Love “Makes” Us Human? by Lauren Hippert


laurenhippertpictureI was in the passenger seat of my friend’s car and we were driving home from dinner. She was telling me about an experience she had a few summers ago, falling in love abroad. She told me that she felt that the experience of falling in love and feeling a real connection “made her human.” I exploded in an inexplicable fit of rage.

“Wow, I’m so happy for you that you had that wonderful experience of being in love,” I snapped sarcastically. “I’m glad you were able to have the experience that made you human. You weren’t human before that but suddenly you met a man that made everything right. Instead of being a half person with half feelings you could be a real person.”

For some reason, in that moment, I felt under attack by her story. Within the statement that “love makes a person human,” there is an implication that a person who has not been in love is not fully human. Did she mean it that way? Of course she didn’t. She is a wonderful person and close friend of mine who was just trying to tell her story authentically. There was no judgment in her words. The way that I reacted was much too harsh and has much more to do with other interactions I’ve had throughout my life.

As a person who has experienced abuse and sexual assault, I have a very difficult time trusting anyone. I’ve not had a relationship in years. I can’t say that I have ever really been in love. But this culture is saturated in references to romance and sex. You can’t turn anywhere without seeing it—television, movies, magazine covers, books, the radio, advertisements.

The narrative usually goes like this. A woman is lonely and sad, stuck helplessly in a dead-end job or so career-oriented that she is unable to enjoy life. Suddenly a man comes along and “sweeps her off her feet.” She is suddenly able to experience the fullness of life now that she has found the man of her dream. She marries him. She escapes her dead-end job and no longer has to work at all unless she wants to because her husband is a millionaire. She finally has the courage to say “no” to her overbearing boss because she would rather spend time with the man in her life than work overtime—a boundary she never had to set before because there was nothing else worth doing in her life until she met this perfect man.

It’s sickening enough on television, but unfortunately that mentality carries over into real life. I grew up in a small town in Virginia where life revolved around a grocery store, a salon, and yes, a church. The goal for most women within my small community was to get married and raise a family. There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting either of those things, but there is something wrong when it is the expected course for every woman. I chose to further my education, to leave that town, and to pursue a different life. I was the recipient of pity.

At my brother’s wedding a few years ago, I was watching my brother and his wife have their first dance together. It was an emotional moment for everyone there, because they had been in love for years and it was their special day. I found myself tearing up a little bit because I was happy for them. A family friend walked over to me, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll find your prince someday. One day that will be you.” I was appalled. She had a lot of nerve, taking a special moment for my brother and turning it into a pity party for me because I did not have a man in my life.

In the past few years I’ve been working toward trusting other people, moving on from my past, and being as healthy as I can. Both my counselors and my friends have felt the need to reassure me that I will be able to “recover” over time and gain the ability to relate to other people on a more intimate level, if I just work at it and “overcome” the obstacles I currently face. What all of them seem to have failed to consider, and what I failed to consider for a long time, is that maybe I don’t want to recover. Maybe having relationships just isn’t for me. Maybe I will live a better life just being on my own, doing other things that make me happy. That’s okay with me, and it should be okay with other people as well.

This society must move past the idea that romantic love makes a person “whole,” “complete,” or “human.” Different ways of living and loving need to be recognized and celebrated as dimensions of being human. Otherwise, people with my experiences and disposition will continue to feel as though we are excluded, somehow outside of the bounds of true humanity.

 

Lauren Hippert recently graduated from the Boston University School of Theology with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. After growing up in Goochland, Virginia and seeing the positive and negative impact that her conservative church had within her community and within her own life, she was drawn to the study of religion. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies when she was only 19 years old. She subsequently received the Dean’s Fellowship Award, a full-tuition scholarship from the Boston University School of Theology, and obtained her Master’s degree 2 years later. Her primary interests were Biblical languages and texts during her program. After obtaining her degree, she has developed a deep interest in fundamentalist rhetoric and how it impacts communities, and especially women.

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Categories: abuse, Feminism, Sexual Violence, Women's Voices

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12 replies

  1. Hear, hear! Thank you for sharing your experience and drawing attention to the hurtful assumptions we are prone to make in this culture. May your path be beautiful.

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  2. Lauren, I was also born into an abusive home and know the struggle to trust. I think we develop a unique set of abilities and gifts. Do what it is you need to grow. And as Elizabeth wrote: your path is beautiful.

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  3. Dear Lauren–Thank you for this wisdom, forged from the crucible of your own experience.

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  4. Lauren, your post touched me deeply. The idea that a woman has to have a man to be happy was horribly illustrated for me by an elderly cousin who called to offer her condolences after my husband died and then she proceeded to tell me how I needed to get out there and start dating again! She finally stopped and said that I probably didn’t want to hear that at that moment, to which I agreed! I had all I could do not to go off on her! When I told my mother about it later my mother, who is a feminist and single, said that it was probably because the cousin was worried about what she was going to do when her husband, who was older than her, died.

    After my husband died 9 years ago, due to alcoholic liver disease, I swore I’d never date again, and I haven’t. I have friends that I socialize with and I am happy.

