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Does Excessive Flattery/Admiration Undercut the Ability to Romance: Is It a Socio-Economic Issue?

It has been a short summer, hasn’t it? I wonder if everyone is happy putting so-called relax time behind them for a while? For me, I’m excited to be back in the mix with the steady flow of my life. This semester excites me more than others because I am teaching my Romance, Sex, Love, and Marriage (RSLM) course once again. I only teach it once every third semester and because of that there is usually a healthy number of students clamoring for it by the time it arrives. This energizes me because if you know anything about college electives, it isn’t easy attracting students to do serious work for a class that isn’t required. So, having 50 students in what is essentially a non-required philosophy class to discuss various dimensions of their lived, or soon to be lived lives is what we would call in the vernacular of my old neighborhood “off the hook!”

Having just concluded the second week of class we were engaging the topic of Romance. We looked to Goethe’s first novel “The Sorrows of the Young Werther” and a conversation of Socrates’ in the Symposium to assist us in exploring what John Armstrong calls “the Romantic Vision. We considered various music and film clips to bring some of our romantic concepts to life. One song in particular, “Slow Down” by Bobby Valentino, inspired a conversation about how men are socialized towards seeing women as objects, and in general how people prejudge one another subconsciously relative to the romantic perspectives as much as in any other human interaction. In the instance in Valentino’s song he has a guy overtly fascinated with a woman’s shapely lower backside. In singing about her, his fascination with the movement of her shapely lower backside and his imagination relative to that movement is overtly apparent, even seemingly contradicting other potentially romantic things he is trying to convey (you can “you tube” most of these songs/film clips if you are unfamiliar with these references and want to have more of a feel for what I am talking about).: What he actually says is”

I saw you walking
Down on Melrose
You looked like an angel
Straight out of heaven, girl
I was blown away by
Your sexiness
All I have to do is catch up to you

Slow down I just wanna get to know you
But don't turn around
Cuz that pretty round thing looks good to me
Slow down never seen anything so lovely
Now turn around
And bless me with your beauty, cutie

A butterfly tattoo
Right above your naval
Your belly button's pierced too just like I like it girl
Come take a walk with me
You'll be impressed by
The game that I kick to you
It's over and for real

The game the guy was attempting to “kick” to her didn’t particularly impress the students and was deemed quite unromantic by many. However, the depth of diversity revealed itself and quite a few women in the class articulated their comfort with having their backsides admired, even celebrated, by someone they might find attractive. Nothing definitive emerged in our pursuit to determine the merits of a romantic encounter. We did however set the mood for the film clips and accompanying scholarship to be engaged. Between the first class and this one we had watched some of the following film clips to establish what exactly is romance or a romantic moment.

Boys Don’t Cry (the scene where Brandon [whom we also know as Teena] and Lana have their first encounter)

Out of Sight (the classic bar/hotel room scene between federal law enforcement officer Jennifer Lopez & escaped convict George Clooney)

Sin City (opening scene with Josh Hartnett exclaiming the sincerity of his growing passion for Marley Shelton)

ER (a hospital scene where two gay men [one HIV positive, the other not] appear to be desirous of sharing HIV positive status, for differing reasons--as a statement of their feelings towards one another).

Love Jones (Larenz Tate romances Nia Long with seductive spoken word during a chance meeting in a nightclub)

Sex and Lucia (Paz Vega romances Tristan Ulloa with a very, very direct approach)

All of these film clips contributed to painting a broad based conversation about romance, or romantic love (infatuation). However, when the conversation centered upon the scene from “Sex and Lucia” that arguably depicted romance, Lucia, initiates an exchange with a renowned local writer in a bar in Madrid by openly acknowledging that she is a fan of his who has been fascinated with him for quite some time (having read his novel) and is in love with him. She also acknowledges having followed him, knowing where he lives and his daily routine. Thrown off guard for a moment, the writer (Lorenzo) recovers to focus upon the fact that this very beautiful woman is quite lucid in the articulation of her desire to be affectionate towards him. Ultimately from that point, it can be argued that they begin a romance. This is when one of the students in the class made the assertion that romance between them couldn’t be possible because a groupie can’t be romanced. Recognizing that we first need to define the problematic, judgmental term “groupie” before we begin to attempt to determine whether he/she can be romanced is necessary, don’t you think?

