Modern love

“Love: a wildly misunderstood although highly desirable malfunction of the heart which weakens the brain, causes eyes to sparkle, cheeks to glow, blood pressure to rise and the lips to pucker”
– Author unknown

“Love doesn’t make the world go ‘round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile”
– Franklin P. Jones

“Love is Like Oxygen,
You get too much,
you get too high,
Not enough and
you’re gonna die”
– The Sweet

Love, desire, attraction, passion, obsession, infatuation, jealousy, and hate – just some of the emotions which have ruled the hearts and minds of men and women throughout history with equally glorious as well as disastrous consequences on private lives, extended families and, at worst, the destiny of nations.

Antony and Cleopatra, Paris and Helen of Troy, Edward and Wallis Simpson, Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier or even Harry and Meghan – take your pick, none of these great romances have left the world untouched.

I spent most of my teenage years suffering from painful shyness. Corinna, the first girl I was ‘in love’ with at the tender age of 11, ended up pinning me to the classroom wall and planting a kiss on my unsuspecting lips after what must have been a very frustrating few weeks of passing little flowery notes to and fro during lessons. That was probably a traumatic experience because it took another four years of emotional celibacy before Abigail used her recently-acquired judo skills to floor me at a dimly-lit house party.

The last couple of (all boys) school years were spent mooning after various seemingly ‘unattainable’ girls – a French au pair apart, but you have to ask my sister about that very short-lived encounter! – the most embarrassing regarding my sudden and very public ‘coming together’ with a lamp post as I was staring at Cecilia walking on the opposite side of the street.

Freedom finally beckoned as I left home for university, and my next memory is of being slung over the shoulder and hauled off the students’ union dancefloor and the dormitories by Josh, a former Roedean School for Girls rugby captain. That bruising experience proved to be a breakthrough of sorts, and I haven’t looked back (or blushed furiously) since.

Three (prison) terms – spring, summer and autumn – with a progressively obsessive Angela were followed by a tempestuous on-and-off, up-and-down, seven-year relationship with Susanne, worthy of any of the more famous liaisons mentioned earlier for dramatic content alone – I’ll spare you the details …

The inevitable bitter and acrimonious end left me scarred for a long time, even prompting a soulless half-a-decade-long exile spent in the emotional wilderness of Berlin before a return to happiness in the Algarve now almost a quarter of a century ago.

Finding Rebecca perched on my lap in 2015 allowed me to finally find peace, a safe and cherished place to entrust my heart – I haven’t let go since, don’t intend to, and the ‘wanderer’ is no more.

Of course, ‘beer goggles’ always played an initial part, for better or for worse, in most if not all engagements with the opposite sex. Scientific studies have now proven what I have always known – a ‘couple’ of beers is all it takes for men to find more women attractive; or is it the other way around, ‘women more attractive’? Whichever, alcohol loosens the tongue and removes inhibitions until … the morning after – at which time you will discover if your drink-fuelled passion was misplaced or, hopefully, not.

But it appears the rules of ‘modern love’, navigating the world of dating and romance, have an entirely new sexual lexicon defining behaviour – how did anyone manage before the advent of ‘partnership’ websites?

Quite apart from a shocking report last week which claimed that almost 50% of boys today engage in sexual acts without having kissed the girl first (because that would be too intimate!), the following terms now rule matters of the heart.

There is ‘consensual non-monogamy’, refuting exclusive attachments, and thus making third-party sexual arrangements part and parcel of the ‘being together’ deal.
However, you might still get stuck on the ‘relationship escalator’, meaning social norms, cohabitation, marriage and babies force you into a perhaps uncomfortable situation almost impossible to escape from – something that may turn out to be a consequence of ‘fluid bonding’, describing the moment in a relationship when both partners decide they trust each other enough to abandon methods of contraception without necessarily wishing to, or planning on getting pregnant.

‘Pansexual’ means you are attracted to all sorts of people, men, women, transsexuals or a non-binary person (did I leave anyone out?), while ‘sapiosexuals’ are turned on by someone’s mind rather than their physical appearance, explaining the striking number of attractive young women going out with much older, uglier men (call me cynical, but there is another, less savoury, interpretation of that particular phenomenon!).

Other labels bandied about by the newly-enlightened Generation Z are ‘doppelbanger’, used for anyone you want to sleep with for no other reason than they look like someone else you fancy; ‘squish’, a platonic crush or intense non-sexual feelings for a particular person you have no intention of going to bed with – very frustrating for the recipient of such attentions, as I can attest to; or, my personal favourite, ‘micro-cheating’: a tag for someone who is in a relationship but can’t stop sending suggestive texts to other people, expressing their deep, unrequited passion and attempting to arrange flirty rendezvous – stopping short, however, of taking matters further with their ‘micro-romance’.

As far as I am concerned, you can call a particular situation whatever you want, but any one of these will just add up to heartache, unhappiness and ultimately a broken or dysfunctional relationship undermined by selfishness and distrust born out of emotional underdevelopment or general lack of self-regard or worth, hurtful to at least one, if not both (or more!) human beings involved.

No man or woman is an island, and it is my belief that we all more or less overtly, even subconsciously, yearn to share our lives, our thoughts, both happy and sad moments, with the one we have come to love and trust – the old-fashioned way.

“(Modern love) walks on by
(Modern love) gets me to the church on time
(Church on time) terrifies me
(Church on time) makes me party
(Church on time) puts my trust in God and man
(God and man) no confession
(God and man) no religion
(God and man) don’t believe in modern love
It’s not really work
It’s just the power to charm
I’m still standing in the wind
But I never wave bye bye
But I try, I try
Never gonna fall for
walks beside me
(Modern love) walks on by”

David Bowie

By Skip Bandele
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Skip Bandele escaped to the Algarve almost 25 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.