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    • It’s astounding how it affects women at all stages of their lives no matter what their relationship status is. It is appalling that a woman cannot even grieve the loss of her husband without being pressured into finding someone to replace him. How awful! I always thought, if I did find a husband, that I would have the perk of never having to deal with it again! Sounds like I was wrong. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. I have been divorced for twenty years and continue to choose to live alone. I have never regretted this decision. It has opened me to endless possibility in my own life. This diving into my self would never have happened had I stayed married. And yes, sometimes I feel lonely but most of the time being alone with my animals is a gift that I treasure even at 71.

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    • As someone who has never been married, I am interested in hearing how women who have been married see single life that they actively choose. How it compares, how it differs, and how it is a life well worth living contrary to popular belief. As a young person who is unable to have relationships, I am often shrugged off as a bitter girl who just can’t get a date.

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      • Don’t pay attention to what people say…the patriarchal standpoint is that every female wants and needs a date. Some of us don’t. We would prefer to live a self directed life.

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  6. Nice to meet you Lauren.
    I was once where you find yourself, not understanding the entails of falling-in-love. But now, having been on both sides of the issue, I am aware that there is much that is only taught by falling-in-love, and if one hasn’t fallen-in-love, those lessons are beyond deep comprehension. Before I fell-in-love, I married with the belief that “In-Love” is a choice, a condition one is to WORK FOR, rather than, a state-of-being that the sacrament of marriage SHOULD BE an outward sign of an inner state of being (didn’t work, divorced)(the sacrament of marriage is the ONLY sacrament that is NOT described as an outward sign of an inner state of being! I have since learned that this is a nefarious attempt to erase a conscious necessity for being in Eucharistic-Love, as such a state interferes with the distribution of over-all wealth and power); I didn’t understand the man-made boundaries of religions and how they are designed to interfere with the process, designed even to interfere with the recognition there-of; the heart breaking boundaries that racial-prejudice inflicts; the heart breaking boundaries social status inflicts; the heart-breaking boundaries the ability to provide financially inflicts; nor the heart-breaking fall-out of patriarchal systems of belief, misogyny, inflicts; +++. It is likely that more energy has been produced to thwart prejudices via un-requited love than any other source, un-requited secondary to a prejudice. Even being formed to marry within one’s parent’s religious belief is forming a devastating prejudice. The Equality of ALL humanity is a profound, to the core undeniable lesson, of truly falling-in-love. It’s NOT a conscious choice.
    When you fall-in-love, the spiritual Eros kind, you won’t wonder if your present experience is IT, you’ll have no doubt(s) that it is, for it nigh redefines everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world.

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  7. Love does make us human and it also makes dogs dogs and monkeys monkeys. But there are so many kinds of love we fail to recognize as valuable when we put all our eggs in the love-n-marriage basket. I remember crying with my cousin at a wedding when my uncle said to us “when are you two going to get married” –not recognizing that neither of us felt this was something that was in our power to “achieve” (though we both would have liked to have been married).

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    • I’d like to expand on your thoughts, Carol Christ.
      Wealth and Power (Pharoahs, kings & queens, etc.) have spent thousands of years in an attempt to diminish crediting “falling-in-love” for what it is. W&P need armies to protect their W&P; W&P need their off-spring to marry W& P to maintain their W&P; etc. What you wrote is the spin on the subject that W&P has purported throughout history in order to accomplish these desired ends.
      My accessible information reveal dogs and monkeys have multiple partners, are not choosey, which is NOT my reference point. Our language has even been limited to obstruct communication on this subject, so confusion is warranted. The “in-love” I am referencing is AKA Eucharistic attraction, Limerance, Heros Gamos (given a negative rap to accomplish the same end as limiting language), Divine Eros, +++. THIS IS A ONCE IN A LIFE-TIME EXPERIENCE. Once this condition has been lived, union with another is NOT desired, in fact, is rather repulsive.
      The only animals on record that mate for life are: Magdelenic Penguins, 6 species of geese, flamingoes (live 50 years & have 1 chick a year), Jackals (both ♀ & ♂ parent), Golden lion, tamarind monkeys (rare), Africa- red-river hogs (rare), and Eagles (this character found in Eagles is likely profound in selecting the Eagle as symbolic of the USA) !!!
      Ironically, marital unions purported by most religions and W&P, are closest to your dog and common monkey illustration. It is no wonder the divorce rate is soaring above the clouds.
      Such aforesaid unions CANNOT BE WORKED FOR; tis a delusion W&P want ALL to believe. Shortly after an introduction of a ♀ and ♂, it either is or isn’t. Many conditions are mis-interpreted as the real “in love”; i.e. parental substitute, same religion, parental approval; hope to actualize having children; NOT FEELING ALONE IN LIFE; +++… combined with friendship. The durability of the unions in animals that are known to mate for life attests to the durability of this connection. Animals are of God’s creation; there is still much we need to learn from them. As is being proven every day — most animals are much smarter than humans have given them credit for, are giving them credit for (In Africa on the border between one nation that allows elephant poaching and one nation that doesn’t, herds of elephants are not crossing into the nation that allows poaching!). Judaism has a love and respect for animals we all need to listen to.

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      • I simply meant that forms of love are found throughout the animal kingdom. These include love for the young.

        If we become human through heterosexual bonding (or homosexual bonding) for life, then there are a whole lot of us who are left out!

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