A thespians deeper understanding of love and human interaction.
It’s the scene during Act 1 when Oscar Wilde begins to manipulate the desires of courtship and marriage. Swiped from the white pages of classical theatre, The Importance of Being Earnest is a telltale of human behavior. Wilde unveils levels to a character that undermines expectations. Through the role of Algernon, the modern “fuccboi” is first narrated.
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Jack: I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.
Algernon: I thought you had come up for pleasure? I call that business.
Jack: How utterly unromantic you are!
As a student of the stage I have always imagined romanticism through an artistic lens. I first learned about the word courtship while stage managing a production of Earnest in college. I was locked into an arranged relationship, unfamiliar with the act of a “man” going out of his way to be with me. Wilde unboxed a character that assumed romantic relationships as a social obligation. This attitude was humorous for the stage until it slowly became a daily observation. The emotional disconnect from relationships appetizes our current pervasive antagonistic attitude. The Jack’s and Algernon’s of this world are now caressing the faces of their phones for static elation.
My Ideal Obsession
My idealistic obsession with nostalgia is rooted in an everlasting love for 90’s R&B music, the arts and light-skin soulful men like J.C. Chasez. I grew up in Stockton, California, a farmland suburb just an hour east of San Francisco. My city was cut from the same All-American housing expansion popular of the Reagan-era, fully-equipped with the high crime that followed. Pop culture was my escape. I bought every copy of Vibe and The Source magazine, I recorded music videos for reference and acted in all of the school plays, even the church ones that my mother wrote. My idea of romance was built during an era of Fabio and Alvin Ailey dancers.
I identified love as a fabric like a chiffon, hanging low in a Lifetime movie vignette. Love was this tingle that would take over mid-afternoon, inside of Jack’s home on Young and the Restless. Every scene started the same way, the lighting was dim and there was a saxophone just barely breathing below the dialogue. I would sit there with my mother and feel ashamed of what was happening. I remember sitting as close to the television with legs in child’s pose and my butt to the floor. Michael Douglas must have been her favorite Hollywood hunk. She hid Basic Instinct and Disclosure in a treasure chest high in her bedroom closet.
By the age that I discovered real sex, the lust had strengthened. And the recipe for intimacy is like a drug for me.
My mom is currently dating online and it doesn’t feel right. At fifteen, I was talking to older men in chat rooms, but that was then, where there were fewer pixels to my webcam and Mike room for the imagination. Now my mother is asking me to capture her from the right angle for a Christian Mingle profile photo. I found a new world on the Internet, I lingered through Asian Avenue on my way to Black Planet which eventually led me to MySpace. My eyes were opened to all types of fashion and music and out poured glittering golden opportunities beyond my imagination. And the boys, they came in flocks.
Never in those moments of hyperactive lust was the consideration of romance applicable. These boys were not charming, nor did they obtain a rectitude of depth. They were just eager for attention, and so was I. Now I’m forced to listen to complaints from a 64 year-old woman about “men these days” who only want sex. It is as if I tried to warn her with my ever-present Facebook single status but she wasn’t paying attention.
My romantic life is quiet, I am focused and work is part of the reason I choose not to have a man. Boys have always been a distraction, my friends think I am being mean and don’t want to make time. In all actuality, I would make time for the proper courtship. It is never a distraction when there is chemistry, yet how can I engage with you if can’t look you in the eyes? I have been on all of the dating sites with purpose, always aware of the accessibility it offers. Never there for romance.. I love sites like Raya for creating a work category for those with a sliver of awareness to the opportunity and reach of such vulnerable platforms.
Dating site, E-Harmony conducted a survey in 2015 sharing that 40-million Americans are using online dating websites. It shares that more men are online daters than women and overall, 53% of the people who use the site are lying on their profile. In summary, almost half of the U.S. population is trying to date online and more than half of those people are fake. I wonder why as humans we shy away from the traditional way of interaction. According to the Pew Research Center online dating has made a major jump among young adults under the age of 25 and people in their late 50’s and 60’s. Yet for the 30’s to 40’s bracket, it is on a steady decline.
I am depending on my generation to remind people what empathy, personal touch, clarity, honesty and accountability looks like. It took moving to New York before I ever learned that women should walk on the inside of the street. I fussed about it for a few years then realized how beautiful it felt for a guy to care about protecting the path of the woman they walk beside. I love carrying things to get my daily workout in but I’ve also learned to use new muscles by having a partner.
Romanticism is on its way back. I bought a beret in celebration and carry a notebook around to write out my feelings. I am also talking about what we seem to be missing, and feeling my feelings to allow me to persuade some truth. A sheer veil to how I choose to love. If you slide in the DM’s and ask me on a date to Whole Foods, I’ll get giddy and giggle like a school girl. It is not the act of using social platforms, it is the style in which they are used. If you pace me, coach me, sharpen me, or make any type of pact with me I will respect you first and try to get alone time with you later. Those simple things are charming and enticing. Asking me how I am doing on an app when you have never met me before is not.
Time tells stories of patterns in life and humanity and how we assume positions, like how parents and children exchange roles. It was the allure of the stage that kept tradition in my heart. I learned to never sacrifice that tradition for the idea of a romantic relationship. Instead of loving one body, I love the people who love me with as much sensitivity as I can muster. The importance of being earnest, and operating with intention. By living in this way, I can remind my mother of some rituals that ladies like us have, and remind myself of how I should act. To have my happy ending.
Original UNDO Mag Issue 6 Title: Swipe Right
Written by Nai Vasha
Photography by Brian Tampol