Love, actually?

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Is age difference a problem in romance?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 25, 2015

It’s not surprising to see an older, wealthier man fall for a younger woman, yet such an occurrence often still reflects a sleaziness that causes our society cringe. The situation is cruder when the man divorces his wife of 26 years to be with this much younger woman. There are many cases to draw examples from, but I’ll point at the most recent one involving my childhood hero and actor, Rowan Atkinson.

Atkinson, famous for Mr. Bean, Blackadder, and his scene-stealer in Christmas classic Love, Actually, was involved in a swift 65-second divorce proceeding, separating on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour.” I always wonder about the complexity of marriage: the leash wives have on their husbands and the secret lives husbands have away from home. It makes me wonder what “unreasonable behaviour” within a marriage even means. Because how can we truly know how two people behave when they are alone? This type of classification makes me look down on people who can’t keep a marriage together. It makes me judge them poorly. How can I trust someone who breaks promises and behaves unreasonably? How can I trust someone who is so easily tempted by what we can only define as lust?

It’s so easy for people at the perimeter to point their fingers at someone like Atkinson, even in 2015, saying that he is just swapping old for new. Who doesn’t want something new? However, when it comes to being in a committed relationship, that type of behaviour is most certainly unreasonable. Then again, what if we look at it from the view of happiness. Over half of all marriages end in divorces today… how unreasonable is that? Should we really be criticizing anyone for the complicated choices they make regarding love? I say no.

It is both an act of courage and cowardice to pursue a romantic endeavour and to leave a committed relationship. It digs deeper into the person. You are not a student, you are not a doctor, you are not a writer, or whatever occupation you have—deep down, you are those you love. I do agree that people make mistakes in the realm of marriages, but I don’t believe people should be judged poorly for them. They took a chance at love and that should be admired.

My problem is the pedestal people put the status of marriage on, as if it’s some kind of achievement. I think it’s that type of perspective that makes it hard for so many people to “love.” Love shouldn’t be like tightrope walking across a skyscraper. Any slip up will be met with death. It should be a journey with many encounters. It should be a journey made with a partner. And should the partnership change, it’s just the way it is. It’s a part of it.

So should age ever be a problem in romance? I don’t think so. When it comes to consenting adults, they should just enjoy each other while they have time. While age is just a number, our time on this world is running out. So share it with the people who matter and leave the ones that don’t. You, just like Mr. Bean, will have to make that decision yourself, no matter how ridiculous and unreasonable it may seem.

You can’t level up in love

Illustration by Ed Appleby

Why we shouldn’t determine end goals for relationships

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb 3, 2015

When we enter a relationship, it’s easy to start fantasizing about all the possibilities. We all have our own reasons for developing a romantic bond with another person. Perhaps we want to get married, have children, and live a fated life. That has been the traditional route for romance for many generations, but the mentality for many is less about mutual growth and more about levelling up in the game of life.

More and more I’m seeing couples treat their relationship with the same undertone as someone talking about their career. If marriage is simply a promotion, to me, it’s incredibly disturbing. Sure, a wedding is a wonderful party where grandma is invited, but with all respect, it does not symbolize adulthood or ultimate satisfaction.

Relationship milestones should not be determined by a single night of partying, wedding rings, and cheesy vows; it should happen organically. First dates, first kisses, buying new furniture together, and surviving an argument are examples of milestones, but are rarely celebrated because a relationship is exclusive. Only two people would have experienced it. It’s not something to brag about. It’s not something to prove.

If you enter a relationship with the objective of getting married or having children, you’re imposing milestones for your own life and not necessarily for your partner’s. Such behaviour can rather create ultimatums or cause you to live in a dysfunctional partnership.

Sometimes a romantic relationship can feel like a blessing, sometimes it can feel like a compromise, and other times it might even feel like a sacrifice. If you love a person, but you feel as though the relationship needs to move to the next level for some reason—be it moving in, getting married, or having children—then I beg you to reconsider. Although people may look at you as if you are some sort of pariah or failure for not achieving those outcomes, don’t fret because outsiders don’t know shit about your relationship.

Don’t let other people control how you behave with your loved one, because different people have different values. And you and your partner must figure out your values together without the interference of friends, families, co-workers, and even critics like myself. I don’t know how two people behave when they’re alone together; all I know is that if you enter the first date, answer a personal ad, or kiss someone with the intention of achieving some “life goal” you’ll be gravely disappointed. Building a relationship is the goal. There is nothing more but the moments you share together. You will never be able to level up, so feel satisfied in the moment.

‘Til death do you part

Charles Manson and friends

Charles Manson granted licence to marry, as he should

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 26, 2014

To me Charles Manson had always been the image of insanity, hate, violence, and murder. To me the man is unlovable, or better yet, undeserving of love. But is that how we punish people? Yes, we can abolish freedom and civil rights, but can we ever abolish love, whatever it is?

It’s been reported that the 80-year-old convicted murderer and cultural symbol of cruelty and bloodshed has been granted legal rights to marry his 26-year-old betrothed, Afton Elaine Burton. It’s a match made somewhere, anywhere, but definitely not heaven. However, their story is one that may be adapted into a Nicholas Sparks novel real soon. After corresponding over letters and telephone, Burton, at 19, moved to Corcoran, California to be closer to Corcoran State Prison where Manson is to be confined until the day he dies. Five hours on Saturdays and Sundays is all they get together, and will continue to get even as a married couple. To Burton, that is worth it.

Burton, a troubled young woman, found Manson the killer to complete her, and even though they will not live a normal life, it can be said that they will have a happy ending, especially when their situation is compared to all the other atrocities in the world. We often say: “Good things happen to bad people,” as if that explains all the injustice in the world, but what happens between two people has nothing to do with justice. Let’s just say he’s lucky to be imprisoned in North America. As far as murderers go, he is a lucky one.

But let’s not forget, Manson is being punished; nothing is going to change his sentence. And after he dies, Burton can move on with her life, infamous. If nothing more, his marriage is final attempt to spread his ideals, his deep dark history through public press and media.

Alternatively, I’d like to consider his story to be an inspiring one. After all, mistakes and loneliness are two of the most crippling struggles people have to deal with. Finding that special someone is not a simple task, and with real life obstacles, those who only have unrequited love may feel downtrodden and defeated. Don’t be discouraged, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in life, there is always a chance for love. Hey, if Manson found it, so can you.

What’s funny to me is that America is a country where one of the world’s most notorious murderers can operate under the institution of marriage, while many same sex couples can’t. Nevertheless, same sex partners shouldn’t feel discouraged, since the movement is causing the general mindset to slowly but surely shifting in their favour.

Manson had a family before and he lost it all. He could have died a sad old man full of regrets, and many people like him do. But who’s to say he’s isn’t full of regrets? Who’s to say that he is happy? Who’s to say that he even understands what love is? Either way, marriage is not something that should be denied when there is mutual consent.