Søren Kierkegaard, the first existential philosopher, suggested that there are three fashion lifestyles: aesthetic (romantic), ethical (responsible) and agapic (selfless).
When Søren was 21, he fell in love with a Danish teenager, Regine. When she was old enough to date, he swept her off her feet and proposed. (She said yes.) But Søren struggled to reconcile his romantic love for Regine with his agapic aspirations, so broke the engagement and Regine’s heart. By the time he figured it out, she had married someone else. Søren spent the rest of his life secretly obsessing over her and writing a lot about love.
While we don’t know what was in Søren or Regine’s bag, below are a few suggestions regarding what your bag might reveal about your existential lifestyle.
The Aesthetic Lifestyle
Maybe you like one-night stands. Maybe you’re more of a serial monogamist. Either way, aesthetes love loving. You want beautiful romantic moments, to be intoxicated by love and blow-your-mind erotic encounters. Game-playing and sexy lingerie excite you. While you don’t want to be tied to a relationship, you’re open-minded about being tied to the bed. You keep track of your conquests in a little black book or your Bedpost app.
You’re either not married or have a wedding ring that slips off in a New York nanosecond. You have an Ashley Madison profile and are more than just curious. And you never leave your apartment without your love kit: Tinder, breath mints, a love glove or four and under eye concealer for your morning-after black circles.
The Ethical Lifestyle
You’ve realized that the aesthetic life is shallow and frivolous, so you decided to leap into a committed and meaningful relationship. Leaving behind the thrill of aesthetic conquests and living in the moment, married life gives you constancy and stability and preserves your relationship in time. You deleted your Tinder and Ashley Madison accounts and replaced them with eHarmony or iKidNY.
Tassled pasties are consigned to oblivion in the back of the sock drawer. You’re romantic on special occasions, but it’s an effort. Instead of experimenting with kinky positions in bed, you look for comfortable cuddle positions for Netflix binges.
The Agapic Lifestyle
As an agapic lover, you are bursting with love and love to sprinkle it around. Performing random acts of kindness, even for ungrateful people, is your modus operandi. In fact, their ungratefulness just reinforces what a genuinely loving and good person you are. While aesthetic lovers are obsessed with seduction and sex and ethical lovers are boring and selfish to those outside the couple, you are more mature and love everyone.
Your bag is cruelty-free and environmentally astute. The contents are equally representative of your loving nature: a few spare dollar bills for subway buskers, snacks for sharing and tickets for the Global Citizen Festival. You’re generous, you avoid being so busy that you can’t reflect on your life and you’re passionate about a cause that unites your existence and gives it meaning.
Written by Skye Cleary PhD, author of Existentialism and Romantic Love (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)