Valentine’s Day: Love 2.0

Love calls, like the wild birds
It’s another day
A spring wind blew
My list of things to do away

“Spring Wind” by singer/songwriter Greg Brown

~ ~ ~

We now know love is little more than a chemical imbalance. (Thanks a lot for the buzzkill, science.) Which explains the crazy behavior observed among those afflicted. People really do fall “madly” in love.

Anthropologist Helen Fisher put it this way: There is no human culture on Earth that has been proven not to know the phenomenon of romantic love.

Due to ethical concerns, much of what we know about love comes from animals. Researchers found a gene in the monogamous prairie vole that was not present in the libertine montane vole. But insert a little genetic manipulation, and – voila! – Mr. Vole saw Mrs. Vole in a whole new light.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why human evolution would favor gals who have a man bringing home the big game over gals who have to hunt with babies hanging on their hips.

But it’s more than just genes. There are also the neurons in the brain. With the help of MRI scans, researchers have concluded that love is a reward-based system, not unlike crack cocaine.

And when we get dumped? Scans reveal activity normally associated with “physical pain, obsessive-compulsive behaviours, controlling anger, and regions that we use when we are trying to speculate on what someone else is thinking,” reports the Royal Society of Chemistry. “Far from switching off the brain activities involved in the previous romantic bliss, Fisher finds that ‘it also appears that when you get dumped you start to love your rejecting partner even harder’.”

Ain’t it the truth! (The gods must have their fun, I suppose.)

Once upon a time, wives were little more than slaves, consorts and beasts of burden. Not until ancient Roman civilization could women choose their husbands. Later marriage became a tool of the aristocracy to increase and secure their holdings.

Today women make up the majority of the workforce, and are breadwinners in two-thirds of homes. Since the 1950s, the number of married Americans has dropped steadily, while the number “living in sin” has gone up by a factor of 10.

Shacking up is not just for the young, who want to try out married life before committing. Some middle-aged and elderly men and women choose to forgo the paperwork, so as not to adversely affect pension income and other benefits. In 2008, 41 percent of births took place outside of marriage, mostly to mature, well-educated mothers, in defiance of the welfare-queen stereotype.

Despite these statistics, the marital-industrial complex, clocking in at 2.5 million weddings a year ($40 billion annually), appears to be as healthy as ever. Average amount spent on nuptials went from about $2,000 in 1945 to almost $29,000 in 2007. Budgets dipped to $19,000 in 2009, but in 2010 they went up again, to $24,000. No doubt wedding professionals are proponents of gay marriage, a market that has yet to be fully tapped.

It was in the 1920s that this industry really took off. To this day, most weddings involve multiple contracts with various local entities. Enter the wedding planner. The work formerly done by the bride and her mother is now often done by a hired professional who charges 10 to 15 percent of the cost of the wedding.

Even as society has changed, marriage ceremonies kept reinventing themselves. Thanks to technology, couples now have an array of low-cost options. There’s the webcast wedding, useful in this age of job migration. The destination wedding, often in Las Vegas or a tropical setting. The surprise wedding (the family is surprised, not the bride and groom) disguised as an engagement or birthday party.

For the environmentally conscious, there’s the green wedding. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, now recovering from her gunshot wound in Houston, wore a second-hand dress at her 2007 wedding to astronaut Mark Kelly.

Make room for one more addition: The flash-mob wedding. This video is no prank or advertisement. The uploader replied: “I wish we could act that well. Yes, in fact it’s all real. The bride, the groom, the love, the sloppy dancing.”

The couple could have spent a million bucks, but I don’t think they could have done any better.

Divorce parties, “the final frontier in the wedding industry complex,” says Wikipedia, have not really caught on. Imagine that.

The United States leads the world in divorce rates. The lower divorce rates of the past (and still today, in some parts of the world) have more to do with the subjugation of women than healthy relationships.

The chestnut that the family that prays together stays together is not necessarily true. Evangelical, non-denominational Christians have the highest divorce rate at 34 percent. (But that could reflect an intolerance of cohabitation, and a greater acceptance of teens getting married.)

After that come Jews at 30 percent and Baptists at 29 percent. About 21 percent of atheists, agnostics, Lutherans and Catholics get divorced.

The Bible Belt has a higher divorce rate than the Northeast. In 1999, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas declared a “marital emergency.” He wanted to cut divorce in half by 2010. The program failed. The divorce rate in Arkansas is the second-highest in the country, exceeded only by divorce-friendly Nevada.

In 1931 Nevada cut the residency requirement for would-be divorcees to six weeks, and after thatdivorce ranches began popping up, especially in Reno. According to one report, women “often they found themselves trashing their housewife dresses for jeans and boots, flirting and drinking and dancing in a way that would have been considered improper back home.”

Way to make a girl lust for a bygone era!

High divorce rates don’t faze the wedding planners. More divorces mean second weddings to plan. So what if the first one didn’t work out? Fun fact: Of all the states, residents of Texas are the most likely to have married three times.

I started this post with a song, and I think I’ll end it on one: “The Book of Love” by the Magnetic Fields, sung here by Nataly Dawn.

[originally published by Politics Daily in 2011]

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About Quixotic Chick

I write. I take pictures. I survived cancer.
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