21 March 2006, 5:40 PM
I’ve noted before that Monsieur the Viscount de Valmont has, really, only the one string to his bow, and that’s the sense that when a man falls in love with a beautiful woman, whatever he does, whatever lies he tells and whoever he hurts, it’s all her fault. Not that he necessarily believes this himself, although it’s a bit difficult to tell what he believes and what he just finds useful to believe. No, the important thing is that she believes it, whoever she happens to be at the moment. Because once he convinces Madame the Presidente de Tourvel that he is helpless in her power, he can pretty much make her do whatever he wants. She accepts responsibility for his (feigned) grief, because its cause is her beauty.
This is crap.
To go a bit further, this idea in our culture is deep and invidious, at least if invidious means what I think it does. Hold on, I’ll check. Hm, it is invidious, but I don’t think invidious is the word I was looking for. Well, the point (I have one, honest) is that lots and lots of people do, deep down, seem to believe that when a man falls in love with a beautiful woman, whatever happens afterward is her fault, from rape to stalking, harassment, ogling, promotion, marriage, and living happily ever after. It’s not all bad, you know. But still, why is it her fault? When a woman falls for a good-looking guy, the weakness is assumed to be hers, and whether Stella gets her groove back or whether she boils the bunny, she is considered to be unusual, and the fellah is not to blame. This is Bad for Women, of course, and also Bad for Men, and you all know it.
Now, having got out of the way that all this is Bad, and that it is silly and useless besides as a model of how people actually behave, please allow Your Humble Blogger to make a few observations that veer a bit close to that bad and dangerous (and invidious) idea.
You see, I think that love is, to borrow the words of Madame the Marquise, frighteningly unpredictable. I’ve often said that—
Have I said it here? I’m not sure I’ve said it in so many words, so here goes: I don’t think people can control who they fall in love with. Yes, you may have a type, and you may well fall in love with a person of that type, and then again you may fall in love with somebody much taller, or thinner, or louder, or smarter, or more serious. Heck, you could fall in love with a man. Or a woman. It happens. A person’s type, insofar as it exists, is a matter of tendencies and probabilities, not certainties.
So, what does that mean? If Your Humble Blogger has fallen in love with you, Gentle Reader, and if that was fundamentally not a matter of choice, then surely it is not Your Humble Blogger’s fault, yes? In fact, who else’s fault could it be but yours?
The problem, yes, you caught it, aren’t you clever, is that while we could, for the sake of the argument, accept that it is your fault that I fell in love with you, vadevah dat means, what I choose to do about it is certainly my own responsibility. In fact, outside of considering love as an essentially ontological matter, entirely divorced from action of any kind, and I’m not sure how helpful that is, it makes far more sense that rather than my love for you making you responsible for my actions, it makes me responsible for you. If the love is reciprocated, then, it makes us responsible for each other—and ourselves, of course. If it isn’t, well, too bad for me, I suppose, but that doesn’t let me off my own hook.
You see, I think when it comes down to it, whether Monsieur the Vicomte loves Madame the Marquise, or loves Madame the Presidente, or neither, or both, matters only insofar as he is willing to take responsibility for them. I think, at the end, when he refuses to take responsibility for Madame the Presidente, and sees the consequence of it, he realizes that although he didn’t love her, not in any sensible sense, he might have. He regrets, in the end, leaving her, not because he loved her, but because he certainly never loved anybody else.
chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,