Oh Phaedrus, Phaedrus, you charming devil: you must have been really good looking. Nearly everyone fell for you sooner or later, right? And then you toyed with them shamelessly, right?
Oh Phaedrus, Phaedrus, you smiling sociopath, you beautiful monster: did you love any of them back? I doubt it. Did you ever look back: to survey the wreckage wrought by your caprice? The trail of broken hearts you left behind you must have been something to behold.
Plato was in love with you for awhile, too, wasn’t he? Oh Phaedrus, Phaedrus, you machiavellian player: you must have broken his heart. Were you ever in love, really in love, with anyone? I doubt it.
Chicken hawks celebrate patriotism, not because they’re patriots, but because they’ve noticed that patriotic love inspires others to make sacrifices they themselves are unwilling to make. Your praise of love is of a similar stamp, Phaedrus. You celebrate romantic love, not because you’re a romantic, but because you’ve noticed that people do lots of nice things for you when they’re in love with you.
Oh Phaedrus, Phaedrus: Plato got his revenge. And I suspect it was sweet.
Unlike Phaedrus, Pausanias has actually been in love. As such, he has a firsthand experience of Eros’s intoxicating power that The Symposium’s first speaker lacks. What’s more, whereas Phaedrus flatly denied its existence, Pausanias at least tries to make sense of Eros’s dark side. Acknowledgement is surely better than denial; but, in this case, only marginally so, because Pausanias’s method of acknowledgement is itself a kind of denial.
Pausanias doesn’t try to understand how erotic energy can lead, at one and the same time, to great beauty and great ugliness. Instead, he splits Eros in two: a noble Eros is responsible for all the good stuff, and a common Eros is responsible for all the bad stuff.
His distinction brings to mind our own culture’s silly distinction between love and lust. Regardless, it’s a sleazy sleight of hand. I far prefer the savage honesty of Tony Hoagland’s “Adam and Eve”: “I’ve seen rain turn into snow then back to rain, and I’ve seen making love turn into fucking then back to making love, and no one covered up their faces out of shame . . . . Until we say the truth, there can be no tenderness. As long as there is desire, we will not be safe.”
The vast majority of the conflict I see in relationships stems, not from a mismatch between those who want serious commitment and those who do not, but from a mismatch between those who are looking for the relationship equivalent of part-time work, and those who are looking for the relationship equivalent of full-time work. People who are looking for the relationship equivalent of part-time work are looking for a committed relationship that’s a part—the most important part, but still just a part—of a full life, which includes, among other things, plenty of time for friends, plenty of time for family (their family), and plenty of time to pursue professional success.
People who are looking for the relationship equivalent of full-time work are looking for their soulmate, for the missing half of their soul. They’re looking for what Aristophanes describes in Plato’s Symposium. And when they find it, in you, and with you, they wanna be more than just your #1; they wanna be your #1, #2, #3, #4, & #5. Dating sites have always asked users if they’re looking for something serious or something casual. But it’s time to take this self-selection process a step further: by asking users what “something serious” means to them.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2017)