The stereotypical notion of a groupie is someone who is interested in a relationship with someone else because of their notoriety, fame, or even fortune. Usually this so-called groupie lacks comparable prestige or visibility and therefore his/her self esteem is often tied to a relationship with a person of notoriety, fame or fortune, whom from this point forward we can refer to as a “celebrity” to simplify matters.

In our conversation we eventually linked the two medium’s messages (song and film), accentuated by a few students further substantiating their points with references to pertinent scholarship, and came out with the question is it possible for an ardent admirer of a celebrity (a so-called groupie) to be romanced? Why/Why not? One of the students (Kayte) challenged the class by critiquing their criticism of Lucia’s candidness towards Lorenzo. Most of the class seemed to initially concur that her revelation to him that she began to fall for him through reading his novel was infatuation as well as shallow. Kayte asserted that some in the class were being hypocritical in saying that the guy in Valentino’s song was shallow in his lyrical admiration of her attractive backside and now when someone is acknowledging their attraction to someone’s mind (Lorenzo’s writing) we want to also label her appreciation of him as shallow also. It was actually a profound moment in our discussion because most of the class (including me) had missed this contradiction.

We agreed to some extent that a so-called groupie who is trying to get next to a celebrity will be making moves that could be construed as romantic overtures. But upon the realization that a groupie is interested in the celebrity, does the groupie somewhat yield the right of having their overtures reciprocated? After all, do you have to romance someone that obviously is head over heels towards you, or do you simply have to receive the adoration and affection that they extend? In other words, are you reciprocating romance simply by receiving it?

So, what might be the power dynamics that play out in what could be construed as an unbalanced beginning to a romance? In Sex and Lucia, the woman (Lucia) is a waitress, the man (Alonzo) a writer. Saying it in a stereotypically blunt manner, the woman is a woman, the man a man. So, what does that mean? Well, if she were the prominent writer and him a waiter would their pursuit of romance have played out differently? Could the less economically able person have romanced the other after revealing waiter/groupie status relative to celebrity status? In other words, would the dynamic change if she were the celebrity writer and he was the so-called groupie?

Larger questions that ensue from this conundrum of sorts are:
1. Does our class status accentuate or prevent, help or inhibit us from romancing someone in another socio-economic class?
2. Is it possible to ever transcend this dysfunctional socialization and romance someone as if we live in a classless society?
3. Aren’t we all potentially groupies on the continuum of attraction? What do you think I could possibly imply by this question? This third question is the one which I am most interested in hearing your thoughts. Your response will possibly add to our in-class conversation on romance. A good thing about that is you didn’t even have to register for the class. A bad thing about that is that you aren’t really in the class. Sorry about that…!


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A Groupie--To Be, or Not To be

I rubbed my hands against each other before writing this. It might have been a gesture made to reinforce my excitement or maybe it was a little more symbolic as it represented that which "groupies" in the continuum of attraction really feel towards their objects of attraction, heat. Essentially, I come from the school that suggests that we are all in a sense “groupies.” Before I continue though, it is important to expose the patriarchal backdrop of a word like “groupie.” Even though there are a handful of male groupies out there, the term has been predominantly used to label women and girls who fornicate with celebrities or fondle persons with fortunes. Remember, in a male dominated society, female sexuality has always been seen as a problem and it is still cast aside as shameful, perverted and in some cases a sign of desperation. Why can’t groupies be seen as individuals who have recognized and reconciled with two possible wants—the desires for notoriety and sex? If we can’t get to see them in this way, we need to pause and ask ourselves what kinds of ideologies impede us from doing so and is it possible that we are just straight up hating?

Everyone who engages in a romantic relationship idealizes the other in some way. Thoughts of taking long walks in the park, structuring future conversations, and developing creative ways to go in for a kiss, are all part of being in romance. Most of the process happens in our minds. In a very metaphysical way, we become distant “groupies,” often obsessing about the other. But of course, we try to play our cards right. We don’t want the other to know exactly the intimate depth of our thoughts about them. We don’t want to be exposed as “groupies.” We want to partially hide our intentions and little by little entice and lure the other into our romantic web. This is what we want. Unfortunately, some of us don’t have this kind of game and go out looking like Lucia—revealing most our interests at one moment. Whether we consider Lucia’s game as lame or ineffective, we need to acknowledge that she had the guts to put her feelings out there even if she came off as a bit fanatical. Also, just because she put a little too much information out there, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have more game where that came from. Who knows, if she’s that in touch with her feelings, could you imagine the amount of energy she could generate during a kiss, a hug or….I leave that to your imagination. For all we know, she could have had Lorenzo turned out if given the opportunity. Groupie or not, she should have been a bit more strategic with her game. My fellow groupies, Don’t we all have to be?

