V-Day special: What love is not? Fake #couplegoals

V-Day special: What love is not? Fake #couplegoals

Part 4 of four different points of view on what it means to be in love in the (not-so-new) millennium: has the 'traditional' notion of romance remained the same, been buried, reformatted - or just evolved?


Nivriti Butalia

Published: Thu 7 Feb 2019, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 8 Feb 2019, 1:00 AM

Tell me if this sounds familiar: someone you know unleashes a picture on Instagram or Facebook of themselves plus their significant other, and gives it a caption that hits an unreal falsetto, along the lines of: "Feeling blessed for the presence of this man/woman in my life who has for x number of years been my rock and given me every happiness." blah, blah, blah. Hashtag couple goals.
Happens all the time, right? Everyone groans and moves on. Some like me suspect the obvious, that declarations of this sort are a red flag. One of the two must have been caught having an affair and is now publicly making amends, poor thing.
You'll dismiss me as a jealous crank who doesn't get enough love, but be that as it may, why can't people come up with more original phrases? Some person being the other person's 'pillar of strength', the 'light of his/her eyes' and so on is a big bore. Who wants to know? Who is all this goop aimed at? And what is the IQ of this audience? If I wrote this, my partner would know better than to buy it blindly. But I'm told people are often touched at these bi-annual flourishes of verbosity.
In the case of celebs, all these #NickYankas and #Virushkas of the world, I understand the power of peddling an image that earns a couple big money. You can sniff the PR machinery at work, orchestrating the shoot. The cosy twosome wearing their most blissed-out expressions would have been taken on a device that one of them would be paid to advertise, obviously. And for that one lovey-dovey post, the phone company would sponsor their next jaunt to some sweet destination at least a four-hour flight from India. Cho chweet. Authenticity of emotion can be debated. Who's to argue that the 35th pose in the 10th minute of the shoot, with the hair just right is not really, really heartfelt?
But surely it's different for 'normal' people who don't prance around in castles to exchange vows and who don't have wedding gown trains the length of 10 escalators. These aspirational shots of 'normal' people - with no money to make from the snaps - will still have been laboured over, hair done up, outfits especially selected, and shot at a hilly weekend getaway or during a brief summer in Croatia. One or both of these unfamous parties will have on shades. A mountain will be permitted as a backdrop or a view from a rooftop restaurant. A beach might feature (hullo, JBR!). If you're a keen-eyed Kumar, you might spot a colourful drink in the frame with a little umbrella tipping over. These are standard tropes. Couple + nice background = couple goals. Straightway 800 likes/hearts and 43 comments. Happiness is a load of comments (and romance is a load of well-marketed bull).
The easy replicability of the formula used to get my goat. How easy it is to playact and inflict these unoriginal, captioned images of love or fake love on the general consumer of social media. How easy it is also to sniff out a post of an insecure person adding to the existing gyre of digital pollution.
Some months are worse. I used to see these couple-y/Valentine's Day burblings a lot in February, April, November - peak anniversary celebration time for most Indians. But I've rarely seen a partner publicly say to the other, 'Look, I like you enough, we're in this together, thanks, let's be civil, and if we get a few laughs along the way, hurray!'. That, if you must share, I can accept and even emit an 'aww' for.
But this celebration of coupledom, as if five or 10 years or how many ever years with another human being is an achievement of some sort, with no objective scale for what that time has been like. I have my reservations about. How are people okay with so uninhibitedly baring their most personal, often sadly pedestrian and unoriginal thoughts on romance, loudly claiming that this one man or woman is and always will be my 'soulmate', instead of getting on with life and accepting with equanimity that, with time, definitions can change, and notions of romance and love and desire can shift?
I liked what Diana Athill, the recently deceased editor and writer, said: "My two valuable lessons are: avoid romanticism and abhor possessiveness. Both of these can be dangerous, and in conjunction with sexuality even lethal. The first has plunged innumerable couples into disappointing, sometimes disastrous, marriages, and it is far from uncommon for the second to cause horrors such as a man choosing to murder his wife rather than see her prefer the company of another man. And even well short of such an extreme result, it can and often does cause a great deal of distress and pain."
Something to munch over at V-Day din-din for two.

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