Day 3: We exchange, therefore we love?

14 Feb

Firstly, I send a cliché wish to everyone. Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope you all got to celebrate it with your loved ones, and hey, romantic love is not the only kind, so celebrate it as much as you can in different forms!

I myself am not such a big “day” person, whether it’s Christmas or birthdays, but I celebrated the day with my cold medicine (yes I got sick again after a few days), blanket and some chickflicks on TV. Hence I will just make today’s post a little shorter.

I couldn’t help but wonder, why do we humans have to celebrate all these “Days” with gift exchanges? According to Marcel Mauss’s writing, The Gift, humans have always maintained this practice of (gift) exchanges, and no gift is free. This very simple observation applies to many aspect of human behaviors in social interactions, because there are certain expectations in forming human relationships (tribes!!!). This could be as simple as facebook postings (if I posted something on your wall, you have to at least “like” it, out of courtesy), birthday gifts (if I gave you a gift worth of 20 dollars, you have to reciprocate with gifts that is worth about 20 dollars), and marriage (starting with dowry exchanges). After all, do we need exchanges in order to tangibly believe in the value of relationships? Are we only secure when we know that there is a certain level of reciprocation for everything in relationships? (And I mean not just romantic relationships, but all human relationships.) And how does this relate to my theme on gender and women’s issues?

It often seems to me that typical gender roles are produced and reproduced in romantic relationships, in gift exchanges even. The man is often the “material provider” role in many material ways, from the first dinner to engagement ring to taking the breadwinner role in many households. The woman is often the “carer,” who provides emotional nurturing, makes cookies and meals for the partner (low cost in material but high cost in effort), and takes care of the household after marriage. They reciprocate each other’s services continuously, meeting the expectations of each other and the society. Of course, I am simplifying a lot of things, because there is the element of “love” which cannot be justified in logical terms. But still, why do we have all these expectations in order to meet each other’s list of loving behaviors? Why does he need well-made dinner from her while she needs a Gucci bag (or something) once in a while in exchange? Do we always need the material confirmation? And don’t worry, I’ve seen some girls getting Tag Heuer watches or iPads for their boyfriends, so my simplification clearly doesn’t apply to every relationship, but really, what are we in terms of human relationship as a whole?

Maybe I’m thinking too much. So why don’t I just leave you with a phrase from Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved Letters (more to be found, here).

Be calm – love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all – farewell. Oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.

ever thine

ever mine

ever ours

Let’s celebrate love anyways! Now, I’m heading back to bed.


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