Hmm... This post had me thinking all day.

After sitting in class and hearing the word groupie thrown out so many times, I began to think if I, like the Enigma post before me suggested, was a groupie. I've been head over heels in love with someone who had not yet felt that love for me. Did that make me a groupie? A groupie to me was someone who had sex with a celebrity to attain something in return. Whether it was the satisfaction of knowing she/he had added another number to the count, whether it was someone's cry out for attention, or if it was to blur class lines.

I can think of one "groupie" who comes to mind right off the bat that could in our class’s definition be considered a groupie. Does anyone remember our former President's Intern; I believe her name is Monica? Come on now, she’s all over TV on commercials still. This brings me to the point about class, Ms. Lewinsky has thousands of dollars in endorsements today, but she did not before her internship in the White House. The blur between socio- economic status was definitely seen in this case.

I don't think socio-economic status can prevent someone from falling in love with someone not in their own class but it can cause obstacles. In Lucia’s case it helped her; I don’t think she was off on her game at all. I think she had a full deck of cards in her hand when approaching Lorenzo; she did end up living with him didn’t she?

To finish up I would like to point out that in all relationships we know what we want from that relationship, a friend, a lover, or an acquaintance. We know that we want some characteristics in our lover that we don’t deem necessary for our friends; if we set out to find these doesn’t this make us all “groupies”?

I would agree that in some way or form that we are all “groupies” to attraction. I may even go as far as to say that some of us have gained a form of craving for “romance”. Regardless of an outcome many of us are “romanced” by the feeling of “romance”, as it acts as an escape from our immediate conscious. Many people are addicted to the feeling, almost like “groupies” to the feeling of romance. It also begs the question; Could “romancing” and being a “groupie” apply to so much more than just a another person?

I was unable to view the scenes being discussed regarding Lucia & Lorenzo, but I do understand why some people may have felt her direct approach was inappropriate. It may come off as throwing oneself at another, with arising feelings of, “the end result would be same right?”, so maybe she decided to bypass any “romantic” gestures and go straight for the kill.

When Enigma states, “Groupie or not, she should have been a bit more strategic with her game”, I can read into the comment and base it on one facet of “Romance” for me, which is its similarity to hunting, that chase, the feeling of anticipation, the wonder, the mysterious aura behind the person were pursuing, the time put into the courtship process, the creating of imagery and feelings brought on by the senses that have been attracted. With that said, the straightforward approach could have acted as the revelation to that “mystery”, as we're often educated to hold some form of our personality behind until we feel we’ve become deeply connected to that person, which could be a reason behind the so deemed, straightforward, “groupie”, ideology being rejected as it may seem, to the point or “cut and dry”. As much as it may hurt some people to be without their romance, the chase between is seemingly worthwhile.

The exposure and the mystery itself surrounding the person could also be the reason for the attraction held by the waitress. If one’s mind could produce or conjure such beautiful work, maybe they are awaiting that someone that will allow them to physically or mentally stimulate and perform that sensual desire.

I am also compelled to respond to the 1st question, I do believe that our class status can help or inhibit our ability to romance someone. Someone of a more educated background, with increased opportunities may be able to use and may understand the romantic vernacular easier than someone who didn’t have the same privileges and is unable to connect on some level. Status, allows more access to different areas of society, in which could aid in the romancing process.

Imagine, being able to connect on certain levels due to the experiences you’re able to bring to the plate. What if, you’ve never left your home town, or had fewer chances to romance about people because of your drive to put food on the platter. There are also some people who refuse to even converse with people of lower socio-economic backgrounds and so the romancing is offset by prejudices. Keep in mind, romance between two opposite classes/status groups can exist, I'm not trying to rule out this possibility, but being able to satisfy the other person could be a part of the venture.

Status could also impede your ability to romance as some people will, as they say, “see through” the attempts, as they feel that mysterious ending has already happened for so many people before them. Some people believe themselves as being “the one and only” for the person their pursuing, unable to accept anyone else. They may also look negatively at the “fame”, steering away due to fear of being labeled a “groupie”, or being taken lightly by someone who they may feel is more than adept at romancing possibly a different person, every night.

