Baby, All I Want for Christmas is You: The Consumerism Dating Culture6:00:00 AMCatherine Beigel
Christmas time. The most wonderful time of the year. Somehow it also seems to bring out the radical consumerism that has become one of the hallmarks of American culture. In my family, the wish lists have all been neatly organized on Amazon with links to make sure there are no mistakes. My sister wants a titanium steel apple watch series 2… 42mm, please don’t bother with 38mm.. with a saddle brown leather band. With all the specifications, and expectations preset it’s a borderline disaster when she opens it Christmas morning and someone accidentally purchased the exact watch in rose gold.
Much like the consumer society of Christmas, we’ve begun to turn our romantic relationships into an itemized checklist. I’m all about the gingers, and a sense of humor is key. I want someone with a sense of adventure and some muscle tone; although, if he spray tans and goes to body building shows he’s not for me. I could go on, but the point being, we try relationships on to see if they fit based on a preassigned set of qualities. Similarly to how it usually turns out when I’m shopping, the latest clothing fads don’t actually look that good on my non-model body. Yet somehow we’ve allowed ourselves to idealize love, and have begun to base our desires off of what mainstream culture tells us we need. Turning the beloved into a product who satisfies our needs and expectations predefined by Cosmopolitan magazine has removed from him or her the value of their individuality. What happens when they no longer make us look good? Or when our desires shift? Do we throw them away and move onto the next relationship?
It’s time for the revival of love. A love which sees the broken aspects of a person and continues to love them anyway. Discovery of the imperfections of the other is not the moment to walk away, but an opportunity to enter into fuller deeper, truer, love. Love cannot become a checklist. A person will never fit into a box that way.
“There is no more basic misunderstanding of love than the idea that it involves the surrender of oneself to another person in order to achieve happiness.” (3)
It is this notion I often fall into as well. In pursuit of my own happiness I look at what will make me happy and then set out in pursuit of finding a partner who will satisfy those desires. If this sounds familiar, I would not be surprised. It is a mindset perpetuated by our culture. However, it reveals our lack of understanding of love’s true essence.
“Happiness does not come from union with another because of the love I bear him. Happiness is love’s outcome, never its motive… It is therefore love’s essence, wherever it is found, that the loved one seem precious, beautiful, and worthy of love.” (5)
It seems then that I could still search out one who possesses qualities that I view as precious, beautiful, and worthy of love. I think that there is some truth in that. There may be a specific kind of person with whom I would be better suited to see their beauty, preciousness, and worth. This does not mean I can condense these qualities into an all-inclusive list. The human person is irreducible. Capable of being understood, they cannot be comprehended. There is a unique unrepeatability within each person and an infinite depth. Hildebrand discusses this in the language of value,
“This has to do with something central, a datum of worth, which is actually supplied by many vital, spiritual and moral values. This datum can never be reduced to such values, nor ever be formulated as they can. But this is because a person’s overall beauty cannot be classified.” (6)
Woah I almost lost myself in some of the philosophical language, but please bear with me and let me explain. Each individual is in possession of unique set of values based in their individuality, but their worth as a person cannot be reduced to these virtues alone.
Applying that to love, we love when we see the preciousness, beauty, and worth of the beloved. I'm not in love with a mop of ginger hair. I’m not in love with a sense of humor. I’m in love with a person. I perceive and respond appropriately. Not as a means to my own happiness, although that is an effect of the love.
Perhaps this blog post did not convince you to throw out the list of qualities you desire in a significant other, but I’m not sure if I intended you to either. However, I hope you and I together can continue to cultivate an awareness for the value of fellow human persons. Perhaps we can open our options to appreciate values that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, and to learn this Christmas Season what it is to love another for their own sake.
(1) Image one
(2) Image two
(3) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Man, Woman, and the Meaning of Love pg. 11
(4) Image three
(5) Hildebrand, pg. 11
(6) Hildebrand, pg. 13
(7) Image four