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'Why taking a lover won't give you love'

The Local · 19 Mar 2013, 10:54

Published: 19 Mar 2013 10:54 GMT+01:00

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It was intermission. I perched on a bench in the foyer and watched people go by. A couple in their fifties stopped for a moment. He leaned against a wall, so tall the crest of his nearly bald head almost reached the art deco rose cornicing. She busied herself with a plastic bag.

I watched them for five minutes. Neither of them smiled once.

Why not just get divorced, I thought to myself. Such silence.

Then the bell rang. We stumbled back into the theatre. Our bums, fattened by years of champagne-guzzling and shrimp-sandwich nibbling, crashed down on cushioned red velvet chairs.

Thus is the peril of the middle class. We will eat ourselves to death in order to stave off the silence, the boredom, the angst. Or whore ourselves into an early grave.

Dangerous Liasions is playing at the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten) in Stockholm. In which cruelty is a blood sport.

As pointed out in the elegant programme, the book Dangerous Liasons was written seven years before the French Revolution. Unwittingly, perhaps, it painted a pretty good picture of what happens when people are rich enough to allow them leisure, and don't know what to do to fill their spare time.

I watched the play with detached amusement. The scheming (but ultimately heartbroken) Marquise de Merteuil, the conniving (but ultimately heartbroken) Vicomte de Valmont.

Have I turned into one of them?

I fled the theatre as the cast took their bow. I'm ashamed to say it. I disturbed three fellow theatre-goers and thundered out of there like an Indian water buffalo trying to get its hooves unstuck from between the rocks in a small Alpine stream.

It hit far too close to home.

There have been periods in my life when I felt so bored I became self-destructive... destructive even. I wrote in my last column that I, out of respect for myself and others, would never consider being dishonest in a relationship. That's true now.

It hasn't always been.

At the age of 22, I did what the Marquise did - I took as my lover a modern version of the feckless naive boy Chevalier Danceny. My version was incredibly dim-witted and extremely inexperienced.

His dream was to join the army. I couldn't think of anything more dull. Taking orders isn't really my thing.

I had just finished my third-year university exams and had nothing with which I could fill the three-week void between studies and an impending, bound-to-be-boring summer internship. Putting it bluntly, I had too much time on my hands.

So I picked up a plaything, shook it about a bit, tried it out.

I realized my utter mistake a few weeks later when I was people watching on my first trip to Stockholm. A young family walked past, the man was pushing the pram. The toddler yawned indolently in the sunshine. The little postcard of nuclear-family bliss rattled my cage, big time.

My boytoy fling had already ended by then, but that I'd slept with someone who'd I'd never ever willingly raise a child with hit me with full force. The thought that something could have gone wrong, that I could have wound up pregnant with this man, this boy!, left me feeling fettered and defeated.

I realize I sound like a moralist. That is not true. I have very few opinions on other people's consensual sexual relationships. But I had never slept with someone for whom I felt such utter apathy. It made me feel rather cruel.

Maybe not quite as cruel as Valmont feels in the end of his torturous treatment of the mild and pious Madame de Tourvel. Yet cruel, nevertheless.

SEE ALSO: "I will never cut corners romantically, ever"

As I've grown older, I venture to say grown up, that period of my life seems in hindsight to fit in rather well with my material circumstances. My family was solidly middle class. I had money enough to allow time in which I was bored. To play. A luxury, really.

As far as Dangerous Liasons is concerned, there is of course a modern twist. I gather from Swedish friends my age that a paradigm shift has taken place in Sweden in the last few years. To stimulate consumption the government gave income-tax breaks.

Now everyone owns two cars but no one really knows where to park them. Metaphorically.

Story continues below…

It's all about things. Literally.

The problem? Well, what if it affects us in more ways than materially? What if it affects us morally? Just as buying the latest GPS doesn't give you a destination, taking on a lover doesn't give you love. Seeing people as toys is a sure-fire way to lose a grip on your own kindness. You want me to summarize? It makes you into a bitch.

Confusingly, even what seems to be a moral code can sometimes be misleading. Let's take feminism as an example.

Although the Marquise the Merteuil - played sublimely by Livia Millhagen at Dramaten - is a feminist avenger of her time...

"I've always known I was born to dominate your sex and avenge my own."

