Friday, July 13, 2012

Different worlds

"What is terrible is that after every one of the phases of my life is finished, I am left with no more than some banal commonplace that everyone knows: in this case, that women's emotions are all still fitted for a kind of society that no longer exists. My deep emotions, my real ones, are to do with my relationship with a man. One man. But I don't live that kind of life, and I know few women who do. So what I feel is irrelevant and silly... I am always coming to the conclusion that my real emotions are foolish, I am always having, as it were, to cancel myself out. I ought to be like a man, caring more for my work than for people; I ought to put my work first, and take men as they come, or find an ordinary comfortable man for bread and butter reasons - but I won't do it, I can't be like that..." Doris Lessing, the Golden Notebook, page 283.

"Researchers spent some time dealing with this notion of gratification; neurology has been enlightening us about the tension between the notions of immediate rewards and delayed ones. Would you like a massage today, or two next week? Well, the news is that the logical part of our mind, that 'higher' one, which distinguishes us from animals, can override our animal instinct, which asks for immediate rewards. So we are a little better than animals, after all-but perhaps not by much. And not all of the time." Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the Black Swan, sf. 88

I never understood people who fall in love with the wrong people. In this category are married people, current and ex partners of good friends, colleagues in the same team or people who are considerably older or younger. People falling in love with people far richer or poorer than them are just the stuff of old Turkish movies. Even when circumstances allow for such encounters frequently enough for a relationship to develop, I think the choice of a serious romantic partner can never be completely irrational.

But what if you fell in love and you realize, with your 'higher' mind, that the person you love is not right for you? Sure, sometimes you realize that because you no longer love that person, but sometimes you realize that despite the fact that you still love them. I recently realized that I assumed, subconsciously, that under such circumstances one should simply fall out of love. Of course I knew that couples separate when they still have feelings for each other (although I thought there could never be a good enough reason to merit such a separation!), and I knew that people could stay in love with people so wrong for them that they end up in prison, or worse yet, dead. A Turkish singer, who had a very public relationship with a married clarinetist and ended up in prison because of possession and sale of cocaine, claimed that most of the women in prison were there because of the wrong men. Take Anna Karenina and Amy Winehouse. I knew all this, but I never thought I would fall in love with the wrong person, and worse yet, still have feelings for him even when I knew, for a fact, that he is wrong for me. As an extension of this assumption, I thought either that my feelings were not real and just a sign of emotional and mental weakness when he is so obviously the wrong person, or that he could not be the wrong person since I still harbored feelings for him.

But now I feel that this tug of war between the heart and mind and the inconsistent behavior it leads to, which I explained in my favorite post ever, Warm Heart, Cold Heart, actually make sense. And it is more pronounced for women. When one evaluates the human condition in today's society, and women's condition specifically, from a completely rational and self-interested standpoint, one can conclude that our emotions often stand in the way of our best interest as individuals and our personal success, and vice versa. I think Anne-Marie Slaughter explained this elaborately in her piece Why Women Still Can't Have it All. Unless one is very lucky and all stars are aligned in love and family and career, it's still an either/or question for women. And we made this so by trying to prove that we are no different from men. Maybe the real challenge would have been to stand up for who we are and the value of what we value, and seek change, not merely acceptance, instead of struggling to score points in both our personal lives and careers on men's terms.

No comments: