Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dating in the 21st Century, Pt. 1: The End of Courtship?

Marhaba LOVEanese! I'm really excited to write this post because I feel like it's the perfect time. Before I get into it, I have MUCH news and many things I want to bring to your attention. This is going to be a bit longer of a post, but there's just so much to say.

The first is this article. It's all about the "academic paywall," which is basically the way that publishers keep the general public out of academic/industry research. I'm bringing it up simply because I often link to online journals. After I read this article, I realized that if many of you want to read one and aren't currently affiliated with a university, you can't access them. So, in the future, if anyone wants an article, just let me know, and I'll send it to you. After all, I'm a firm believer in open-access research!

The second interesting article I wanted to highlight was a show from Al-Jazeera's "The Stream" entitled: All The Single Ladies. It's discussing how changing attitudes regarding work, individualization, marriage, and of course, love are affecting women in China, India, and other parts of Asia specifically (Hmm, that sounds familiar...). Here's the synopsis of the program: "Is it okay to pursue your own path in life--even if it means bringing major disappointment to your family? As the middle class grows in China and India, more women are choosing to delay marriage and children. Instead, they're pursuing their futures independently, devoting themselves to a lifestyle that is not necessarily husband- and kid-friendly. What is the 'right' thing to do?." It's linked above via YouTube, so anyone should be able to watch it too! 

Just hope the "right thing" doesn't involve the "Precious."

Lastly, in case you haven't already heard, I have some BIG news. In fact, I have A LOT of big news!

For one, on February 13th, in lieu of Valentine's Day, I gave a presentation at the premiere 2013 Global Nights event of the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. It was all about my thesis research, and was a wonderful opportunity to connect my life in Lebanon with my life in Louisville. Moreover, I was the keynote, so I got to spend over 30 minutes discussing it! It was received very well, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. There was a fairly large audience, and they asked great questions. And although it wasn't taped, I was really thankful and grateful for the opportunity!

Presentation advertisement

Aside from that, there is actually bigger news. After more than six months of looking, I finally got a job! This, however, is not the biggest news. The biggest news is that it's in Bangalore, and I'm moving to India! As of this Saturday (Feb. 23) when I fly out with a one-way ticket, I'll be wishing good-bye to America once again, and starting a new chapter of my life. I can't describe how exciting this is, and I know that my time in Lebanon has definitely prepared me for this. However, I am also happy that I got to spend the time back in Kentucky that I have. For many reasons too. Getting to spend time with my parents, reconnecting with old friends, strengthening those friendships, moving on, getting over fears, overcoming, reflecting after six long and tough years working on my formal education. It's definitely been wonderful for my personal, physical, and emotional well-being, and given me much time to decompress, reflect, and learn. But now the time is right to move-on from this lesson in life!

As far as the job goes, I'll be building a project whose aim is to foster critical thinking and more effective dialogue. So, I'll be working with activists, conducting research, performing outreach, working with/in schools, doing a lot with social media, grant writing, networking with organizations and people, etc. Basically, it's perfect for me! The organization is called Meta-Culture. You can read more about the organization here, and more about what I'll be doing here.

As far as the blog goes, no worries! I still plan on blogging, and may I remind you that India is the land of the Kama Sutra. Maybe I'll learn a few things about love(in) after all ;) And when I'm there, I'll be sure to blog and tweet about it. In fact, I've already formulated the Twitter hashtag (#) I'm going to use to talk about all things related to love, relationships, etc. in India: #INDAmacy. It may not be as catchy as #LOVEanon, but it's the only thing I could come up with that incorporated India with a word related to personal relationships! I'll use it, for instance, when I'm talking about increasing amounts of Indian women going to work and challenging gender roles and norms, or how, like in the Arab world, social constraints mean having to balance marrying for love with family and social approval. 

My heart's about to be colored orange, white, and green (obviously from the curry).

