Monogamy?! – (what we’ve learned from the PenTales Monogamy submissions) by Aswini Sivaraman

Monogamy May 2, 2012 09:00

Sure, the word monogamy invites a lot of quotes, right from Oscar Wilde and GB Shaw’s quips to teen celebrities who balk at the concept. And like many weighty terms, monogamy remains a word that eludes those trying to pin it to a clear and universal definition.

But then, one might ask, why do we want monogamy to be tethered to a singular interpretation? After all, definitions are largely dictated by socio-cultural voices. Monogamy can be hailed as the ultimate form of a relationship in one culture; in another, its opposite can be actively endorsed. It can instigate a gender debate, if you’d like to discuss Shaw’s claim, in Man and Superman, that “the maternal instinct leads a woman to prefer a tenth share in a first rate man to the exclusive possession of a third rate one.”

Perhaps we are intimidated by the notions it conjures up. Of fidelity, of possession, of a commitment that could get claustrophobic. We may not avail it, but we would surely like the option of flexibility to hang around us. You may not want to actually break the bonds of commitment you have sworn to preserve with that one person. But maybe, somewhere inside you, you’d like to breathe knowing that if you wanted to disengage yourself, you could. If you impulsively wanted to embark on another new, more exciting adventure, you could.

As one of our readers sums it up, monogamy is “a choice and practice”; one, if broken, can generate destructive results. But then, how do you actually break it? Physically? If we loosen up the connotation of “monogamy,” we only succeed in increasing its complexity. For if we free it from physicality, we consequently impart some level of abstraction to monogamy. Is a person monogamous only if he’s physically loyal? Does the thought of straying make you a cheater? The question is – is monogamy now a state of mind?

Our first story’s introductory line unconsciously attempts to answers that question: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” an anonymous writer opines. The narrator of the story grapples with his wife’s infidelity and suicide even as he begins to engage in a (quite dubious) affair. Here is an instance of the hypocrisy that the expectation of monogamy can create: the narrator is willing to dismiss his own unfaithfulness yet is unable to look beyond his wife’s.

And that is what the author of our next story skillfully avoids as (s)he embarks on a journey of narcissism, where the question of monogamy doesn’t arise. The “mono” in monogamy is taken quite literally: self-love, according to the author, is the best love! Monogamy is held in contempt because it involves an outsider. The reason for this contempt is simple. “We’re brought into this world alone,” the author reasons. “We suffer throughout alone, and then we die alone.”

As another reader says, monogamy is about devotion. In a world where novel thoughts emerge every second, can you confidently say you’ll remain devoted to one idea?

1 Comment

  • People on this thread are calling this kid all sorts of names for saying he wants a monogamous relationship. If he were saying he wanted to be pegged or couldn’t get an erection unless his partner was wearing Hello Kitty earmuffs, all you guys would be cheering him on to accept himself and his desires. @77 I did, just ’cause you said so. I still see a kid who is talking about what he wants and expressing legitimate doubts about other people’s choices. So what if he doesn’t like it when monogamy is “made into a joke”? I imagine people in other types of relationships don’t like being ridiculed either. @76 Let’s look up “indiscriminate”: “lacking in care, judgment, selectivity,” so a promiscuous person is someone who engages in a lot of sexual relationships and doesn’t use care, judgment or selectivity when choosing partners. It doesn’t mean that he/she doesn’t choose the partners him/herself. Because I don’t know you personally, I cannot say whether you are promiscuous or not. I stand by my earlier statements, “Promiscuity is bad” and “Promiscuity indicates a lack of self-control.” Too many people in this thread are reading WAY too much into this kid’s letter. Maybe many of you have been subjected to hate speeches from jerks, but this is not one of those times. The views that this letter writer expresses are very moderate.