Buying You, Selling Me: Love Commodifiedby Chad Thomas Johnston on Jul 6, 2011 • 6:41 am 2 Comments
Note: I recently found this piece I wrote in late 2006, only a month before I began dating Becki, the woman who would become my wife. I thought it was a reasonably worthwhile piece of writing considering it was penned – er, keyed – by my then 28-year-old self.
This may seem like a strange tirade, but I despise how our culture has embraced the commodification of romantic love. I mean, obviously, when stupid Cupid bombards us with arrows every February 14th, we are reminded that love is culturally incomplete without financial investment.
If you can find cheap roses at Aldi, you’re in luck: your love costs only a paltry $3-4 USD. When you throw that kind of coinage in Cupid’s coffer, you can tell your sweetheart with great confidence, “My love for you is worth three dollars.” Watch your heads, because the moon is definitely going to fall from the sky when you utter those immortal words.
A part of me is saddened every time I see a TV show or a film where people “rate” the people they have dated or slept with. We are a consumerist society, so it does not really surprise me that we consume one another as well, but I think we were never meant to be “consumed.” I am too flawed to ever bear a high price tag on the romantic market, but I would still contest that I am a priceless catch regardless. I have simply found it difficult to go from point A (single) to point B (married). I know I am not the only one who feels this way.
Every package the market tries to cram me into feels false and forced, like when you are young and your parents force you to play sports that you loathe because it will be a “lesson in growth” or, in Calvin and Hobbes vernacular, a lesson in “character building.” I am learning that I simply cannot be commodified without experiencing the dehumanization that inevitably accompanies swapping humanity for something predisposed for consumption.
Rating a person’s looks, their character traits, or their sexual prowess or lack thereof may be something that resonates with us on a cultural level, but it denies people of personhood. I know I am a big enough mess that I am grateful for the grace of God. My personhood is a messy Jackson Pollock painting that speaks both masterpiece and disasterpiece all at once. I think that is the boat most of us find ourselves, well, drifting in on a seemingly aimless existential ocean. Unfortunately, I think we find it so easy to overlook the beautiful messes we see in each other in favor of finding something bigger, better, or brighter elsewhere. We are always looking for a better deal.
I suppose 2007 will be a year for growing up. I want to keep my inner child alive, but perhaps I need to put to death those consumerist tendencies in me that would transform other people into products on a shelf. Perhaps we all need to ignore those interpersonal price tags that measure value through anything other than whether or not a person is a creation of God – a priceless work of living art.