Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Anti-Love Drug May Be Ticket to Bliss by John Tierney: A Singletude Response

On January 12, Dr. Larry J. Young of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center caught up with New York Times reporter John Tierney to discuss a world without love.

Well, all right, not a world devoid of any form of affection. As singles everywhere know, romantic love is not the holy grail of human emotions. There are plenty of other opportunities to give and receive love in familial and filial bonds. Nevertheless, the prospect of manipulating romantic attachment has captured our collective imagination since we were drawing on cave walls, inspiring everything from Wiccan love potions to self-help books. Now, Young believes we may be on the verge of some scientifically verifiable spell casting.

In Anti-Love Drug May Be Ticket to Bliss, Young reports that oxytocin, a hormone that contributes to bonding during sex, has been used in a nasal spray to increase feelings of trust and empathy and theorizes that it may have future applications in troubled romantic relationships: "If you’re in a marriage and want to maintain that relationship, you might take a little booster shot yourself every now and then," he says.

Now try explaining that collection of syringes to your spouse: "I'm sorry, honey, I'm addicted to love."

However, Tierney is more eager to see the new technology used to inhibit the twitterpated and points to research by Dr. Helen Fisher and Dr. J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., which suggests that antidepressants can suppress the neurochemical response to the body's attempts to pair us off. In addition, reduced levels of oxytocin (in prairie voles, at least) and vasopressin (in prairie voles and human males!) have been shown to weaken the urge toward monogamy.

Hmmm. So, in other words, ladies, if he doesn't call, maybe he's just not that into vasopressin?

Tierney pushes it a step further, proposing a "love vaccine" that would restore the likes of Britney Spears and Larry King to their right minds. (Although, in the case of the former, there would, of course, have to be a mind to restore first.) As Tierney puts it, "Spouses going through midlife crises would not be so quick to elope with their personal trainers; elderly widowers might consult their lawyers before marrying someone resembling Anna Nicole Smith." The days of report cards complaining that Little Johnny kisses the girls at recess would recede into mythology as love vaccines were administered with every infant's dose of Measles-Mumps-Rubella.

While the findings covered by the NY Times are interesting, how plausible would a love vaccine really be? Moreover, would we want one? Tierney notes that a love stimulant could provoke feelings of lust for inappropriate objects of affection but fails to acknowledge that a love vaccine could have a parallel effect, making it difficult to form emotionally healthy bonds with the people we do care about, not to mention the potential for these kinds of drugs to become the next generation of roofies!

On a more philosophical note, although singles may sometimes love to hate love, I'd be curious to find out how many would actually want to eradicate romance. In an era in which more adults than ever before are single, are we as a society ready for romantic love to go the way of bustles and elbow-length gloves? Are the majority of singles reaching the conclusion that life is better without it? Or, on the other hand, if we had the option to help love along a bit, perhaps some of those very singles who seem the happiest in their solitude would be the first lining up for samples. One way or the other, it would be fascinating to see what the possibility of engineered love, if you will, would reveal to us about ourselves.

Do you like the idea of a love potion or a love vaccine? Would you use either? If so, in what circumstances? Do you have any ethical concerns about using such drugs? Do you think singles today are getting tired of romantic love, or do you think it's something most singles still want?

Fun Link of the Day

Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about some aspect of the single life? Have a rant or rave about singlehood? Write in, and you just might see your question in a Singletude Q&A or your rant or rave in a Singletude Sound-off!


Anonymous said...

Hi Singletude,
In Onely's reaction to the love vaccine story, I was kind of obsessed with Fisher's statement that antidepressants make us less likely to pursue attachments--although I do support the research and biochem theory behind that statement, I think it could scare off people who might benefit from the medication. Our culture is so couple-crazed that I think some people would rather skip the antidepressants than risk making themselves supposedly not open to coupling. Which is ironic, because if you are really a mental mess, then you're still not going to be in a place where you attract attachments (romantic, long-term, or whatever). = )

Interesting point about romance--I personally wouldn't want to eradicate it. . . I would want to be open to different sources of romance beyond lovey-type romance. I think in the olden days, they used the phrase "how romantic" in many more varied contexts, not necessarily indicating that someone was going to be gettin' it on in the near future. (Don't ask me to define "olden days")
--CC at Onely

Alan said...

I think the response to these theoretical medications would depend upon the single person.

I myself don't care for romance, but neither do I hate it. I wouldn't take either the drug or the vaccine.

Clever Elsie said...

CC: That's a good point about the antidepressants! You're right that the article puts a negative spin on medication, which can be a lifesaver to those suffering from debilitating depression. At the right dosage, antidepressants should help people cope with negative emotions, not blunt ALL their emotions. So if the latter occurs, a trip to the doctor is in order.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you referred to the "olden days." The Romantic and Victorian eras have always held a fascination for me, and I think one of the most heartwarming characteristics of the period was its acceptance and even elevation of platonic, filial love. One of my favorite examples of this is the beautiful friendship between Anne Shirley and Diana Barry in L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series. Calling each other "bosom friends," Anne and Diana prize their bond above flirtations with boys, schoolyard popularity games, and family feuds. When that friendship is threatened, Anne says that her heart is breaking, and the girls pledge their faithfulness to each other "for as long as the sun and the moon shall endure." While today critics would probably find some way to sexualize the girls' devotion, much of the writing of Montgomery's time (and earlier) suggests that intimate friendships were normative and highly valued.

Alan: I wouldn't, either. Sometimes it amazes me how desperate humans seem to be to manipulate biochemical processes that have worked just fine for us for thousands of years.

bobbyboy said...

A scary slope yet again for society. My stance on things is fairly simple; if we need chemical help for a disorder, then ok. Other than that, we were made with certain chemical reactions in our Biochemistry.

I guess an artificial society, for those that believe we have been heading there, may be coming to fruition.

Lauren V. Hunter said...

Although I've read your blog before, I thought I would finally post a comment! And what a better one to do it to!
First off, NO vaccinations or love potions! One of the greatest feelings in life is 'falling in love' with another person - and that shouldn't be manipulated. I have a feeling this love potion is just the next step from viagra.
Most importantly, and in the end, this just dooms us to the point of not being able to truly connect with another human being, we end up relying and growing addicted to a drug, to maintain a "buzz" or the honeymoon period of any relationship - where is the real life in that? To have the ups in any relationship, friendship and partner, we must have the downs, and then come together to really be good together.
My best advice to anyone is get away from the tv, turn off the computer, leave the ipod at home, stop staring at your blackberry, and remember what its like to talk to someone again, eye to eye, no distractions. Real you, real them... then who will need a vaccine anyways?
And YES! - I often wish I lived in those "olden days"!

Clever Elsie said...

Bobby: The prospect of an "artificial society" scares me too!

Lauren: Thanks for commenting! I hope you'll stop in here again. :) I totally agree that drugs are no substitute for face-to-face human contact!

Anonymous said...

Just hope they cpuld get to it asap. I need to stop the pile of restraint orders from growing...