Monday, December 28, 2009

Hook-Up = Heartbreak? Ask George Clooney!

No one dates anymore, I was recently informed by a young woman of college age. They either do casual hook-ups or rush to get married.


I've been hearing about this dating-free philosophy for some time now, have even seen signs of the fact that we are becoming a Hook-Up Nation but what I want to know is -- beyond a fling or two or three, who actually believes that emotion-less, commitment-free sexual relationships are desirable?

The quick answer, it might appear, is boys and men, but George Clooney recently informed me otherwise. The no-strings-attached fling can be downright demoralizing, he told me during a recent intimate encounter at the Loews Lincoln Square Theatre where he was seen racing to the home of his hook-up to see her between business trips. And why was this? Because, despite his up-in-the-air lifestyle and allergy to coupledom, it turns out that he actually cared about her. Now that I've gotten the Gospel according to George, I'm intent upon spreading the word that men have feelings too, though I'm all-too-aware that the concept of the sheerly recreational sexual encounter (termed famously the Zipless F^*% by Erica Jong in Fear of Flying some thirty years ago) seems tailor-made to the male species, reputed to be sluttish from birth.

But lest I jump to pre-feminist conclusions, said my college campus spy, I should know that girls were fully complicit in perpetuating this dating-free ethic. They have willingly adopted the Hook-Up habit themselves, thereby becoming hookees, or as our mothers might have wisely said - hookers.

It was liberating, she insisted. Why should boys be the only ones to fool around?

Only under strenuous cross-examination did this young lass confess that her female friends frequently ended up getting emotionally screwed because they cannot squelch the secret hope that the boys they jump into bed with might end up liking them. Significantly, my source admitted to being unusual for her generation, craving neither young marriage nor the casual encounter but that obsolete thing called a relationship which involves a prehistoric life form known as a boyfriend.

It's obviously not only college girls who end up disappointed by this decree of divorce between body and soul. I've heard from single men who are in a state of near-despair, longing for an intimate and caring relationship and fearing that most modern women are infected with the wish to only hook up with them. One twentysomething lad reflected on the general state of things with real sadness, bemoaning the loss of sincerity in human interactions, expressing his desire to bond body, heart and soul as possibly old-fashioned and increasingly unrealistic.

True, I know way more women who weep for the lack of a loving partner but the fact that I even know a handful of men who are disappointed in love informs me that the ethic of the Hook-Up as standard operating procedure is an illusion, if not an outright lie.

And though it is considered to be the new, cool way to relate, the habit of hooking up is actually a two-dimensional trap, killing off the possibility of having a truly erotic or romantic experience, both of which form the whipped cream and cherry on the sundae of life.

Which brings me back to George Clooney and two recent films that riff on the limitations of the Hook-Up habit from a male perspective -- Up in the Air and 500 Days of Summer.

If you have seen neither film and wish to do so, please stop reading this post as it contains a plot spoiler in the next paragraph.

Maybe it's because I just saw these films weeks apart (one in the theatre, the other aboard my Continental flight back from Israel) but I found it striking that both Clooney's Ryan Bingham and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Tom Hansen have their hearts broken by women who treat them all-too-cavalierly.

Who participate avidly in the relationship and then withdraw, revealing themselves to be not the least bit emotionally invested.

Which is striking and kind of Man-Bites-Dog because we know all about women getting screwed over by men. But there is nothing liberating or score-settling about the screw-you shoe being worn by the other foot. Instead, as a filmgoer and fellow human, I felt deep disgust toward Zooey Deschanel's and Vera Farmiga's characters Summer and Alex, indeed, had a fleeting fantasy that I might re-educate them in a Clockwork Orange kind of way, teaching them how to treat the people who care about them with kindness and concern.

And though it is only The Movies, I found this plot twist important and reflective of the way that things really are.

Which is that our hearts are located within our bodies.

And that real people don't come in single-use packaging to be used once or twice and tossed, that is to say, to be treated like hookers.

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