Now, onto the post. I actually thought about entitling it, "Dating in the 21st-Century: Huge Pain in the Ass." But decided it would be a bad idea. Why do I think-up this topic? Well, a few weeks ago, someone messaged me a quote that I found interesting (and true), so I posted this status on the LOVEanon Facebook Page as well as my own personal Fb page:

"Dating in the 21st century is by far one of the most ridiculous processes ever. People are so complicated. You must play games. You must lie. You have to act like you don't care even if you do. You must date multiple people to keep the attention of that one because it's generally just casual. You must be unavailable if you are too available people get turned off. You have to ignore calls even if you want to pick up. Essentially if you are a true lover, you have to resist everything that comes natural to you to play this f**king "game" you f**king idiots love to play. It changes everything for me to pretend like I don't care. I actually stop giving a f**k." -- Quote from Tumblr.

Although the LOVEanon Facebook Page post didn't get much interaction, I was blown away by the amount of people who commented on this status on my personal page, and by the different opinions and sentiment it seemed to evoke. It made me think a bit about dating, and then I saw this New York Times article a few days later: The End of Courtship? Now, you know how the Internet works. Something gets discussed for anywhere between 5 minutes to 2 days, and then is forgotten about forever. I didn't want this post to emerge out of hype or some stupid fad. I wanted to give it attention because I've been thinking about dating a lot recently.

Indeed, it seems that dating has lost a lot of it's flair. Now, some people think this is a good thing, others think it's a bad thing. I'm not here to make a judgement one way or another, but I have heard from many different people about this, and as I said, people have strong opinions about it. Regarding the NYT piece above, one friend of a friend said: "This article has such a narrow, mostly white yuppie perspective, and the people profiled sound absurd. If you are 30 and you want to act like a 15-year-old and not demand more than a text message from the guy you're interested in, that's your own damn problem. Technology and online dating apps don't make it more difficult to find meaningful relationships. You bring your values, your desires, and your preferences to them, and it's up to you to be an adult and be clear about what you want in your life, romantic and otherwise. With or without OkCupid."

After the NYT article was published, a Huffington Post Women associate editor named Emma Gray wrote a rebuttal article entitled: "Why It's Kind Of Irrelevant Whether 'Courtship' Has Ended." It was a good perspective, but I'm always 50/50 about articles like these. Because I understand what she's saying, and I partially agree. But I'm also perhaps a bit "old-fashioned" still. I definitely do think that there is room to incorporate change into dating, but I seriously think that most people set themselves up for either failure or shallow relationships. And that's what I have a problem with. Yes, enjoy your life, but when it comes down to it, don't forget that if you want kids, your life and your decisions effects theirs. Then again, perhaps that's too much of my own opinion. Consideration is a great thing, and important in all aspects of life--including (or rather, especially) dating. 

What about you, how do you feel? Do you agree? What's your opinion about the article and the Tumblr quote? I'm curious to think whether you think changes to dating and courtship are good or bad. What are you experiences like? Do you wish you could date more? Do you identify with the people interviewed in the article? Let me know in the comments! And make sure to catch the second post on this topic where I'm going to include links to more articles discussing dating, love, and the changing dynamics of courtship, offer idea for fun dates and tips on how to plan a date, and much to your amusement, I'm going to spill the beans about all the dates I'VE planned/been on in the past. The fun ones, the romantic ones, and even the awkward ones. It should be fun!

See you in South Asia!

Spread the love,
-Ogie, MA

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Beirut, My Heart

Marhaba LOVEanese! Like the previous post, this will be a short read as well (yes, it's a quickie haha).

Yesterday, my friend, filmmaker, and classy-lady-extraordinaire, Sabah Haider and I were having a wonderful conversation, when she told me about a film she wrote and directed. She's really talented (even has her own IMDB page!), and I was introduced to her work with her most recent film, Abu Rami.

The film she was telling me about is called Beirut, My Heart. It's about a love story that ends with a broken-heart and comforted by the beauty and magic that is Beirut. It reminded me a lot of the past post I did on Beirut, I Love You (I Love You Not) as well. Basically, it's a beautiful film that I'm sure many will be able to identify with, and I encourage you to watch it.

"Beirut, My Heart"

I can't embed it within this post, but you can watch it here. Did you like it? Can you identify with it? Let me know what you think!

Have a good rest-of-the-weekend, and, of course, spread the love!

-Ogie, MA

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Interview

Marhaba LOVEanese! And happy Valentine's Day! This isn't going to be a long post because I already blogged about VDay last year with this comprehensive post. I'm also currently working on a post all about dating. So, I'll get that to you soon. There has been, however, tons of articles coming out related to love this week. Like this one talking about the science of love, and how it has a similar affect as cocaine on the brain. Another was discussing how technology is changing romance, this one argued that Valentine's Day is "under attack" in Pakistan, and this one about the economics of love.

