They say that there are certain species that mate for life and then I read that monogamy is not natural; the whole Myth of Monogamy and other such books in the genre that debunk the concept of one partner for us all and marriage and fidelity, the very underpinnings of our society. I suppose as a researcher who has studied infidelity from both angles, I can see the point, yet I wonder if those same people know of the animals that do mate for life.
I recently saw a post about “How Bald Eagles Mate for Life.” I’ve also seen, of course, on PBS on those lonely rainy days of stadium self-pity, which I allow myself because everyone is allowed one day of self-pity, that there are whole species of Icelandic albatrosses that mate for life. I watched for over an hour and thought of myself and my husband.
The way he works: the male leaves for a full year, or half a year in some cases to find food for his family, a sort of hiatus or sabbatical. Likely foraging for food and sustenance, while the female holds down the fort so to speak. What fascinated me most was that I wondered how, out of a flock of such gulls, how they would recognize each other after this six month or so hiatus when the male is gone.
It works something like this—or like this exactly. The male comes along, approaching the cliff, the white and beautiful face where the mothers lay their eggs and they hatch and do their best of to feed their young. Many will not survive the cold and especially the winds. When the males return, they sort of dance before the cliff and the female, the “right” female who knows her partner well, will fly in perfect synchronicity with the male, mirroring his every move only slightly below him, but in a sort of parallel movement that is exact and precise. This tells the male and the female that they have again found each the other.
I had never seen a mating dance so beautiful, so moving and all the while I wondered if others saw what I saw, if they saw only instinct, in my view a mistake, or some kind of love that is beyond our comprehension. No matter which way you like it, the mating dance as it is called, is the first temptation the apple offered, and the female that can keep up will have and win a place in the male’s heart forever; and when she dies, he does not take another partner.
I also heard that penguins, before mating, stand toe-to-toe staring intently at each other’s eyes for almost a full six months, though what they seek I cannot say, only that it is a profound and deep thing; and if it works out, if the gaze is held for this period of time, then they will be partners for life, recognizing each other even amidst a flock of penguins who, to us anyway, may look the same, but who sound and look notably different to their lover, thus the recognition.
Whooping cranes, ducks, I’ve heard, and of course, the albatross and the bowerbird, one of my favorites because it is he that will build the most beautiful of bowers, often color-schemed to attract the female; look at an image of such birds and their clever bowers, and it is easy to see why a female would find such beauty. Yes, I suppose we humans so the same thing applies to some extent and love can be beautiful, yet the heart remains a fragile and luminous thing, and we quake and we break and go about often breaking hearts because it is not in the natural cards, I am told and I read, to be utterly and willingly monogamous. It is a choice we make every day. Call me a dreamer, but I do not wish to be simply a “choice.” I want to be The One. Not one of many. Not a choice not to inflict myself on anyone who holds my love back, but to be like the dance of the albatross or the jumping dance of the crane who cries and dances high to attract his life-long mate.
Now has here is no truth in this, though documentary tells me otherwise. So who then, I ask, are others, so labeled by many as lesser, so much more advanced in this way? Or is this some accident of Darwinism at its finest? Which of us has the true capacity for true and lasting; love, if indeed it is love, and I do believe it is true love, even now, as I write these words and have, as anyone, had my heart broken into a thousand pieces. Clearly monogamy is not a choice for some species, but is instead hard-wired, that would appear to be hard-wired.
Granted I believe in the world though, and I do trust PBS and the BBC who had the most beautiful footage of an ivory-white swallow and gulls flitting about their nests, and when I watched the utter fidelity my whole life view was changed and I saw things possible I never believe possible.
We learn to settle. We assume that partner will be or has already been attracted to someone of the opposite sex, and when you first find out that you are not The Only. The One sadly a certain innocence is lost and we find ourselves pulling back a bit or perhaps finding an attraction or diversion of our own. Not out of our vengeance necessarily, but out of hurt and though for some this is the case but because we want to check our “currency” and see if we too are attractive and desirable to others. If not good enough for our love, we think, then perhaps… perhaps someone else sees that spark, that atom crochus, and is drawn to us the way our lover is drawn to this other. It is natural to want to feel wanted, and while ultimately it is unhealthy, it is so human.
I am like Jimmy Carter who confessed to the whole world that he had committed lust in his heart and had therefore betrayed his wife. Where is my honest and true man who wants only me and always? Where is my cliff swallow, my beautiful dancing albatross, my hopping whooping crane? He may well be true but he says it is an active choice, which indicates to me anyway that there exist others, waiting in the wings, that he is no doubt aware of and perhaps engages with to some major or even minor extent. Perhaps if I smelled more like said party I would be less hurt, and would find my way through the muddle and maze of human love and to my mind, failure.
For all of the two step cha-chas and dances of lust or love that we play, I am tired, and tired of settling for less than any of us deserve, which is to be that girl, that guy to at least one person in this world. It seems a reasonable thing to ask, to me… I am waiting for my beautiful and decorated blue bower; my whooping crane graceful dance that I will win me over, and I am waiting for the one who will fill me, and to accept and understand these terms (and demand them in return because I can truly offer this) to the bitter-sweet end because love is always bittersweet, or human love.
thanks for listening,