Romance or Human Resources?
I get it. I know why companies insist on work colleagues making a declaration if they become involved — even if Jeff Zucker is involved. It’s to protect the less powerful one — usually the woman — from retaliation if things go south.
This is actually quite a laudable objective, but it is yet another step of turning romantic relationships into contractual agreements. You have to go, hand in hand, to HR and say, “Guess what? We’re a number!” This will duly be entered into someone’s computer. Very romantic.
Human Resources Isn’t Very Romantic
This declaration to HR is the equivalent of a couple setting up a bridal gift list at the local department store. “Here is what you guys can give us. And please, no paintings of children with big eyes.” This is very functional, but not very romantic, either. “Here we tremble at the brink of eternity, but we don’t need two toasters.”
So I get it that there are good practical reasons for the destruction of romance in relationships. The stolen kiss in the elevator is now monitored by Betty on seven. But is this really the way we wanted the story to turn out? Or has romance now been hijacked by a small band of anti-harassment zealots? Wasn’t Jeff Zucker entitled to some happiness?
The actual romantic period in the history of the family was relatively brief. Two centuries ago, the traditional family had no concept of romance at all. In fact, it was frowned on as a destabilizing influence as two farms were joined together, and the proverbs of the time cautioned men against picking beautiful wives: These delicate women could not withstand the hard regimen of field work. And the doctors of the day commented that the children’s mother at 35 looked like their grandmother.
Romanticism Comes and Goes
With the advance of Romanticism, all this changed. Passionate hand-holding came on the middle-class order of the day. Read Rousseau’s Confessions! Couples were in love, and even after lust had faded, they stayed in love as the wife ceased going out into the fields and looked after the adolescent children now at home and in school. I described all this in my book The Making of the Modern Family (1975).
But in the last thirty years, a new page has been turned. Let’s call it the Postmodern Family. Among the TikTok set, love and romance are definitely out, and self-fulfillment and a kind of partnerless hedonism are the order of the day. I’m not really critical of this. You should do whatever works, and that means what everyone else is doing. But in the absence of intense romantic attachment, the bureaucracy steps in. “Oops, I guess we’d better go to HR.”
I don’t know Jeff Zucker personally, but my guess is that he’s sort of old school. He resisted the idea that HR would monitor his personal life. And he destroyed his career.