Saturday, July 16, 2005

love is not a victory march, it's a cold and broken hallelujah

i've been doing a lot of thinking lately about men and commitment and monogamy. i guess most men, by nature or by nurture, are afraid of, or at the very least, a little freaked out by, commitment to one other person.

it also seems to me that gay men are inordinately more incapable of commitment and vulnerability than most straight guys, ironically. i've been wracking my brain for days trying to figure out some reason for this; is it because so many of them spent so many years denying, or at best, subverting, who they really are, and what they desire? is it because so many of them have such low self-esteem that they feel unworthy of being loved, thus terrified of letting someone in, only to have them eventually leave? is it simply because "out" gay couples are such a recent, modern phenomenon that there is no real healthy model for how it's supposed to work? (this argument seems a little weak to me, but not entirely unrealistic.)

but now, thanks to some cute little penguins and thousands of years of routine, evolutionary behavior, i think i might have come to my answer. or at least a moderately satisfactory one.

last night i went with some friends to see "March of the Penguins." and while it didn't inspire tears or hit me in the gut the way i was really anticipating and hoping it would, i found it to be a moving, fascinating and competent piece of work about the hell that emporer penguins go through just to reproduce. they suffer 210 mile marches, -80 degree blizzards, months without food, dehydration, exhaustion, predators, and often eventually death, simply to spawn one egg, see it to fruition, only to eventually abandon it, so that the next year, that chick can go through the whole same process and carry on the species. often, for various reasons (they freeze to death, they get eaten, a parent dies, they just simply don't make it) the chicks don't live, and while the penguins clearly grieve, they don't give up. they wait until the next year, find another mate, and try it all again.

so, towards the end of the film, it hit me: gay men have such a hard time committing because there is no biological drive inside of them to mate with someone. of course i'm grossly simplifying here: many gay men eventually grow out of their seemingly endless adolescence and commit, and often have children together, but for the most part, and this isn't just bitterness talking, i really do believe that it's rare. but for straight people, there is nearly always the drive (or at least the societal expectation) to procreate, and the promise of the passing on of genes, and in turn, the ability to make a part of yourself live longer and give back to the world in some way. but what if your desires and relationships can never physically fulfill the evolutionary need for which humans essentially exist? well, simple: there is no reason to commit (evolutionarily), thus, most of them don't.

it's just a starter argument, i realize, and doesn't take into account the myriad of nuances that exist, i.e., straight couples that have no desire to have children, the fact that in a strictly biological sense, straight men should be much more averse to committing than gay men, since they're the ones that are supposed to go and spread their seed everywhere and create as many little miniature versions of themself as humanly possible before they die. and the fact that biologically, most men are just men. but without the societal "trap" of marriage, and the eventual babies to support, gay men are free to live a life of terminal bed-hopping, partner-swapping, closed-off emotions and all the rest.


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