How can one not become a “groupie” at some point on the continuum of romance regardless of whether or not the object (and, I use that word intentionally) of one’s attraction is someone of notoriety? I have been attracted to another person simply because of what is presented before me. It has been through the process of discovery that I have had the good fortune to admire and respect that other person for less superficial reasons. But, do I admire and respect them because I am attracted to them? Or, do I find them attractive because I admire and respect them? No matter, I believe that such an experience has a place on the romance continuum.

Being a “groupie” is filled with negative societal connotations. If we were to be honest, I believe we would each admit that we have been a groupie, of one sort or another, at some point in our life. That is, there has been someone in our life, whether they be in or out of our reach, who has become the focus of our interest, thoughts, dreams, desires, fantasies… our “everything” (Barry White). That we are ultimately able to learn from what we experience from being a “groupie” or just simply being infatuated, in retrospect, is not a bad thing.

I believe such experiences have a place on the romance continuum and, more importantly, in each of our lives. But more than that, I believe in love; I believe that all you need is love (Beatles); and I believe that love is all (Marc Anthony). That is the magic of love. It really is that simple.

I want to give it up for Bobby V and that song. That beat, those lyrics! I recently heard a song with the words, "It's like musical masturbation, I'm feeling myself." I'd argue that's what Bobby was doing when he wrote that song. Or, perhaps, he was feeling someone else. I'm just speculating! However, I think that song is quite romantic.

J.W. - I love the question about all of us "potentially being groupies on the continuum of attraction." First off, I think it is abundantly clear, as Enigma suggested,that the word groupie is a sexist term. Why do I agree? Ask anyone what sex or gender they think of when they hear that term. I'd bet the ranch that 9 times out of 10 one will say a female, or a woman. Secondly, my flow about your question will not be contingent upon the sexist notion of the word groupie, but rather groupie will be expanded to include all.

Enigma points out a great idea by suggesting that, as groupies, we must develop our romantic assault tactics and heighten our strategic ability to entice those we find mentally and physically attractive to ultimately find us the same in the name of romance. I think strategy is always part of the framework when it comes to one's intention to try and start a romance with another, whether it be more casual in nature or more like the cliche sense of "romantic love."

However, I don't know that I agree with the negative implications surrounding Enigma's depiction of the individual who "puts themselves out there" by expressing their romantic thoughts and desires to another. Romance involves assessments of the other's behavior and our own behavior in an attempt to "lure" them in. Yet, I don't know that the true "game" lies in the individual who is constantly on their toes, waiting for "perfect" opportunities to spit more and more game. I think the true "game" exists in the individual who can create these opportunities and move the romance along in a manipulative fashion so as to actually be able to cut to their true intentions of romance, quicker. Is that what the groupie does? Enigma, are you suggesting that there is value in holding back? Could it be that you think coming real strong and real quick is not romantic?

I think we do want the other to know our intimate thoughts and desires as it pertains to romance with the other, much more immediately than the typical "game" suggests. I also think that the reluctance to convey feelings and thoughts about romance to the other is indicative of "social romance rules." Such social norms have a tendency to vilify the beauty of sex, lust, attraction and desire, all of which form our image of romance. Yes, I get the idea that one who just meets someone and shortly after tells them they want to have sex with them is lacking a sophisticated "game." However, I think it is important to stop and think about how social rules influence the game's players and their perceptions of romance. Is it the "go hard groupie" who has the problem? Or is it the person on the receiving end of the intense display of desire and affection who may be succumbing to societal pressure that suggests we must "wait" a certain amount of time before expressing our romantic urges, thoughts, and desires? I'm not picturing the obnoxious "hit on" man or woman, I'm thinking of the person who is seriously romantic and expressive of their thoughts. (maybe the latter being exemplified by Bobby V.) Why must they be the minority in our romantic "game?" One could even argue that they possess a certain virtuous quality, namely, honesty. Honesty in the name of Romance. No more lies and strategies meant to put a shadow over our ultimate romantic attraction for another. An attraction that will ultimately be exposed as the clouds of romantic immaturity cease to exist.

