The Dynamics of Leashing: An Exercise in Metaphorical Extension
There is a certain kind of pleasure derived from delving into the nature of relationships. This is especially true where the mist of confusion is thickest and romantic relationships are, by far, the densest and most confounding sort in my opinion.
The "rules" of pair-bonding (yes, the term is from chemistry) are always private-- that is, particular to a particular pair—and although this type of bonding is common (because the human species engage in bi-parental reproduction... mostly...) no moderately disillusioned couple would admit to having the exact same "mutual understanding" as any other couple. Where would the exclusivity and uniqueness of the relationship be then? Would you say “my lover loves me the exact same way that lover loves his/her beloved” and not be degrading the individuality of your relationship? Of course not, and it would be foolish to say so anyway since the very difference of the identities of the people involved assures us of the innate difference of the relationships. And yes, we are not confusing the “rules” with the “relationship”… they are one and the same. The leashing is required. What is not required is that it be felt.
Now before I expand and expound the metaphor of the leash I believe some delineation is due. This was based on no study and I am no reliable authority on the matter. I simply desire to explore, and perhaps you would take a few minutes to join me, how FAR we can take this metaphor into meaning. This is purely theoretical—that is, let us put experience out of the question for now (this also means no questioning me regarding my experiences)—and enjoy a little bit of imaginative thinking. Let’s see how far we may go.
The derogatory connotation of “leashing” in the light of relationships is perhaps all too obvious. It functions as an accusation: you are either leashing someone—manipulating them, enslaving them, limiting them—or being leashed. The concept of the leash requires a master and a pet, dominant and dominated, superior and inferior—the latter wearing the collar, the former holding the reins. A crash course in post-structuralism would reveal to you the danger of the concept of binary oppositions: of positive/negative, male/female, good/bad, reason/passion, presence/absence… where the first term cannot exist without destroying the second. Now, we don’t want that in a relationship do we? What part of a couple are you if you destroy the other? You can never be half of a couple, because being alone the concept of “couple” is not there.
It is not my intention to lapse into deconstruction and the more complicated theories. There are better minds in those fields and I refer them to you if the discourse sparks your interest—Derrida, Kristeva, Cixous… innumerable theorists you’ll find at your disposal at the nearest internet search engine. Let it then suffice that in a relationship, we want equality, but we cannot do away with the rules… the submission of each to that mutual understanding exclusive to the two of you. Returning to the metaphor, then, you must either be holding each other’s leash (two leashes, one for each), both be collared, or both be holding the other end.
The first does not fit the purpose. Did we not say it was a shared understanding? Then there must be one understanding and not two. Two leashes could mean you understand each other differently… where’s the “you-and-I-are-one” in that?
How about the third? Establish that image in your head. Two people. Each holding opposite ends of a rope. Both endeavoring to gain control (for that is the purpose of that end of the rope.) It looks to me like a game of tug-of-war. Besides, it is only too easy to let go this way. Why doesn’t the dog’s master tie the end of the leash to a wrist? Because it must be that it can easily be released if the master desires to release it. This analogy does not seem to suit our purpose.
I propose, then, that we consider the second, that each member is collared to each other. The relationship is itself a display of restraint…from both wandering too far and letting go too easily, or from controlling the other. Let these rings—for collars are rings—be as a sign of love. You do not control it with your hands, you cannot so easily fasten it on yourself (and what more remove it from yourself!) but it binds you… and it binds you to someone who is in the same way bound to you. This is our ideal. It fits even that other idiom of being two poles of the same thing…you are both one thing yet not entirely each other. Wow. I cannot affirm its possibility, in fact it is not probable for such equality to be found, but this is an exercise in stretching possibilities… let us go on.
I have said that the leash is unavoidable. It is, in fact, desirable for through this mutual leashing you are able to share something only between the two of you—something not easily severed by others or by yourselves. Without it you stray alone. Soon you’ll be in the pound of old age… but let’s not go there.
I have also said that it is the collar (and leash’s) being felt that should be avoided. It is important it does not choke you, that it is not on too tight so that you can no longer breathe…otherwise your partner will have to drag you along like a dead weight or carry you around. Burdensome, really. I cannot even begin to imagine if you both had too-tight collars… why, you’d die on the spot! It’s romantic in a very medieval way… but really, you’d rather co-exist together than not exist together. You would not put on a collar that does not fit in the first place.
Anyway, there are methods through which the leash may be utterly forgotten. It is best that way—implicit. For “mutual understanding” does not require words, spoken or written (or carved on stone tablets). It is more beautiful in its simplicity. How is this done? Well, the leash must be of proper and comfortable length, and it must never be taut—that is, stretched to its limit—for this becomes painful for both parties. When you wander too far then the other party feels the uncomfortable tug, while you yourself begin to feel the pressure. It may be guilt, or consequences… whatever it is it will hurt…and it will hurt you both. Comfort, you will find, lies within a certain radius of your beloved. If you remain within that radius, you will not have to feel the collar and leash.
But would this not limit you from getting anywhere? Only if neither of you move, or if you move in different directions. The beauty of this leashing is that you are not attached to an electric pole or anything stationary. You have but to move in one direction, in agreement…willingly…and you can get anywhere. You are free. You are free together. Now isn’t that lovely?
I would not extend the conceit any longer… though I imagine rather foolish (but fun) questions like: “How do you get into a car?” Why, use but one door so that one slides over the contraptions in the middle into the driver/and passenger seat … then we can call it sacrifice. “How do I kiss my lover’s neck?” is altogether too literal. We can only go so far and make so much sense out of such similitudes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little escapade, and maybe come up with a (crazy) thought or two to ponder on. Whether you are inclined to nod or shake your head in encountering any of the ideas above, I am grateful that you suffered to read thus far. And as a final reminder, I reiterate, this is an exercise in extending an often used metaphor by exploring an alternate interpretation to a certain extent.
It takes restraint to gain the best of things…in interpretations and in relationships both…for more on this I refer you to Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, and all non-extremist philosophy afterwards, at your disposal at the nearest internet search engine a few clicks away. XXX