All I Want Is Love Eternally... Is That So Much To Ask?

One of my new favorite bands is local Seattle group Hey Marseilles. I saw them play at Mayor Mike McGinn's Inauguration Party earlier this month and fell in love. Their orchestral, melodic, surprisingly agile tunes are a pleasure to listen to.

[mp3] To Travels & Trunks

Why can't you see heaven won't wait for us?
Salutations and prayers are too laborious
All I want is love eternally,
with your heart facing me.

Reminds me of another song I've heard recently - Hot Chip's new song, "One Life Stand:"

[mp3] One Life Stand

I only wanna be your one life stand.
Tell me do you stand by your whole man?

These dudes really want to be in long-term relationships, and they're not afraid to sing about it. We know that members of bands are always ahead of the curve on culture, whether it's fashion or lifestyle choices. Is this a mark of the new post-gender norm that twenty-somethings will pick up on next week, and tweens will be embracing in 2015?

Well, let's not exaggerate the uniqueness of this point of view; young people have wanted to be in long-term relationships forever. But here's the interesting thing, I think, about these two excellent songs - it's the confident expectation that's implied in those bolded statements. "All I want is love eternally." "I only wanna be your one life stand." They could be read differently, but the sense I get is that you could easily add afterward, "Is that so much to ask?"

Compare this to the most popular indie rock love song of the last few years (released in 2005, that somehow extended its life for years as everyone, literally everyone heard the song, it made its way onto TV shows and mix CDs, and cover versions proliferated - it's still relatively popular even now) "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" by Death Cab for Cutie:

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark.

Note the "if." Note that the narrator is doing the following, if it's OK with the romantic object. Emo music, and by extension indie music as a whole (which it largely morphed into, I don't think there are really any "emo" bands left) used to be largely comprised of what were called "hopeless romantics;" yearning for some unattainable love interest. At least in the two songs mentioned above, the narrators are more like hopeful romantics. But this goes beyond hope, it's more like confident expectation.

This is interesting to me because I wonder if it's a trend. I was under the impression that we were entering a post-monogomous age where old, more-traditional view of relationships were beginning to erode, where marriage (and, really, monogamy itself) was beginning to fade away into a neo-60s-ish "free love" era only with all of the lessons we've learned from that era intact (don't use too many drugs, do use protection, sex and love are good with a committed, trusting romantic partner but aren't confined only to one person or to the confines of a society-sanctified marriage relationship). When something like 50% of marriages end in divorce, and have for the last few years, you'd think that us young folks would look at what our parents went through (author's note: each of my parents are on their third marriage) and start giving up on marriage as an ideal and maybe on strict monogamy as well. 

If you read the last post, then you got the idea that I am sort of in this camp. I'm at least of the ideology that a relationship is not a must, that we're all OK even if we never get married, that when a relationship ends it's not a tragedy, that you aren't a broken person, that the right person will come along or maybe they won't and that everything's OK even if they never do.

I think that's why I related so strongly with the recent films Up In The Air and (500) Days of Summer. Both show their main characters being bummed out that their most recent relationship didn't work out, but the films also say, a little more subtly, "Hey, they didn't work out, but life goes on and everything's still OK." I remember reading an interview with the director of Days where he says (unfortunately, I can't find the link, and also spoiler warning if you haven't seen the film yet), he says something like, "At the end, Tom meets this new girl, Autumn. And you wonder, is he going to make the same mistakes? Is he going to fall for her? Or is he going to learn and grow?" 

And I think that was one of the keys to the film, and I didn't think about until I read the interview. The point is that he was helped to become a more complete, independent person because Summer broke up with him, that that was the role of the relationship in his life: it forced him to man up and realize that he has a life all his own. That relationships are great and they can teach us things but we're never going to get anything out of life unless we're getting that already from our own lives, from our own selves, that love or a relationship can only add to what we already are, can only be a perk, if you will, but can never really complete us. The relationship meant a lot but it wasn't the end-all be-all of existence. He started doing OK sort of because of the end of the relationship, but his potential was there all along. And I think (hope) Tom was learning that by the end.

