Absent-Hearted: On Brian Nhira’s “Is This Love?”

[Estimated reading time: 2m33s]

I was mistakenly multi-tasking while my friend was talking. He could tell almost immediately.

I bet you’ve found yourself here before—realizing mid-story that your friend is distracted.

“Bro, are you even hearing me?” Busted.

“I’m so sorry man—I’m looking for my phone.” Confessed.

“Arvin, your phone’s in your hand. Arvin, you’re on the phone with me!”

He wasn’t in the room, but he was right. I’d been on the phone with him. It’d been in my hand the whole time.

You can miss what’s really happening while doing something silly, ridiculous, and downright unnecessary. At moments like this, what you need is a friend to call it out.

If my phone-in-paw faux pas taught me anything, it’s that you can be thoroughly unaware of a problem happening all around you.

I encountered one such calling-out when I listened to Brian Nhira’s new single “Is This Love?” In it, Brian belts his frustration,

“Quit playing with my heart!

How dare you try to start

what you don’t intend to finish?

Is this just some sick gimmick you’ve had planned right from the start?”

It seems our attempt to streamline intimacy is backfiring in an embarrassing way. Nicole Hong pointed out as much in her recent Wall Street Journal article. It serves as yet another friend seemingly screaming, “Arvin, your phone’s in your hand!” by laying out the modern state of intimacy and romantic relationships.

How do we know someone actually likes us these days? Not by being matched, or going on several dates, or even having copious amounts of sex. You know someone really likes you when they finally tell you their last name. Is this what we’ve come to?

“Is this love, or is this a game? If it is, I don’t wanna play.”

By now, you know why I was listening to “Is This Love?” Brian was hoping I could brainstorm with him on what the music video could become.

It took a few seconds after the song started for me to realize the games on our phones went from Candy Crush and Temple Run to Tinder and Bumble.

I’m not against a digitized-means of acquiring dates. What I am against, however, is this underlying, seemingly subconscious game taking place within men and women—I’m against self-centered booty-billing. I’m against the “Game” being treated as though it were the only option we have.

I spoke with some people who, for one reason or another, found themselves simultaneously talking to 5 or 6 girls/guys at the same time.

They proceeded to describe the game to me, pointing out the only way to lose is to “catch feelings.” In other words, get what you can from whoever you can, but don’t fall in love with them. There’s a whole series of memes devoted to this.

“Arvin, your phone’s in your hand.”

Brian showed up to our brainstorming session ready to collaborate and open to hearing ideas like a guy on a blind date.

With swollen ankles and tired wrists, I walked in 34-weeks pregnant with stick figure drawings and an earlier version of what I’ve written here.

The song and video speak for themselves, but I hope they don’t speak for you.

I want you to watch and listen to it, but I really hope you see and hear it.

“Arvin, your phone’s in your hand.” Arvin, you’re doing something silly, ridiculous and downright unnecessary; it’s distracting you from what’s really going on.

I want “Is This Love?” to serve each viewer the way my friend served me. Having noticed that my peers are distracted, I’m simply calling it like I see it—hoping we can all return to conversations, romance, and relationships worth having.

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