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Love has, accordingly, become a pursuit—something we look for and fight for and treat as a fundamental component of a happy and successful life.
It’s the “organization kid” ethos, essentially, applied to romantic partnership, and it complicates the dominant, idyllic sense of love as the stuff of Shelley and Shakespeare, as the thing—that warm, soft, trembling thing—that transcends culture and gender and race and class and age and defines, in ways both big and small, what it means to be human. From the anthropological perspective, instead, romance is simply a cultural assumption like anything else.
Humans, the playwright Aristophanes argued, once had four arms, four legs, and two faces.
Our current, more streamlined look—current in ancient Greece, and current, still, today—came about because of pride.
You hear things along the lines of ‘She is my other half,’ and ‘I can't imagine experiencing the joys of life without him by my side,’ or ‘Every time I touch her hair, I get a huge boner.’”We live, in other words, in a world that is shaped, in ways big and small, by the search for a soul mate.
“Younger generations face immense pressure to find the ‘perfect person,’” Ansari notes—a pressure that “simply didn't exist in the past when ‘good enough’ was good enough.” Emerging adulthood, the phase of life between adolescence and marriage (and a phase that didn’t exist for most previous generations of Americans), now doubles as a time when many young people embark not just on a professional career, but on a romantic one.
It’s about the amazing and occasionally awkward things that take place when an entire culture, gradually but also suddenly, transforms its sense of what romance is all about.And marriage, that symbol of success in one’s search for a soul mate, has become a status symbol—and also, Ansari notes, summoning Esther Perel, a luxury good.