vrijdag 20 november 2015
the greatest love of all: one playful moment in time
i believe the children are our future.. -whitney houston's greatest love of all is the most tragic song in pop-history. think about it: whitney's child, daughter bobbi kristina, died a short period after her mother, in more or less the same way -they both were found dead in a bathtub. as for the rest of the lyrics of this song, listen to them: it won't make you think of a life like whitney's. but how could we live the greatest love of all, when we are told to live and love like whitney, for this one purpose: romantic love?
born in 1982, i grew up in the 80's and 90's listening to the radio. my earliest memory is of sitting at the table in the living room, coloring or dwawing something, with my mother in the background doing stuff. my mother always listened to popmusic on the radio (she was only in her 20s then) and so i heard it too. whereas madonna was my big idol, and I had my own cassettes with her songs on it which i begged my mother to play over-and-over again, whitney has always been around too. i found her voice so beautiful, but for some reason I never wanted to 'come out' as a whitney-fan. madonna was way cooler, i guess.
when i was 13, i had a crush on a boy from my neighbourhood. i never spoke to him of course, but he had a scooter and i saw him crossing round town on it, and everytime he suddenly appeared i got so nervous i fell off my bike or drove it into the bushes. must be love right? at night, i listened to whitney, whitney houston's famous hitrecord which my mother had bought back in '86, on my discman. didn't we almost have it all and where do broken hearts go were the songs i listened to most, while i fantasized about the scooterboy noticing me and smiling at me. (yeah that's it. no kissing, no dancing, no talking even. i was so innocent.)
i use these 2 memories to explain my fascination for whitney, which remained throughout my life. later in the 90's, she came back with her famous bodyguard record and movie, and i found myself being mesmerized by her appearence again. this time, i think i loved looking at her more than listening to her songs though.
when I heard about her death 3 years ago i was shocked..the tragedy was complete. i think whitney stands for the extreme terror ending of living the perfect romantic love, and i think i was influenced by this, which is quite the bitch about tragedies -they influence people with illusions they keep up.
i internalized the lyrics i heard when i was drawing as a little girl. i thought 'this must be love, and it seems like the most important feeling in the world'. for whitney, this was the case. she married a man named bobby brown, and i think there are not a lot of people who take their wedding vows as serious as she did. she stood by her man. (he is still alive now, and he is a dickhead) i don't think whitney was very intellectually gifted, but i do have a strange sort of respect for her and the choices she made. she stuck to the plan. and because the whole world wanted to take over her life, which is what comes with the fame, all she could do (like so many others did) was to claim agency by taking drugs and booze. the other tragic of course being that the drugs and booze will take the last piece of agency you have away from you anyhow. her death was a combination of bad luck and a body that is very fragile because of all the drugs and alcohol it had to deal with: she took a bath after snorting some coke and drinking something, she slipped, hit her head and drowned in the bathwater. could happen to anyone, really. just like the tragedy of romantic love could happen to any girl (m/f).
with this writing, i want to talk about the ideal of the romantic love that whitney (together with disney, society, my mother, etc.) got into my head. because we now know where it leaded her, and i think i decided a decade ago that i didn't want to end up like her. but there is of course always beauty in tragedy..and we need to talk about new forms of beauty to start seeing them.
a lot of feminist philosophers and writers have written about the burden of romantic love, in search of other stories. a while ago i read all about love (2001) by bell hooks, in which she explores the rather complex and abstract topic. what is love? for hooks, it is certainly not something you can make a hierarchy of, with the love for that one significant other at the top. hooks thinks that f.i. friendship is a form of love highly underappreciated. she states that women often take shit (i re-phrased freely) from men that they would never take from a friend, all because of the destructive hanging-on to the romantic ideal. i think whitney is the living proof this and i very much agree. but, instead of discussing when love is 'wrong' or 'destructive' (which i think is very important to do, and must not be neglected, but i want to get to my point more quickly), i would like to go beyond this and look for other affirmative narratives on love.
simone van saarloos is the latest dutch philosopher who wrote about this, and gives us a lot of empowering sources to live by. i am a big fan, i think she captures a very important aspect of emancipation for both men and women of our times. for me the ethical slut bij janet hardy and dossie easton (1997) was an important source to start with, but i could not really relate to the stories it showed me. written by two women from a different generation, it gave me the feeling this ethics belonged to a certain time and place, and i couldn't think of a place like that in store for me, right now. still, the loving-ethic and the reflections on jealousy, sex-positivism and vulnerability were a major breakthrough for me personally.
but van saarloos i like even better, because she is a philosopher, and most of all, of my generation. her book is called the monogamous drama and pleads for being single forever. van saarloos doesn't want the romantic love story, because she thinks being single is not a phase in which you search for the next love, but a status that can be cherished because it gives you the chance to love and live, playfully. she claims that relationships have become too static, rigid, serious. i couldn't agree more. to 'play' is my favourite thing in the world: to play with the diversity of relationships i have -friends, random people passing by, lovers- and the challenge to keep it a 'fair play', which is sometimes very hard. to be honest about feelings, to communicate with integrity, and to not be afraid of being rejected or maybe even more important: to not be afraid of your dark sides. whitney lost her playfulness, took her love very seriously, and was very afraid of her dark side. beautifully tragic, but not something to teach our children (which are indeed, our future).
well, i still want that one moment in time, when i am more than i thought i could be. i think it is now my favorite whitney-song (of course we are still talking about my guilty pleasures now), because it is not about love for one person. and especially if you think of this moment to be a very small one moment in time, it could happen everyday. everyday we can be more than we thought we could be. (this is not enough for me, obviously-yes i know)
and remember: if by chance that special place that you've been dreaming of, leads you to a lonely place: find your strength in love.
epic. RIP whitney.
**disclaimer: i know i just made a serious confession for a person who generally loves 'good music'.
simone van saarloos:
more about playful love in this episode of the dutch show 'je zal het maar zijn':