A man and woman walk along the dirt paved riverside, hand in hand, smiling just enough to turn that nagging question in my mind into an itch: is this what love is? Have these two fought the barriers of race, age, culture, and normality to receive one another as their prize? Or is this just what my jaded brain thinks it is… a lonely old man with a desperate young girl leeching upon one another to satisfy their carnal needs. My heart wants to believe their smiles, beaming and outright, their hands melted together, swinging back and forth with every happy step they take towards the sunset. But my head cannot avoid the sting in her eyes and the shame laden pride in his, hidden beneath the all the years of denial, pain, frustration, and determination.
The word itself holds so much meaning behind it, it is near impossible to say it out loud without the heavy connotation it bears universally; prostitute. Slut, whore, immoral, desperate, sad, demeaning, unnecessary, improper, unfortunate, resigned, unfair. Words that fill my head when I think about the faceless woman, selling her body for some unknown reason, dressed in tall boots, short shorts, and a see-through top. Then I dig deep, I wonder why, why is she faceless? What could her reason be? Is she resigned or has she been forced? By family obligations, by hunger, by desperation. Is she truly immoral or has she rested her morals on a shelf for a later day, when her seven brothers and sisters are fed and housed, her mother and father lay peacefully beside her, and she can finally breathe again, knowing her sacrifices made all the difference.
What about him? Why do I blame him for her downfall? “It’s people like you who make this world evil,” I think. What has he done to make me feel personally offended by his actions? There are no telling signs of battery on her body. She looks outwardly content and inwardly satisfied. So why do I hate him for spending his hard earned life’s savings to win the prize he has always dreamed of? Perhaps he is no different from the noble man, buying a big house and five cars after working 50 years without spending a dime on himself. Has Pretty Woman taught me nothing of genuine lonely old men who truly love their paid-for counterparts?
What is this Hallmark definition of love we are all searching for? Is it not simply trust and faith in another person enough to give yourself wholly to them, no matter the circumstance? Why is the couple’s love not just as real as the high school sweethearts’, who met at Winter Ball, danced under the stars, and waited until the perfect moment for their first kiss.
“Love is all about compromise,” my mother chanted as I lay in her lap, sobbing about my first love’s inability to love me just the way I am. She understood compromise, leaving her family and life to accompany her day-old acquaintance and husband to America. She knew sacrifice in the new life she had to find for herself and her children.
It begs the question, if the things that are most important to you are being cared for by someone, rich or poor, old or young, moral of immoral, would you not love them with your whole heart and sacrifice all you could for them? Would you not be whoever you needed to be so that one day, when you were old and gray, you could look back and think, I did all I could to make it better.
Perhaps that is precisely what the man and woman, under the yellow-pink skies of the exhausted sun, have found in one another.