Saturday, May 10, 2008

high fidelity, natasha bedingfield, and "soul mates"

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music? (Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity")

(full video here, it's interesting actually.)

I read an article at the other day about the obsession in our culture with finding your "soul mate". I was intrigued by the discussion, statistics cited, etc. Back when my sister got me to listen to Natasha Bedingfield's hilarious and all-too-true "I Wanna Have Your Babies" I made my friend Marci listen to it because it's so ridiculous and yet hits close to home (if you knew what I was thinking/it would make you like, "whoa!") and she was looking at the other videos from Natasha's new album and said that she liked "Soul Mate" better. I watched the video (v. intelligent, imo) and listened to the words and found myself more disturbed than entertained. I think the chorus kind of says it all:

who doesn't long for someone to hold?
who knows how to love you without being told?
oh somebody tell me, why I'm on my own
if there's a soul mate for everyone?
It's a difficult lyric because I think Ms. Bedingfield speaks the truth: who doesn't want those things? At the same time the other half sort of infuriates me; the suggestion that there is someone out there who can love you effortlessly, "without being told." I'm sorry, my general idealism loses out for a moment, this is just pure fantasy. Relationships take time and effort. My friend Nick holds that anyone can marry anyone else because love is a decision (he also claims his two non-negotiables for a wife are that she doesn't want a diamond and will let him wear jeans to the wedding, but I digress.) I won't go so far as Nick but I believe there is a grain of wisdom in his thinking here. Love IS a decision and requires sacrifice, so the idea that there is this ONE person out there who it will be easy to love. None of us are easy to really love.

Anyway, all this came back to mind because I heard this song overhead while reading at a Barnes & Nobles and I was just thinking in the midst of stupid "chick lit," unbelievably improbable romantic comedies, ADVERTISING, and just the whole facade our culture tells us is the "good life"I wonder how much we buy into it. How much we should buy into it. I speak from the middle, I think. Any friend of mine can tell you how vehement I am against girls "settling" for relationships that aren't good for them but at the same time expecting perfection from ANYONE (including oneself) is just a recipe for disaster. On the other hand I am one of those lovers of books like "A Severe Mercy" and really believe in the tremendous power of two people becoming one person.

One of the questions the article brought up was how comfortable you are with being someone else's "soul mate." The object, I suppose you could say, as opposed to the subject of such a tight relationship. I thought that was an interesting question. Lots of pressure, huh?

I told my friend Lauren last night and concluded by saying that I think the idea of seeking out "The One" (as LG says, we're really looking for "The Two" anyway) is totally unrealistic and this is the crux of my issue with the "Soul Mate" song. I genuinely believe in a relationship of becoming with the other. One of my favorite people, TomNeal, who taught me Christian Tradition in college gave us one Friday off because he and his wife were going away to celebrate their (12th?) anniversary and he commented that the more he knows his wife the more of a beautiful mystery she is. Now that's what I'm talking about.


morganleigh said...

I know you're shocked to discover that I quoted Nick Hornby the other day, but I did quote that exact passage about pop music in a very similar discussion of chick flicks and what they are selling, and what we can see about how women view themselves in modern society. Anyway, we are so on the same wavelength. I would also add this HiFi quote:

Rob: The other girl, or other women, whatever. I mean, I was thinking that, they are just fantasies, you know? And they always seem really great, because there's never any problems. And if there are, they are the cute problems, like we bought each other the same Christmas present, or she wants to see a movie I've already seen, you know. Then I come home... and you and I have real problems, you don't want to see a movie I want to see, period. There's no lingerie...

Laura: I *have* lingerie!

Rob: You have *great* lingerie! But you also have cotton underwear that's been washed a thousand times, and it's hanging on the thing, and... And they have it too, it's just that I don't have to see it, because it's not in the fantasy... I'm tired ot the fantasy, cause it doesn't really exist. And there are never really surprises and it never really...

Laura: Delivers?

Rob:Delivers. Right.

Lauren said...

I love High Fidelity. I love how right it is.

I agree with you. I think pop culture sells us the "soul mate" idea and it's rather depressing. What if we miss our soul mate? Do we have another one?

Here was the blog post I told you about that my friend Joe wrote. I like to believe him--I think, in a way, it's much more romantic--

Also--That Natasha Bedingfield song was HILARIOUS!