Everything is readily available at our fingertips. The city quite literally never sleeps and we can access anything we fancy or fulfill our indulgent whims faster than we can say ‘where is open at 4am?’ The London streets are crammed with convenience stores, off licenses, 24-hour internet cafes, late night opening clothing stores, bars, clubs, strip clubs, heck…we even have round the clock counseling academies.
The 21st century encourages the purchase of ‘stuff’ in ever increasing amounts, meaning that supply and demand are consistently moving to match each other, ensuring whatever we wish to obtain, we can easily get. We even have access to credit cards or loans to obtain money we don’t have to buy new things we don’t need. This is all well and good (I argue quite the opposite actually) but how has it effected our more traditional social etiquettes and attributes? Surely, as we all begin to relish the concept of having whatever we want, whenever we want, it will subconsciously effect how we view other ideals and concepts too?
When something is broke, we simply buy a new one. Why bother trying to fix it when you can search online for an upgrade; sure you pay some money but it’s a better quality model that may cost less than you’d pay to fix the original. No-one bothers to mend things anymore; we just discard the old broken one and find an immediate replacement. And what with consumerism crushing our city like a Troll in a Brother’s Grimm tale, the immediate replacement will be found just so – immediately. In fact these days it doesn’t even have to be broken, everything is so quickly changing that give it 6 months and whatever model you currently own is now 3 seasons out of date, so you quickly-quickly go get the newest make to ensure you’re on top of it all. Exhausting eh! I’m not just talking about smart phones, gadgets, electronics…these are the obvious examples but it applies to pretty much everything. We all want bigger, better, more advanced, and we want it NOW.
So as far as my ‘larger than normal’ eyes can see things, we’re all beginning to treat this fast pacing, ever changing, all-consuming modern world as the norm, and applying its factors to our view on love, sex and relationships. How many times have you heard your friends or relatives discuss how their grandparents met when they were young and remained together until the bitter end? This in turn forces you to reflect on how many relationships you’ve already got under your high-waisted belt by 26 (I shall never tell you my number so don’t even go there!) and you wonder how you’ve got things so wrong, yet two generations ago seemed to get it so right? Why was love truly ever-lasting then, and nowadays it’s simply lasting until the end of the year? How comes the vowels ‘until death do we part’ were treasured word for word, but now they’re more like ‘until you get a bit annoying and shabby and I find a newer younger version’? It’s sad but true. I look at both my grandparents and struggle to understand the reality that they have quite literally lived their entire lives together. That’s true love. That’s something to aspire to and yearn to have yourself. But alas, it’s a rarity in modern culture rather than commonplace. Why? Because we have treated love with the contempt we treat all things that exist in our city of consumption. It’s led me to think this:
In the modern consumer-driven society, is love as easily replaceable too?
My own personal Mr. Big is a prime example. He had more money than God, and would do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Granted, he worked hard for it…but as quickly as he earnt it, he’d dish out the dosh on every whim he wanted fulfilled. I was swept up in last minute holidays, champagne bottles at 7pm on a weekday, sushi takeout that cost shit loads but then got binned because we couldn’t finish it…his room was filled with bizarre gadgets and items he’d clearly bought on a ‘that sounds cool’ motive, but never used. He didn’t care. He’d break things (a lot of things, I liken him to the Gruffalo) but nothing ever bothered him because he could just buy a new version. He broke my glasses once at the cinema and I had only got them like 3 days before…I wanted to punch him! But he just laughed – ‘buy a new set Nix for Christ’s sake’. Yeah thanks dude, you arrogant tosser. But you see he couldn’t understand why I was annoyed…objects were consistently replaceable to him so there was nothing to be bothered by. And when something (or everything in Big’s case) is replaceable, it means a very real and very dangerous knock on effect; nothing holds any value.
And this is when we get down to the real gritty shit here…nothing holds any value. This, unfortunately, extends to love, partners and relationships. Mr.Big moved on from his 6 year relationship to me because he had become sexually bored by his long term girlfriend, and even though he loved her with all his heart I was the ‘shinier new model version’ and he couldn’t resist buying the replacement. Not even love was enough to satiate him. If he could get more, better, newer, he would. After our two year relationship exploded at the end, he’d already lined up my replacement…a shinier new version of me. This is how it works when someone has everything they want at any time for any price – not even love is durable.
Maybe you’ve not thought about it this way before, but this is how I see it all. Maybe my vision is distorted and you disagree, I still think there is a very large and real concept here we must address. I’ll use another example: If I walk into any standard bar or club – give me 5 minutes to do the rounds and I’d be able to collect numbers off guys who, say roughly 50% of them, have girlfriends at home. Sure, the motive to cheat delves into a vaster other topic completely, but they are intrinsically linked. Why would guys want to go back to their doting girlfriends at home who they know sexually inside and out (excuse the pun), when they’ve got some scantily clad girl standing in front of them offering herself on a goddamn room service plate. Perhaps she’s prettier, skinnier, sexier, louder, shyer, classier, curvier, bustier…whatever the differences, she’s different. And he digs it. So the girlfriend goes out one ear and the new girl goes in the other, to fill his thoughts for however long he wants her to. And it’s not just the dudes, girls are the same too – I am well aware! Forgive me for my more traditional outlook but I’m all for monogamy. I don’t like one night stands; they feel like another by-product of consumerism. “A quick shag with a total stranger because I felt horny that evening” is what happens all over town, and is perfect additional proof to my love-consumption theory.
So what to do then, to bring back love’s true values? How do we alter our perception to allow love a shelf-life that lasts longer than our current smart phone? I may be the lone ranger here (I don’t think I am!) but I’d love to fall in love. The kind of love that punches a hole through your chest, leaves you gasping for air but wondering how you survived without him. The kind of love that is so stoic and solid, you two are going to grow grey and old together, no questions asked. And if it did start to crack or break, you work on it and fix it…because love is at least worth the attempt to mend. I wish I had the answers but alas, I’m sure if I did I wouldn’t be a 26 year old single socialite would I! Sure I appreciate the annoyance that there is no clear cut moral to this piece, but it’s definitely food for thought. So get stuck in.