Thursday, March 4, 2010

love in the time of facebook

another February come and gone. and with it, another valentine's day. it is not something i care about that much, other than just the passing of another season, another year. i've never found valentine's day particularly meaningful. my interests begin and end around the time of cereal box mailboxes and folded cartoon note cards. that's not to say i haven't had memorable vdays in the past. a couple romantic, but mostly filled with good friends and, more often than not, good drinks. and because the day has never much mattered one way or the other, i never minded that i was always someone's second choice date-- a fellow female to lament the state of men, or as a standby girl-friend to substitute for the one-who-got-away.

while the juggernaut of vday marketing doesn't register through my hard shell (ha.) a wedding for two complete strangers left me gushing.  there i was, helping to cater, wearing a ridiculous "i love ny" tee-shirt over my dress, and i was grinning ear to ear and even tearing up.  i would question my hormones, except this particular stranger-wedding seemed geared right to my heartstrings. hand me the drink of the evening-- a bloody mary!- and let me look around.

the couple charmingly transformed raw space in midtown with just the right touches of humor and love. that's what you get with artsy friends and a photographer fiance. the best part was the projection screened home-made "chapel." i immediately fell in love with these people. from the time people started to arrive, a collage of beautiful photos flitted across the wall to the live accordionist's improvisation. if i ever get married, i think i have to have this.  when it was time for the ceremony to start, the photos segued into a short film of the couple cavorting through the city as they "made their way" to the wedding. the film ended with them rushing off to the site as the actual couple ran into the building.

i was pleasantly surprised by their officiant, as well. he didn't linger on religion or scripted parables, but spoke from the heart without being overly touchy feely. when he told us about the couple's "meet cute" i just about fell over. ("meet cute" : the moment in a rom-com when the fated couple first meet, however unlikely).  they met when they both visited their siblings working in south africa. his brother and her sister ended up getting married. 10 days together in africa and they fell in love. (watch them speak for themselves on NY Times  and sigh)

things like this never happen to me!

unsurprisingly, i find myself musing on the world of love as i go through my familiar up and down swings. the cross waves of engagements and love affairs, pictures i shouldn't see and books i'd sworn off in the fading hue of February's rose colored glare, i ask:

what is love?

in CNN's totally unoriginal article What your heart and brain are doing when you're in love journalist Elizabeth Landau gets it right out of the way "Poets, novelists and songwriters described it in countless turns of phrase, but at the level of biology, love is all about chemicals." well, that was insightful.

yes, indeed, study after study reveal that "love" literally stinks.

it's all in the pheromones, baby. i recently immersed myself in that pit of adolescent soft-core fantasy that is  Twilight. ms. meyer's can't resist beating us over the head with the pheromones of her lovers. page after page of how delicious both vampire and human smell to each other.  interestingly, she doesn't talk much about how they look. yes, the vampires are all exquisitely beautiful, but for our main girl Bella it's just scent. 

"They have a name for someone who smells the way Bella does to me. They call her my singer—because her blood sings for me." ~ edward

barf. why exactly are there hordes of screaming females following Robert Pattenson around town?

as a child, my mother says i used to describe people by how they smelled. while i don't remember this exactly, and my mother does have a tendency to hyperbole, i sense (pun intended) that i did and still do have a strong affinity for smell. mostly the smells of a person or place just stay in the background, once identified easily ignored. but every now and then someone hits me all together too strongly either good or bad.  and i don't mean just the unwashed crazy person on the subway  or the fancy person slathered with fancy cologne.

no it is something else. something elemental. it is very hard for me to get along with someone who's inherent scent disagrees with me, though i think an attractive perfume can disguise this a bit, just as i have been drawn inexplicably to men or women with the right smell.

one doctor puts it clearly: "For men the first point of attraction is always going to be visual. Interestingly, research shows that for women smell is their primary attractant to a man." but beyond just smelling good, there is also a suggestion that we can smell out the best genetic match.  a study in Switzerland had 44 men wear a shirt for 2 nights straight--with no aftershave, cologne, deodorant, etc. then they passed the smelly shirts on to 49 women who rated the shirts' attractiveness. they found that:

"Far more often than chance would predict, the women preferred the smell of T-shirts worn by men who were immunologically dissimilar to them. The difference lay in the sequence of more than 100 immune system genes known as the MHC, or major histocompatibility complex. These genes code for proteins that help the immune system recognize pathogens."

unfortunately, they've also shown that women's birth control hormones suppress our body's ability to accurately assess these instinctual responses. some doctors even speculate that this is a contributing factor to the rise in divorce rates.ah well.

and if love is just a smell, it can easily be faked.

i especially love the Journal Evolution and Human Behavior that showed that "strippers who are ovulating average $70 in tips per hour; those who are menstruating make $35; those who are not ovulating or menstruating make $50."

it is simply not fair that the event of love can be so damn addicting. one report showed brain scans of people "newly in love"  showed "a complex system in the brain is activated that is essentially the same thing that happens when a person takes cocaine."  i suppose our Utopian futures have all gotten it right--you gotta ban love right along with uncontrolled substances if you are going to have a stable society. you've gotta  institutionalize sex, babies... life and death, a la Huxley or William Nolan.

and it's just too damn easy these days to keep that dirty little love secret. even when you've kicked the major habit, its too easy to sneak a quick fix. it's like the friend who bums a cigarette, "but only when i'm drunk!"  well, it's still not good for you. still eats away at your lungs. those MRIs that show active pain response when a person is subjected to pictures of past lovers?

yeah, well, hello inappropriate facebooking! digital self flagellation!  hooray!

1 comment:

  1. You did not like the smell of yellow either. It was the most puzzling thing. Don't forget the "peep a boo man". No wonder you have looked so carefully at all of these factors related to love so carefully-but beware-just when you think it won't happen, it might!



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