The Girlfriend-Boyfriend Culture

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Bruce Charlton discusses the girlfriend-boyfriend culture:

Growing up in the late sixties to seventies, the impression I got about the purpose of life was that you ought, at all times — from the age of about 10, to “have a girlfriend” — and that what life was mainly about (the kind of life I saw on TV, movies, read in books).

Thus life ought to be focused around 1. having a girlfriend and 2. doing fun things.

The idea was (implicitly) to have quite a few but not too many girlfriends, perhaps one a year? to demonstrate that you were “serious” about “relationships” — and one at a time to demonstrate that you were honest and capable of being faithful.

That was the baseline for everything else — such as education, work or hobbies — and indeed, education, work and hobbies themselves were implicitly aimed at greater long-term success at girlfriends and fun.

I remember, aged 17, attending a (compulsory) talk by a Church of Scotland minister who — in response to questions — said that sex should be only within marriage. As a basis for life, I found this idea bizarre and crazy — and in fact life-denying; because I had absorbed the prevalent culture that the extra-marital boyfriend-girlfriend framework was simply the main thing about life: after all, it was the subject of almost all the TV, movies and books I had ever seen, including many of the best ones and the ones which most made me want to emulate the characters.

There seemed to be no point in marriage, and especially not in having children — because these were “irrevocable” decisions; and a responsible person would not put themselves into a position of being “tied” by “permanent” situations — the ideal was that when the situation changed, then life should change. That seemed obvious.

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