Friday, March 25, 2016

The Friday Sex Blog [Harry and Sally on my Couch]

Hola mi Gente,
I want to state clearly today that I deplore romance movies and novels because they cheapen the real thing. True romance is infinitely better than anything you will read in a book, or see on a movie screen. Ladies? If you and I get married and you go senile? I will not sacrifice my life reading a freaking notebook to you. I won’t forget you, nor will I abandon you -- I’ll make sure to visit you regularly, but I will more than likely find someone else and get on with my life. I would hope that if the opposite were true, that you would do the same. I never forgave James Garner for starring in the movie, The Notebook. That’s not love, James, it’s co-dependency! LOL

Now, just because I deplore romance novels or movies doesn’t mean I am not a romantic -- in fact, I am.

* * *

Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
 -- Harry & Aristotle

Well, actually, the above is not a direct quote from Harry (the character from another intolerable movie, When Harry met Sally) and Aristotle, but as I hope to show, Aristotle and Harry seem to sleep in the same philosophical bed (pun intended). I often try to explore the reasons behind our cultural aversion to the body (at least in the Western sense). This aversion is grounded in a historical context. Things are the way they are not because that’s “how it’s always been,” but because we live within a cultural context. Philosophy matters, my dear friends, more than we know… 

The movie When Harry met Sally, begs the question, “Can men and women can be friends,” and then answers it so: “Men and women can’t be friends -- because the sex part always gets in the way.” But is this true? Are there reasons friendship between men and women, or people who are romantically attracted to one another, isn’t possible? Or more importantly: are there reasons why friendship between hetero men and women are more difficult to maintain than same-sex friendships? (I realize I’m regrettably leaving out the whole LGBTQI demographic, but I think the same holds true for romantic relationships, generally speaking.)

As I hope to show, most of the assumptions we lug around regarding these, and other, can be traced way back to ancient Greek thought and their latter day Christian interpreters. In other words, things are the way they are, not because they are universal truths, but because of a cultural bias.

Aristotle strongly suggested that a romantic relationship can never become the highest form of friendship. He makes a distinction between a bond like friendship (philia), grounded in what he perceived as character traits and involving choice, from a bond based on an emotion (eros). And while there can be friendship between lovers, he continues, it will not be the highest form of friendship. It will be a friendship based not on character but in pleasure -- and hence will likely fade. Still, Mr. Aristotle concedes, acknowledging how one form of love may grow from another, “Many do remain friends if, through familiarity, they have come to love each other’s character… ”

At this point, I will concede, somewhat reluctantly, that Eros and philia are indeed different forms of love, even if sometimes they come together as a package deal. In making a different point, the Christian writer, C.S. Lewis suggested the following experiment:

Suppose you… have fallen in love with and married your friend… now suppose that you were offered the choice of two futures: “Either you will cease to be lovers but remain forever joint seekers of the same God, the same beauty, the same truth, or else, losing all that, you will retain as long as you live the raptures and ardours, all the wonder and the wild desire of Eros. Choose which you please.


Mr. Lewis seems to be saying we have to recognize the reality and difficulty of a choice between the different loves. He captures this difference adequately in the following sentence: “Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” Friends, therefore, are more likely to be happy to welcome a new friend who shares their common interest, but Eros is a jealous love which must exclude third parties.

Lewis believed that friendship and erotic love may go together, but in many respects he agrees with Harry and Aristotle that the combination is, at the very least, an unstable one. Mr. Lewis’ contention is that a friendship between people can exist, but that it can do so only if the parties involved are not physically attracted to one another, or one of them loves another. Otherwise, the friendship will slip into the erotic realm eventually. This is not too far from Harry’s view, who after stating at the very beginning that sex (Eros) will always get in the way, adds the qualifier, “Unless both are involved with other people” later in the movie. But then, in one of many convoluted pieces of dialogue that damns this movie (Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan were two of my least appreciated actors), he adds, (and I paraphrase loosely here) But that doesn’t work because the person you’re involved with doesn’t understand why you need to be friends with the other person. She figures you must be secretly interested in the other person -- which you probably are.

Lewis is a little less pessimistic than Harry, Lewis suggests that lovers who are friends may learn to share their friendship with others, though not, of course, their erotic natures. Still this does not address the main point in all this: the supposed instability of friendships with people who are romantically/ erotically attracted to one another.

Perhaps it is best to grant the point that friendship between people who are attracted to one another will be more difficult within the context of a culture that’s terribly paranoid and repressive about eros (sexual energy). There will certainly be difficulties that don’t exist in same-sex/ nonromantic connections. However, that faint undercurrent of eros can also be enriching. If we’re fearless (or at least trailblazers) we may find that a friendship between a man and a woman may offer a balance and sanity, and, if we discard the fairy tales, fulfillment through a sexual energy (Eros) that doesn’t have to be destructive.

Towards the end of Harry and Sally, Harry finally realizes that he loves Sally and wants to marry her. He lists all the cute reasons why: that shit that Meg Ryan does with her nose, the way she looks at him, blah blah blah… all reasons that a friend might not state, granted. Of all the reasons, however, I find that Harry’s observation that Sally is “the last person I want to talk to before I go to bed at night,” most compelling.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization… 

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