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.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. hemantmohapatra says:

    I really liked this piece. Our definitions of morality are anyway warped by social conditioning. Cleopatra slept with hundreds of men (more?) and was/is hailed as a goddess. Medieval European history is full of philandering queens. I’ve tried, over the years, to come up with a clear-cut line for morality —— left, moral; right, immoral —— but it’s impossible. There is no such thing as pure ‘free-will,’ ergo, there is nothing that is completely ‘consensual.’ As long as no one is being physically forced into something, and the two parties are not directly involved in any other way that may be misconstrued as a ‘conflict of interest,’ I can live without judging the persons involved 🙂

    For example, A & B are sleeping together because B offered to and A accepted == OK by me. A & B are sleeping together because B has a gun to A’s head, or has A’s kid for ransom == NOT OK!

    phew.. sorry for the rant; you caught me on my study-break!



  2. Shabnam Aggarwal says:

    To be absolutely clear, there is no way this post was meant to sanction or justify prostitution or sex trafficking. I am vehemently opposed to it, as I believe we all have a choice to make an honest living using the intelligence we were naturally blessed with, and we all deserve a chance to exercise our freedom. To read about the tremendous torture and disgrace these girls are put through, please see: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/opinion/04kristof.html?scp=6&sq=cambodia&st=cse


  3. avnish says:

    “A Happy Ending”

    “Love is all about compromise,” my mother chanted as I lay in her lap …

    Perhaps that is precisely what the man and woman, under the yellow-pink skies of the exhausted sun, have found in one another.”

    You make the argument that using your one definition of love,
    the two actors in this game have compromised themselves, and
    done what they have to so they can meet their need for love
    (or economic independence). This is a round about way of saying –
    “The end justifies the means.”

    Successful societies have learned that to avoid anarchy and for long term success, you must live with some VALUES. These may be the Gita, the Ten Commandments, or the Koran. To compare
    the actions of a mother stealing for her crying child with the
    actions of a businessman making a deal is to say that you are going to make your own values as you go along.

    Part of what I have seen here is the disruption of this society
    by the painful wars and civil war. Basic family structure has
    been uprooted. Children are born out of marriage, and are asked
    to look after themselves as early teenagers. And this trafficking enabled by Westerners is making that only worse.

    To look at this problem as some kind of “love” and not for the
    fundamental issues it poses to this society is to engage in wishful thinking and not really understand the long term harm of this “love” can have on their society.

    What is needed are responsible leaders here who take steps
    to correct the problem here. But since they are happy
    in their fancy Villas and Lexus, and 50 something men are happy,
    and the women are happy, it turns out there is a “happy ending” to all this.


  4. Jenny Staves says:

    You write beautifully Shab. Your insights are very touching.


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