The Love Games

On a Thursday morning coffee run before school, I found myself sitting in my car in the Starbucks parking lot shamelessly playing Taylor Swift’s new mega hit “Blank Space” on max volume. I listened to the whole track, ignoring the horrified stares from passing men and laughing glances from passing women. T Swizzle shows off a much more grownup, mature style that has hints of Lorde and Lana Del Rey influences yet remains unquestionably Taylor. It has the typical hints of cynical sarcasm but with a stripped down honesty and vulnerability that add years to her sound. It’s basically exactly what every girl wants to hear and yet still honest. One of her dramatic Swiftian phrases is “Love’s a game, want to play?” and another echoes this sentiment by voicing “cause you know I love the players, and you love the game.” This is a sad but honest response to a cultural reality; so many look at love as a game. Men vs. women. This immaculately constructed game of manipulation and lies.

Guys:

Learn some respect. A woman isn’t a conquest; she is a woman. And don’t hide behind making fun of me for being old fashioned; that’s all a cynical avoidance of an inevitable truth. Guys are looking at women as a piece of meat. They judge off curves in the right places and fall for attraction. Love isn’t found in curves. There will always be a different girl with a different body that will intrigue you. And that is because arousal is based so much on mystery. Once you’ve discovered the mystery, that shallow level of attraction is gone, and you simply move on to the next girl. But that IS NOT love. Don’t fall for the Hollywood portrayal of this flawed “love.”You don’t fall in love with a girl because of such things. You fall in love with a girl because of how she scrunches her eyebrows when she’s thinking hard; how she flicks her hair out of her eyes; how she laughs randomly when she thinks of something funny that happened earlier that day; the way her eyes light on fire when she wins a game. All these things are unconscious. They aren’t scripted; they are pure expressions of a perfectly imperfect unique human being. These are the things that no other girl can have. These are what make her the only girl in the world that matters.

But in a world of Tinder, Snapchat, Instagram and Photoshop, we are losing our humanity. We are losing ourselves in filters, makeup, and ducklips. We are drowning in consumerism and lies that make us so cookie cutter perfect. But cookie cutters and filters don’t spark love; they spark arousal. They are the rules of the game. Realize what you’re missing out on through your blatant objectification of woman. I won’t call you names or insult you, because it’s the enculturation of this generation. You’re missing out on what makes a lady truly so unique and wonderful. The “Player” groans and complains about the complexity of women and how they’re “impossible to understand.” They’re too complex because your heart is too shallow to realize that it’s the mystery that is so beautifully unique and individual about each person.

Girls:

Don’t be the victim and allow yourselves to fall into the lie that the manipulation is one sided in this game. Girls can be just as manipulating and objectifying of men. You use men to get the emotional support to cover your insecurities. The harm from such emotional manipulation can be just as severe and is an issue that should not be ignored.

Respect yourself. Value yourself. You do NOT need a man’s attention to give you value; you have that inherently because God made you in His image and loves you with a passion we can never comprehend. Some dude’s attention does not give you any greater value, especially when it is centered in such a shallow agenda. Also, own up to your own side of the game. Don’t use guys for attention as they use you for your body. Men are not just emotional faucets for you to turn on (pun intended) and then turn off when your emotions ego is stoked enough.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with wanting and trying to be attractive. Attraction is part of the beginning process of love, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just not the end goal. Fashion should be an expression of who you are–speaking to your personality and who you want to be. Have your focus be on your own beauty and personality, not in enticing guys.

Conclusion:

Forget the game. Love is not a game. People (and hearts) are not toys to be played with and manipulated. Reject the rules of the game, and be honest and real.

But here’s the thing, we’re humans and we all make mistakes. I am in no way saying I am some expert that has all the answers and have everything figured out. We are all so unique and different, and something as sensitive and open as love leaves all our human flaws on full display. This is so much easier said than done. It’s so difficult, and I’m not saying that it’s easy. I am just a 21-year-old regular guy who is looking around and seeing so much brokenness and heartbreak. There has to be another way.

As a Christian, I am constantly discouraged and frustrated with what I see around me. I have made a commitment to not manipulate and use people, and the pressure from past failures and future hardships can be overwhelming. I am constantly falling on my knees asking for forgiveness, but I refuse to be bound by guilt and low expectations. Is it too much to ask that we have selfless love as a standard to strive for?

In case you didn’t notice the connection, the purpose of the title is to make a subtle comparison to the Hunger Games–a plot based on survival and winning, at all costs. This is not what love should be, but unfortunately, it’s what it is turning into. This article is not supposed to be a thrashing of Taylor Swift’s song. It’s a product of the culture. But at some point, we need to realize that WE shape culture. Culture is made up from our choices and our decisions. Don’t hide behind that as an excuse. As a youth culture, if we decide to change this, the culture will change.

At the end of the day, we need to rediscover love and romance. Stop hiding behind the phone screens, filters, and all other artificial facades. Martin Luther King Jr said “our lives begin to end the day that we become silent about things that matter.” This is an issue that matters. A society of relationships built on selfishness and manipulation, and we’re surprised that our marriages are failing? Our kids are broken? Our society and country are falling apart? Vulnerability and honesty take strength and a willingness to open up and put yourself out there. While that is not easy, it’s so worth it. Instead of relationships based on manipulation and selfishness, let’s flip the script.

Love is a game? Well, checkmate. I’m done.
– Rex Wheeler