The key to your heart? It’s a charming (and romantic) expression for letting someone in, for making yourself vulnerable, for risking, for trust.
But do we really think that love is so easily secured – and guaranteed? That relationships can ever be all locked up? Will a promise, a marriage certificate – or a lock on a bridge – prevent an unforeseen event that may break our hearts?
An article in Sunday’s New York Times, “An Affront to Love, French-Style,” by Agns C. Poirier, explores the response of Parisians to foreign tourists who have been placing locks on the city’s bridges.
Intended to symbolize eternal love, Ms. Poirier asserts that the issue goes beyond defacing historic architecture. As the title of her piece suggests, this is about cultural differences when it comes to love.
Incidentally, the French capital isn’t the only city where padlocks adorn a variety of structures – or overwhelm them. Apparently this practice has been taking place for a number of years, and love locks also appear in Germany, Canada, Italy, Russia and elsewhere.
As for the authorities in Paris, they’ve previously removed what some consider to be eyesores. But the latest word from AFP is that the locks, for now, will not be cut down.
Does Love Require Freedom?
According to Ms. Poirier, it isn’t so much the fact of defacing bridges that irks Parisian pride. It’s the objects themselves, and the implication that love can be locked up, the key tossed, and consequently, the couple’s devotion – secured.
Ms. Poirier points out the tenuous nature of love, its inability to be guaranteed, and she references French philosopher Alain Badiou in doing so:
In his recent book, “In Praise of Love,” the French philosopher Alain Badiou reminds us that love implies constant risk… For Mr.Badiou, love is inherently hazardous, always on the brink of failure and above all vulnerable.
Could she be right? Could love, French-style, require an acceptance of individual freedom that is more pragmatic than love American-style?
Whether or not you believe Ms. Poirier has gone overboard on the rationale for Parisian petulance over lock-laden bridges, her premise is intriguing.
Are the French culturally predisposed to a more open view of love?
How much of our language and culture operates with an assumption of being all “set” once we “find the one” and then, marry him or her?
How many of us still cling to convictions that once legally wed, we’re safe from any of life’s disruptions?
Could it be that the French truly are more free when it comes to love, or are they more realistic about human nature – not to mention, more willing to turn a blind eye to affairs when it comes to sexual freedoms?
Is this all so much myth?
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not proposing amorous anarchy. But if not free love, what about freer love – recognizing that emotions cannot be caged?
Surely most of us reach a point in life when we seek a safe and loving connection, the comfort of being accepted as we are, and let’s not forget about passion. In other words, physical and emotional intimacy is the Holy Grail.
There are also times in life when we want little to do with anything that resembles ownership or exclusivity. Why do we deem that “wrong” or inferior, when theoretically, we believe in individual choice?
I understand there are many sorts of affection, engagement, and yes – love. I treasure commitment, yet I possess a strong need for freedom. Naturally, my own marriage and divorce play into my attitude, but my approach was more “French” long before I married, if I dare to use such a description.
Personally, I believe there are no locks for love in life; only, as Ms. Poirier might say, “embracing [love’s] fragility.”