I know from my personal experiences that I do not like hiding my intentions when it comes to romance. Yes, I'd be a hypocrite if I said I didn't conform to SOME of societies rules in engaging the desired. However, why not push the envelope? Is the groupie hated on because the groupie does what we all want to do? Do we impose our resentment for ourselves on the groupie because we don't have the articulate abilities necessary to more immediately confess our romantic attraction for another as a result of "romantic norms?" Yeah, I too do not think of a groupie as the smooth operator sweeping people off of their feet into romantic heaven, we have a bad image of the groupie. With that being said, it is the boldness of the groupie that we may envy. Their ability to speak directly about what they want, romantically, physically or mentally. I think the real game lies in the individual groupie who shatters the temporal restrictions of society's romantic rules and creates their own romantic clock. Romance can originate in a second. Why wait? Why not get romantic with numerous individuals? That's right, I forgot, not only do we have temporal restrictions on romance, we also have rules that say you should only be romantic with one person at a time.

Is anyone ever capable of falling completely in love with another person, or are we just falling in love with our personal perceptions of who somebody is? Perhaps, Bobby Valentine’s song was expressing his feelings towards a woman who he would like to potentially romance, that is, if he were able to work up the courage to actually approach her like Lucia had done in Sex and Lucia.

I interpreted the song, Slow Down, as the expression of somebody who was creating an unattainable ideal romance in his head, but would not pursue the woman any further than the dialogue he had created within his head. It seems as if he had imagined a “perfect” interaction with a woman he was attracted to.
However, the woman may not have been anything like the image he had of her in his head, and he may not actually be able to have the level of communication with her that he expressed in his song. It could be that he pursued her enough to get her number, but I don’t believe that he wanted to risk losing the ideal image of her that he had created in his head. However, in Sex and Lucia, I saw Lucia creating the same kind of ideal image of Lorenzo, but the film gives the audience a chance to watch her pursue someone that may otherwise appear unattainable. Perhaps, Lucia and Lorenzo had communicated before she approached him.

Lorenzo is a writer and it can be claimed that he is writing for an audience, whether it be the reader of his book or himself. Either way, Lorenzo wrote a book that originated in his mind and could be accessed by anyone who happened to read it. Some people may relate to the book more than others, but it seems as if a writer is trying to communicate something to the audience. Lucia happened to relate to his writing on a personal level, and fell in love with what appears to be her perception of a writer who could create the material that she was able to connect with. Also, Lorenzo may have been expressing his thoughts and hoping that somebody would connect to or appreciate his work, which could be considered an extension of a part of his mind.

Another scene that stuck out from the film was when Lucia and Lorenzo were (making love, having sex, etc.) and Lucia kept repeating something to the extent of, “I’m dying” over and over again. I believe this part can be related to a quote from an article from [the Romance, Sex, Love and Marriage] class (Perils) that said, “The exhilaration that accompanies falling in love is only half the discovery of one’s lover, the other half is a-(re)discovery of oneself.” I interpreted the phrase, “I’m dying”, to signify the idea of reincarnation and to symbolize the end of Lucia’s former life without Lorenzo and to be reincarnated into her new self with her new lover.

How important does the role of communication play within a love or a romance? A clip from the film, Love Dance, had a man who claimed to be very romantic, because he always bought flowers and chocolates for the women he romanced. One may consider these types of gifts to be common and cliche, but one may latch onto these types of common symbols, because one may have feelings that one is not capable of articulating with the vocabulary that is available within the language. A bouquet of flowers could be intended to communicate something that somebody cannot express in words, but is familiar with the common associations of flowers with love and romance. Another article mentioned that couples tend to use “baby talk”, which I see as a way of creating their own vocabulary with their own definitions and significance to each other. The Korzybski-Whorf-Sapir hypothesis states, “the language a people speak habitually influences their sense perceptions, their “concepts” and even the way they feel about themselves and the world in general.” This seems to imply that our language has a great influence in shaping our world and our culture, and a couple with their own vocabulary could feel as if they are in their own world that can only be accessed by them.

This leads me to another quote from the readings in (Romantic Love), “To insist that romantic love requires equality is not to deny that there are still gross injustices and institutionalized inequalities between the sexes; it is rather to point out that love presupposes a radical conception of privacy in which the public dimension is suspended, in which personal choice is definitive, in which equality is determined by two individuals and not by a structure that encloses them.” It seems as if Lorenzo and Lucia had created their own world between themselves that did not follow the standards or taboos that may exist in the world. On that note, I agree with the other comments on the blog thus far that assert that we all are groupies to some extent, but if that is the case then I think we can just throw the word groupie out the door. I don’t think we need to place more labels on people, because it tends to strip away any other identity (perhaps an example of our perceptions being limited by our language?).

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