...it doesn't give her happiness.

So off with our heads.

Emilia Millicent lives in Stockholm and works in finance during daylight hours.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:53 March 19, 2013 by skogsbo
Is that pot of water boiling yet? If the guy who is now in the army reads this, will he think tragic loss or his lucky escape?

it does not matter if you do or don't want kids, if you want to be on your own or have multiple toys per day, week, year or session.... just live how you want to live, let the spiders out of your head and stop writing nonsense.
17:51 March 19, 2013 by AquamanUK
OMG, what a sexually 'repressed' PRUDE!

If sex is 'only for procreation' you sound like a right wing nut from the usa aka teabaggers...

There is more to sex than procreation, there is shared inter-personal fulfilment, if you only see sex for procreation, you are Obviously what we call in English - a Gold Digger, looking for the 'Right Man' to be both husband and father to children. TOTALLY ignoring your own personal wants, needs, and desires.

I truly feel sorry for you and anyone like you...
22:51 March 19, 2013 by EmployedProfessional
In Sweden,I only seem to know ex co-lovers who seek sex outside of their broken relationship since they can't bring the goodies home for fun or even a meal( don't fall for this type for long,please), and of course mental cases,so many here,happy hunting!

Far better to find a proper European( poland,germany,england,france,etc.) who get's it here after a while and really likes you for who you are.

Pretty only goes so far!
03:52 March 20, 2013 by Investor612

My vote for tortured analogy of the decade.

This angst filled article is self-indulgent drivel.
07:35 March 20, 2013 by Reason and Realism
'Against boredom the gods themselves struggle in vain' (Nietzsche).

'Live free or die' (New Hampshire license plates)

'Happiness isn't everything' (John Updike on relationships):

Almost all men have at one time or another been fiercely attracted to a Holiday Golightly type, but then they learn that those who wonder and worry what Holly is thinking and feeling are the ones that Holly gets bored with.

So far, off the list, are: simpleton soldiers + people who will not allow her to be silly; fair enough. But will we only get descriptions of what types of guys will NOT make the author happy in this series?
10:07 March 20, 2013 by GBGcommuter
OOHHH poor you!!! you tortured middle class soul!! I might have your same middle class boredom problem but at least I have the decency not to complain about it. Wanna have real problems to save you from your weariness? move to a 3rd world country and take no money with you... that should make things interesting, but please try to keep your egocentricity on the down load... you know... just so you don't annoy people to the point in which they just daydream about slapping you silly.
22:19 March 20, 2013 by Da Goat
Emelia don't be put off by the immature comments above where does one find an intelligent lady like your self?

at last someone who understands trouble when they see it.

it is indeed true fools rush where angels fear to tread!
08:15 March 21, 2013 by Emilia Millicent
@AquamanUK No, not prude at all. Although more careful in my choices now than ten years ago. That was more my point - that sex isn't ONLY about enjoyment, it means you have a responsibility to the other person. And as for being a gold digger, I make good money and I'm a feminist, so looking for a a sugar daddy ain't really ma thang.
17:43 March 22, 2013 by AJB
You used the word "bairns" in your first article but I was disappointed not to see any Nordic-derived Scots words this time around. Only joking. I liked this article just as much as the first. It's a perennial existential problem and source of many a great drama: even really good human beings behave like - I believe the French phrase is "les bawbags" - sometimes.
04:00 March 23, 2013 by rwp
As for me, I am disturbed by the alienation between different genders. More and more people "come out". The question is, are they homosexual or just too fed up with the opposite sex (as a symptom of todays society) ? Furthermore, aren't there enough wars without battles on the internet??
12:13 March 26, 2013 by johan rebel
As long as your lover is hot, sexy and willing, who cares if he or she gives you love?

You marry the person who loves who, and who will hopefully also take care of the kids, wash the dishes, etc. Lovers are the ones you have fun with.
17:35 April 5, 2013 by Laurence F
the ignorant comment about "teabaggers"

The Tea Party in America is about fiscal responsibility.

It is about the US Constitution.

It is about the Freedom of Man. (and Woman)

It is about Liberty.

It is about the Rights of Man (and Woman) comes from God,

not the King or Government. The People decide what the

government is allowed to do!

You live in Alice and Wonderland.
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