But what I did want to post here was the full interview I had with Brooke Anderson at the Daily Star. She wrote an article about Valentine's Day, and included some of my quotes in them. She also wrote a heart-wrenching piece about Syrian refugees giving up on love.

So, without further adieu, I present the full interview: 

Brooke: "What do you think of Valentine's Day in general?" 

Me: "I really don't like it. In the LOVEanon post I sent you, I outline the "fors" and the "againsts." But really it doesn't actually celebrate love, romance, relationships, passion, or intimacy. It celebrates consumerism. VDay in Lebanon was imported, and honestly, its more for business than love. I'm not trying to be negative either. I think it's great to devote the day or evening to someone special. But its gotten out of hand. Just like Christmas, we've completely lost the meaning of Valentine's Day. I also don't like the idea of celebrating someone you love or the love or affection you have for someone just because marketing departments tell you to do so." 

Brooke: "Why do you think some people place so much importance on it?" 

Me: "Great question. I honestly don't know. My initial response is that they are told to value it. Even though romantic love isn't something socially conditioned in the Arab world to be highly desired. I really think it goes back to how its been marketed. You feel bad if you don't feel "special," especially as a girl. It's very rooted in gender roles and stereotypes. It really feeds off of people's insecurities.

I want to clarify one answer. I said in the first question "We've lost the meaning of  Valentine's Day." To be honest, it's always been a "Hallmark Holiday" anyway. So, I don't know if we've actually lost the meaning of it, or really just perpetuated it's true purpose altogether: spending money." 

Brooke: "What do you think is worse: being single on VDay, or being in a lukewarm relationship?" 

Me: "Well, I think being in a lukewarm relationship is worse in general. Often, these relationships are shallow and ultimately result in someone getting hurt or unnecessary drama. There is nothing wrong with being single, and its better to be alone than to be in an arbitrary relationship or to celebrate something when there is no real, sincere care or feeling involved. If you're down on VDay because you're single, you need to reevaluate your priorities. You don't NEED anyone [I'm referencing the Merton blog post]. YOU should rely on yourself for your own completion. If you're single on VDay, enjoy the day with other singles, and don't put yourself down." 

Brooke: "Do you think it's a holiday where people get hurt -- thinking everyone else is in happy relationships? If so, what do you think are some good ways of dealing with the pain?" 

Me: "Quite frankly, I'm a huge proponent of not comparing yourself to others, and instead, focusing on your own happiness. Yes, I think people do get hurt and down, and it really polarizes a lot of people who are "happy" and in relationships, against those who are "sad and lonely" because they are not. When in reality, this is incredibly problematic. SO many people are in unhappy relationships for one, and being with someone is NOT necessarily the panacea for happiness or fulfillment. And in Lebanon especially, people constantly compare themselves to each other for, what it seems, just to make themselves feel better. However, all of this sends the wrong message about what contributes to a healthy relationship. Its not about curing loneliness, its about sharing with someone and companionship." 

Brooke: "Having lived here and studied love, what are some things you've noticed about Valentine's Day (the way people celebrate, show affection, etc.) in Lebanon that's particular to this country or this part of the world?" 

Me: "People in Lebanon and the Arab world are indeed incredibly emotional (myself included). This is beautiful, but in Lebanon, I also notice a lot of empty affection. Yeah, restaurants may be overbooked on Feb 14, but people have difficulty marrying for love, have to conform to community and society standards, and cannot even get a civil marriage in Lebanon. In the end, I feel like much of this pomp and circumstance for love is just another fa├žade. Individuals I interviewed for my thesis indicated the same thing. You see it, but you don't feel it. I'm not saying everyone's lying, or no one loves each other. But the entire idea of what love is differs from culture to culture and from person to person. It's subjective, so it's also problematic to compare. I guess I just hope that more people both now and in the future celebrate Valentine's less because they need to display their love, and more because they are actually happy."

And that's it! What did you think? Agree? Disagree?? Let me know in the comments! I'll leave you with Sareen's latest Ink on the Side comic about Valentine's Day:

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Spread the love,
-Ogie, MA