkin got firm when he confessed that he wanted her to be the mother of his children. He promptly vanished, leaving her mind turning on dark scenarios. After all, hadn’t he said he couldn’t live without her?
The episode made her realise something. Never mind corny, his epistolary devotion had struck her as ’emasculating, oversweet and maudlin’ at the time. But in its absence, she began to see it differently.
As she says, ‘Maybe this expressiveness seems strange to us, or pathetic. But it has something to teach us, too, about the note of cowardice embedded in our romantic culture, about the intensity of emotion we have a right to, about everything we could say, but don’t.’