The Levi’s commercial covering ‘Walk the Line’ is presumably a light piece about young love, but it’s got an undercurrent of ‘suffocated love‘ that’s undeniable. The phrase, “because you’re mine” has always been jarring to me. I remember one woman I knew many years ago, who explained to me “I want to have a baby, because then I will have something that I know is all mine.” I’ve known others since who felt the same way — something I never understood, since I see a parent’s role being to train a child to be independent.
It’s a romanticization of possessive codependency, and disturbing on many levels. But it’s gripping, and appeals to a large swath of their audience. There are no doubt large numbers of people who see it and think, “how sweet!”; who would wonder how I could possibly see anything wrong with it.
Judgment that relies on saying, “those poor people are stupid” is no judgment at all. So rather than attempt to defend my own alien perspective, I’ll try to understand the person who says “how sweet!”
My best defense of the “possessive codependency is sweet” comes from C. S. Lewis, in “The Four Loves”. He quotes Chesterton, who quotes Kipling:
“If England was what England seems
‘Ow quick we’d drop ‘er. But she ain’t!”
Lewis explains, “Love never spoke that way. It’s like loving your children only ‘if they’re good’, your wife only while she keeps her looks, your husband only so long as he is famous and successful. ‘No man’, said one of the Greeks, ‘loves his city because it is great, but because it is his.'”
Despite the fact that we live in an age that is suspicious of patriotism, we can see the essence of Lewis’s argument. He is very persuasive. He argues that a love which is conditional on particular attributes of the beloved is no love at all.
We can understand this; and there is no more certain way to make your lover insecure than to blame your love on some fallible asset she possesses (and will most certainly lose). This is even more deadly than blaming your love on an asset which is non-unique and shared by many others. Tell a woman, “I love you because you are young, and youth is beauty”, and see how stable a pairing it produces.
From this, he jumps to “ownership” as the only truthful measure of love. I get it. But for a good liar, many other things will do. Length of shared history, commonality of interests, and so on. Does a father “own” a son, or for that matter a son “own” a father. I am my father’s son, and he is his son’s father — in both cases, the possessive phrase is used, but it doesn’t necessarily connote possession.
But then, “walking the line” because you’re “mine” could simple mean “mine” in the (healthy) sense of a father and son. At last, I’m at peace with Johnny Cash.
And what would happen to the human race if we all were logical? Romantic relationships progress with both sides moving forward on unrealistic expectations. When we’re lucky, we have built something worth keeping when the mutual delusions subside. Who’s to judge the youngsters moving forth on possessive codependency? Perhaps we all owe our own existence to hundreds of generation of our ancestors doing the same.