Love American Style

by Steve Mason

We make some of our greatest gains
when we see old things in new ways

Mensa is a group that prides itself on being absolutely 100% free of any discriminatory leanings, and goes to great lengths to point out that membership is open to everyone - everyone who happens to be a genius. Flattered that I was among those asked to speak at a recent convention, I selected a topic that I thought would be especially suited to a room full of exceptionally bright people; a topic that would challenge even their exceptional intellects.

Looking back though, I can't help but feel I left a few in the audience more combative than challenged. I say this because, walking to my car after the presentation, no less than half a dozen individuals stopped me to take issue with something they thought I had said.

My talk, titled "What You Think You Know May Not Be So" looked at why people believe so many things they can't possibly know - often in the absence of good evidence and sometimes despite the best evidence - and why they then will defend those beliefs to the death. I hope the following synopsis will lead to, in the words of the politician, some fruitful debate and meaningful discussion. Obviously, those who took exception to my earlier "Mad At MADD" piece might do better talking to the cat than reading any further.

Why is it that people still cling to the "...and they lived happily ever after" notion when it no longer works; setting couples up to lie, cheat and ultimately support a whole industry devoted to making the divorce process as contentious and costly as possible? If expectations more clearly reflected facts, couples would plan to be together for no more than a few years. Their lives and finances would become less entangled and they could then afford to be more civil if and when an end came. Indeed, golden anniversaries might eventually take their place alongside golden watches as symbols of distinctly limited lives.

Love And Sex
Why is it that people try so hard to tie the two together, and then proceed to blow both out of all proportion to their true relevance in life? Couples love other people, small furry animals and pizza. Actually, they fall into and out of love on a fairly regular basis because love can mean so many different things: passion, adoration, admiration, affection, devotion, desire, etc. When Crystal asks Brook if she loves Ridge more than Thorn in the standard soap opera scene - does anyone have any idea about what they are talking? And why believe that love must precede sex when we so often sing and dream of "one enchanted evening?"

Why is it that people accept as normal this most selfish of emotions? Born ignominiously in the child, who fears being usurped by a younger sibling, it has come to be the measure of love in adults. Some individuals will even go so far as to regularly encourage jealousy to the point of violence as a means of validating their relationship. Curiously, we discourage it in all other areas of life; jealousy being seen for the lack of confidence it betrays. But when the one about whose happiness you supposedly care the most chooses to enjoy the company of another, a jealous rage supposedly attests to your devotion.

Young Love
Why is it that parents so readily permit the adolescent frustrations they suffered to be so callously inflicted upon their children? The draconian restrictions society blithely foists on post-pubescent minds and bodies do far less to protect, and far more to insure a state of obsessive compulsion commensurate with that of the previous generation at a similar age. And while they say "Not talking about it insures not thinking about it", only those suffering faulty recall can possibly say it sincerely. Ironically, when one was younger and could do it, one couldn't. And when one is older and can't do it, one can.

Look At It This Way

Since philosophies of life tend to be autobiographical, I readily concede a personal bias in my observations - but please do not assume a personal endorsement of the same. Indeed, many of the above statements trouble me as much as they did those in the audience. After my talk I was met with:

"So you're saying we should abolish marriage and allow men to walk away from their wives and children..."

"So you're saying love bears no relation to sex, and that humans should fornicate like animals in the field..."

"So you're saying you wouldn't be upset to unexpectedly arrive and find your wife in bed with someone..."

"So you're saying kids should have all the sexual freedom they want and we should pay for their babies..."

But rather than say what I didn't say, let me say what I do say: Quite simply, what you think you know may not be so. Put hysterical emotions aside for a moment and use a little rational thought to honestly consider Love American Style. Is it the best we have or the best we can have?

You may contact the author - but only with compliments - at

Return to Port Of Call Home Page
Return to June/July 2003 Table of Contents