As a child, my great love was books.
I used to read constantly, and when I had exhausted material of my own grade level I found myself reading young adult novels, whose stories were designed with a developing adolescent libido in mind. I loved it. The sexual and romantic tension in books, movies, and TV shows fascinated me (and still do).
They also taught me that love meant some very specific, narrow, and confusing things. I’m still unlearning those lessons, but I see them all around me—certainly in popular culture, but also in my experiences as an educator and in conversations with friends and peers. As my friends and I have grown up and developed our understanding of various relationships—with each other, with romantic or sexual partners, with our family members—our conversations reflect wide variety, but still we cling to a deep sense of uniformity.
We talk about love, sex, and romance as if there’s a consensus on what those things mean and how they work. We learn a set of myths, cliches, and stereotypes as if they are universal, and too often we forget to question what we’ve been told.
So let’s talk.
Let’s talk first about how love is hard. Let’s talk about how love doesn’t conquer all. Let’s own the fact that love doesn’t overcome abuse, even if love is still there during or after. Love also might not win out over distance, or time constraints. Let’s let practicality conquer love sometimes. Let’s talk about how sometimes love isn’t about the grand gestures, but about the typical and the routine and the boring ways that people weave themselves into your days and become part of your life’s fabric. Let’s remember that sometimes the grand gestures are creepy.
Let’s talk about talking about love. Let’s talk about love that communicates fully, love that is not the same experience for all parties although they use the same word. Let’s build new narratives and new origin stories.
Let’s talk about memories, and the shiny gloss we put over them. Let’s talk about missing each other, losing each other, fear of losing each other. Let’s stop letting fear dictate the way we act toward the people we love.
Let’s talk about saying “I love you” every time we say goodbye.
Let’s talk about love that’s not romantic or sexual, and let’s prioritize it. Let’s talk about friends who are the center of your world, about parents and siblings and children and communities. Let’s remember the stunning variety of the word “relationship.” Let’s talk about romantic love that isn’t sexual, and sexual love that isn’t romantic, and platonic love with some romantic or sexual love mixed in. Let’s talk about loving more than one person at the same time. Let’s stop sorting people by category and priority. Let’s talk about love that transcends gender, transcends race, transcends border. Let’s listen about love.
Let’s talk about loving ourselves more than anyone, not as if it’s simple but as if it should have been. As if it’s the first lesson we should have been taught. Let’s talk about loving ourselves even when no one else loves us, or when we love no one else. Let’s talk about being selfish without judgment, about giving up being a martyr, giving up being a victim. Let’s talk about love that transforms, love that overcomes, love that liberates. Let’s talk about love as if it’s not an experience two people share but a step on the road to justice, and then let’s continue on that path.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK.