Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Love in time of war

Romance is the most popular and vibrant genre of fiction in the United States and many other parts of the world. A recent article in Newsweek, "Bad Dates in Baghdad", offers vivid insight into why love stories have such extraordinary power.

In war-torn Iraq, according to the article, "going out takes all the determination, ingenuity, and nerve a young couple can muster." One pair of lovers was dragged out of their car by AK-47-wielding religious vigilantes. Only by bluffing the gunmen into believing they were married did they escape without injury. If you want to have a romantic dinner, you're out of luck. Few restaurants stay open after dark because in doing so, they risk being blown up by fundamentalists who disapprove of the mingling of the sexes. Picnicking male and female college students in Basra were beaten with steel cables and rifles so violently that many were hospitalized. They had dared to dance and sing in a park.

Despite these deterrents, one Baghdad gift shop owner hires three extra employees to handle his busiest time of the year: Valentine's Day. Lovers flock to Baghdad's Jadriya Lake, "a heavily guarded pleasure garden". Newly available technology helps out Cupid via cell phones and Internet chat rooms; one student has two Internet girlfriends he's never actually met. Perhaps the most heart-rending comment though came from a young couple who took a vacation in Amman. What did they do that thrilled them the most? "We walked and walked and walked," something they wouldn't dare do in Iraq.

A young woman summed up the fraught situation by saying, "It's very difficult for a man and a women to have a relationship here. But you have to try." That sort of courage is the stuff of romance novels.

Can you imagine not being able to just take a walk with the person you love? I can't. It's something my husband and I have treasured doing since the days we first began dating. What simple pleasure do you most enjoy sharing with your loved one?


Nancy Morse said...

My husband and I enjoy the simple pleasure of walking around the lake on a Sunday morning. During our walks we talk about where we've been in life and where we're going. We like to marvel over the fact that we've been together so long (43 years not counting the 38 that we're married) and can still stand each other. Then we head over to the sports bar where lunch is a clam basket for me and a Philly cheesesteak sandwich for him. I wouldn't trade our simple Sunday lake & lunch routine for anything. It makes you realize how difficult it is for people in war-torn countries to enjoy such simple pleasures, and makes your own that much more valuable.

Nancy Herkness said...

Nancy, you and your husband sound alot like us (although we've only been together 25 years--congrats on your lasting happiness!). Another thing we love to do together is go out to eat. In Baghdad, lovers sometimes meet on their lunch hours but dinner at a restaurant is a rare and dangerous thing to attempt.

Alfie said...

Dan (my husband) and I have a particular habit that I know has helped us stay together for 33 years. We go out for coffee--usually spur of the moment. It's wonderful when we want to talk about something that is causing us strife--we can't yell at each other in public. It's wonderful when we just need something to take us out of our routine or when we've been too busy to focus on each other. It's wonderful when we've been too broke to do anything else. I swear, it's a great way to keep a relationship intact. Thank God, we live in a place that has kept us from having to face the kind of situations a war or social and political turmoil would make you face. Thank God, our turmoil has all just been personal! And coffee, while staring at each other across a table, is a fantastic and romantic thing.

Nancy Herkness said...

From reading these postings, it seems that one of the most important things in sustaining a long-term relationship is taking the time out to talk with one another. All three of us seem to make a point of doing something that allows us to talk alone and uninterrupted, to keep in touch with each other when life gets hectic.

Nancy Morse said...

Did I say we've been together 43 years NOT counting the 38 we've been married? God, that sounds absolutely ancient. Of course what I meant was that we've been together 43 years COUNTING the 38 we've been married. And you're right, doing something together that doesn't involve anyone else gives you an opportunity to talk about things that matter or things that have no bearing on anything at all - just to be together is one of the simplest pleasures of all.