So when cute indie rock boys are implying that requesting "love eternally" from another person is OK (maybe even expected or justified) it sends a different message. I think that eschewing traditional societal expectations for romantic relationships (let's not even get into traditional views re: heteronormativity) is a good thing. Society progresses. That's a good thing.

Do you think society is growing toward a post-monogamy norm?
Or are we still the same as always?
Do you think that sex should stay inside of marriage?
Did you have different interpretations of these films? Of these lyrics?
What's your favorite 2010 indie rock love song? Will it be as popular as Death Cab's? Is Death Cab still relevant? 
Do you think you will not be complete until you find your soul mate + marriage partner?
Can you have more than one soul mate?
Is it a tragedy when a relationship ends?
What did you learn from your last relationship? Was it worth it?
Is it OK to expect a life-long commitment from your partner (to express that expectation through song)?
Any other comments?


  1. Great post! I think you are right, monogamy is in right now, as silly as that sounds. Another example for the teens is the Twilight series. Regardless of your view of the series, I think it presents an interesting model for relationships we haven't seen in awhile in media. (Although from a feminist perspective, there are some serious problems with a lot of it)

  2. Haha Twilight. I haven't read it or seen the movies (yet?). I'm kind of scared about the view of relationships it presents, at least based on the criticisms of it I've read.

    By the way, Jaimie, if you see this comment, how did you find my blog? I'm curious about my "readership," I guess?

  3. **Sorry this is so long.
    I think the one glaring thing missing from your analyzation from 500 Days of Summer is that Summer herself (spoiler!) says at the end that all he said about soul mates and your life becoming complete stuck with her, made her believe that "true" love was possible, but that it wasn't with him. Thus she gets married.

    I don't know if culture is moving back towards monogamy, but I think it is moving away from the rampant sex culture we have seen in the past. I think our Sex and the City days are behind us. I think that culture is starting to focus more on equal, serious, committed relationships.

    Personally, I don't believe in "soul mates." I do think I'll get married one day, and I do think/hope that it will last you know...forever. But I don't think it will be because I met the One, I think it will be mostly circumstantial. Any relationship is work, you just I guess need a base compatibility.

    I don't think that my life is complete without community. Whether than be with family, a romantic partner, or friends. But when one area of your community fails (breakups), the others take up the slack. So it's important to cultivate all of those. This is something I learned in my last relationship (and my current one of 3 years)- to rely on other people, and to let them rely on me. To not feel weak if I can't be completely independent.

    I have a favorite indie rock love song but I don't know if it's really about love. Look Up by Stars.

  4. Hm... I didn't mean to say necessarily that "soul mates" don't exist, or that 500 days discounts them. I don't think I believe in them. Just... well maybe Tom had to do the work on himself, become a complete person, before he would ever even be able to find his soul mate, you know?

    Maybe every relationship we attempt to make work when we haven't gotten our own shit together is, not doomed, but in a precarious position (and the shit must be gotten together, soonish, or else the relationship will be doomed)?

    Now that I think of it, you're right - the 90s did introduce an interesting sex culture that I didn't mention. Maybe I'll change the 60s part and make it the 90s. Sex & The City, Friends, what other examples? Of media that glorified promiscuity in a certain way? But now I'm thinking of disco/electro and club culture and drugs in the 80s and it makes me wonder whether the last 50 years have all just been a huge orgy. Hm.

  5. I saw your link on Facebook.

  6. mmk. been thinking about this since i read it about 10 days ago. this is what i've come up with...

    i think not expecting monogomy is, truthfully, cutting ourselves short. if one cannot believe in monogomy, we cannot fully love our partner.

    before you get defensive, follow me here.

    if we have at least a hint of belief in monogomy, we can deem our partner worthy of so much more. when we enter/maintain a relationship with the mindset (no matter how small a part of our consciousness it may be) of considering the other as incapable of full commitment, how can we truly have faith in, or true love for, the other?

    love is diminished if it is not unconditional; it seems more conditional if we deem ourselves incapable of committing to one person for the entirety of life.