‘Love’ is one of the many mysteries of life that are entirely abstract in their very nature. It can’t be quantified or materialised. Yet, certain places like Paris or Rome, where declarations of ‘love’ have famously or frequently occurred, are now renowned as the spot where apparently the enigma of love is finally quantified and materialised – At least that’s what the the destinations are sold as.
A couple years ago there was the lock of love trend, whereby loved up couples would place their initials on a lock and attach the lock to a designated bridge – symbolising their eternal love. These bridges became popular tourist destinations across many cities especially in Europe. The top sites in Paris were no longer merely the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame; but also places like the Pont des Arts bridge for couples and singletons alike. Sadly, the bridge (literally) couldn’t take the weight of all this love and the council had to do the unthinkable, and start removing the locks.
Travelling back in time, this lock of love is very similar to the quaint tradition of carving one’s initials with those of their loved one into a tree and encapsulating it with a heart. I guess the thinking behind this is that by carving their ‘love’ into something more or less concrete, a person is expressing an abstract emotion in a concrete way. Just like updating your relationship status on Facebook, right?
In recent months, there’s been a new trend of exploiting locations of famous politicians declarations’ of love. These are places where politicians and other individuals in the spotlight have reportedly expressed their love for their respective partners. One of the most popular locations is where the Obamas shared their first kiss, in Chicago. There is now a stone commentating this spot and it is inscribed with – “On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice-cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her and said it tasted like chocolate.” This stone (aka the Obama Kissing Rock) has become a pilgrimage spot for happy couples; especially around Valentine’s Day.
Why is this happening?
These places for materialistic declarations of love have popped up all over the world – from Florence to Cologne to New York. So what is it that attracts so many people to these specific places? Why are they the best places in the world for demonstrations of love? Especially since love is suppose to be abstract and spontaneous by nature?
Perhaps it could be that the act of placing a lock symbolising love onto a man-made structure makes people feel that they are transforming abstract, untouchable ‘love’ onto something concrete and stable. For what means has this romantic epidemic arisen? What does one actually gain by visiting the exact spot where the Obamas had their first kiss? It ultimately doesn’t change anything, the expression of love and the strength of a relationship between two people isn’t any stronger because of this.
If anything, it is taking a trip with a loved one that will consecrate a relationship and not merely the placing of a lock on a monument. But perhaps the most solidifying aspect of these trips that secures the relationship is the shared memory that you leave these places with. The memory of this moment epitomizing your love in a idyllic location will last forever; and I guess alongside this is the comfort of knowing that your engraved lock will also last forever (unless the council have to remove it). And maybe this whole romantic endeavour is for the same reason people obsess over the ‘perfect’ wedding day – to forever have that special memory. At the end of the day love is an untouchable, unexplained human emotion and everyone expresses it differently.
All in all these cute traditions rely heavily on symbolism. The symbolism of two people expressing their love for each other and what’s wrong with that? Love is so unknown, complex and downright uncertain. Who can blame tourists looking for some solid proof that their love will defy the test of time and last for all of eternity?
No one knows what the future holds or what’s around the corner. The Obamas are still going strong, so maybe that spot in Chicago does hold some good luck worth pursuing. What would happen if the Obamas broke up though? Fingers crossed not…